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Data Science BSc(Hons): Placement case study

Jake Berry, IT intern at General Electric

    Jake Berry
  • Name: Jake Berry
  • Course: Computer Science BSc(Hons)
  • Placement role: IT Intern for Global Mobile and Personal Telecoms
  • Placement company: General Electric
  • Year: 2014/15

Why did you decide to do an industrial placement as part of your degree?

A degree puts you in a position where you can apply for graduate jobs, a placement gives you the experience and respect that makes you stand out from other candidates. For many graduates who do not have any experience in industry, a hypothetical project is the only thing which can be spoken about in a job interview. I wanted to have the chance to make an impact for a real work environment and have something on my CV which gave me more options after graduation.

What was the process for getting a placement and what support did you get from the University?

Many workshops and visits from companies were held, with a lot of interest at the beginning. The numbers began to thin as people found employment or lost interest. I had been very nervous about my job interviews and spent a lot of time with my placement coordinator. The level of support Neeta gave me was well above what I had expected. Getting a placement meant a lot to me and I went through many practice interviews before the real thing.

What does your placement role involve?

Process management, Python development, database management, application development, image manipulation, creating service desk solutions for a service desk team, asset management, working with vendors and running communications for GE Corporate.

What key elements of your job will involve what you had learned from your course?

Programming skills and database management. Teamwork can be transferred, so some extent, but it is then complemented by the professionalism you learn to adopt in the 12 months of experience.

From your experience working at your placement employer is there anything that you will utilise when you go back to your study?

I have learned many new skills which I can take back to university with me. It has given me time to think through my next steps, with a view to working on my final year project. It has offered some breathing space, allowing me to set my sights for the work ahead.

How do you feel that your placement has benefited your course?

You gain a different perspective on everything you learn at University when it is used at your internship. To put theory into practice makes you realise why you have been taught something. Finding solutions on your own is another skill which I've learned. Depending on the work environment, you might find that there is less structure around developing a solution. In my experience, I have been asked for a solution, but I haven't been instructed on how to solve this problem. It's daunting at first but what matters is that you are able to utilise your learning and adapt it to fit the requirements of the task.

Are there any other benefits of doing a placement?

When you network with people and show them the impact you have made, you will not be regarded as an intern. Because of this, what you are actually getting is a year in full-time employment, which you wouldn't necessarily be able to get if you have just rolled out of university and start to look for a graduate job. You are also allowed to make mistakes because you are not being held to your degree. These are two opportunities which you will never get again in your working life.

What job will you be seeking when you graduate?

I have enjoyed programming, which is a main focus of my degree. I don't think I will pursue this route, but instead, use it as a platform to go into other areas of business. I have enjoyed the way in which a corporate business operates. After I have graduated (and even in my final year) I will look for the opportunities which I can apply my new skill set.

What advice would you give to the students who are thinking of applying for placement?

Choose somewhere you believe you will be happy, don't be afraid to go to a job interview just to find out what that place is like. Do your research; know the company before you get there. Forget that you are a student.

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