The 1st July 2019 was a pretty big day for me; it was the first day of my placement year. I worked as a software developer in an IT company in Plymouth that provides products and services to private and public sector organisations like local councils. I want to share my experiences and looking back, what I would have done differently.
Keep a reflections journal
Being a relatively small company, I was able to get a lot of hands-on experience in software development and worked closely with different clients and people including business analysts, project managers, and customer support assistants. I found it was easy to forget how much I had actually done, and the progress I was making until I looked back at the year. That’s why my first wish was that I had kept a reflections journal.
For me, a reflections journal would contain my day-to-day activities including the different tools I worked with and any tips I picked up from other, more experienced, developers. And there were definitely a lot of them!
Being a computer science student, you never have a day where you aren’t learning something new. This definitely rung true during my placement. I was able to put the knowledge I had learned from university and what I taught myself to practice. Being able to note down these experiences would have really helped me in interview preparation and when I had to reflect on my skill development and knowledge.
Ask for feedback
It was daunting at first to be given actual responsibilities and deadlines, especially as this was my first office job. I was also quite shy and definitely hated receiving criticism. After my placement, I realised making mistakes and feeling inexperienced isn’t a bad thing. I was an intern after all, and I was there to learn.
I found one of the struggles of working to deadlines and trying to juggle the needs of different clients was that I didn’t think or give myself time to look back at my code and think of ways I could improve it.
In software development, there isn’t a set right or wrong solution to a problem. The times I had my work reviewed by senior developers was the most important and it was where I learned many of the lessons I use now in my final year.
Never be afraid to ask for help
Offices are always busy, and I can barely remember days where I could actually say I had no work to do. My work was challenging and when something worked (if you do programming, you’ll know it never works the first time), it was such a good feeling. Most of the time, I felt like I was chucked into the deep end and I’m a terrible swimmer!
I learned an important lesson at the end – never be afraid to ask for help! I can’t remember a single time during my placement where someone ignored my frantic plea for help or didn’t ask if there’s something I wanted to learn more about.
In the end, I’m so glad I decided to do a placement. Being a software developer may not be my future plan but the skills and lessons I have learned from it will stick with me for a very long time.