School of Computing

Testimonials from undergraduate students

Izzy Ellinor BSc Computer Science with a Year in Industry
Izzy Ellinor
  • Course: BSc Computer Science with a Year in Industry
  • Years: 2009-2013
  • Testimonial received: November 2012

Izzy Ellinor

I enjoyed the science subjects at school and took IT, Maths and Physics at A level. I liked the idea of computer science or IT because it integrates lots of science. I also knew that computer science opens a lot of doors; there are a huge range of careers that you can follow. I wasn’t sure which career path I wanted so I chose this degree because it doesn’t limit me and gives me lots of skills and options.

I liked Kent because the staff were really open to people who hadn’t done computer science or programing before. The Open Days and UCAS Visit Days were interactive and the lecturers were genuinely interested in teaching.

I knew straight away that I wanted to do the Year in Industry; I wanted to get a taste of having a job. In lots of universities placements are optional, here there is a lot of emphasis on its importance and it is really pushed.

I worked at the pharmaceutical company GSK. I was nervous because it was a last minute arrangement; I had originally been accepted at Pfizer which had a base near my home in Kent. After Pfizer downscaled its operations I was offered a place at GSK in London but everything worked out really well.

I worked for a team that managed the integration of all GSK’s systems and I had the opportunity to do project management, operational support and systems analysis. I found that I applied the fundamental technical skills that I learned on the course and learned new technical skills that I needed for the job.

My manager was excellent and gave me the chance to do lots of things outside my role to develop my skills. This included developing a website for my team and finding solutions to improve service levels with a team in India.

I learned that I can be more confident and capable than I could imagine. I had only been in education before but now I know that I can manage people and deliver projects. I also discovered that my strengths are working in a team, with customers and meeting new people; I’m quite a people person but love learning about new technologies so I’d like to integrate this into my future career.

I have been accepted on the GSK graduate scheme which means that I have nine-month work rotations for three years to see what kind of job I really want. It’s likely to involve lots of travel around the UK and overseas.

My Year in Industry has changed my outlook. In my first and second years at university I tended to learn off by heart for exams, and I didn’t always understand why I was learning it. This year I’m more enthused about learning the ‘why’ as well as the ‘how’. I find it easier to make a 9am lecture and stay on campus all day. That work ethic makes my final year much more manageable.

I feel like I am a different person now. If I was in my final year with no placement experience, I wouldn’t know what to do next. I’m really happy that I have a job for next year and a career path to follow, it’s such a relief to be able to focus on my work and not worry about job hunting.

Paul Wozniak BSc Computer Science with a Year in Industry
Paul Wozniak
  • Course: BSc Computer Science with a Year in Industry
  • Years: 2009-2013
  • Testimonial received: November 2012

Paul Wozniak

I have always been interested in Computer Science and when I looked at the course offered by the University of Kent it was the intuitive choice. The course was just what I wanted to study and the campus is beautiful; it just made sense.

There have been a good variety of modules on the course with a mixture of the practical and theoretical. On my placement I learned that you need to have an array of skills and the balance of what I learned in the first two years helped. The group work is also a good idea, especially the way that everyone is mixed up. In a work environment you have to work with a wide variety of people so its like training your communication muscles.

On my placement year I worked as an IT engineer in Cisco in California where I coded and produced programs. It was a huge cross-functional role and involved lots of collaboration with other teams. I also had the opportunity to be a site lead for 20 interns on the summer programme, which gave me a chance to try my hand at people and project management.

Collaboration is the key element of Cisco. There are no offices with closed doors as such so you can easily bounce an idea off anyone who is around and that includes the Vice Presidents. It is a very liberating culture. I didn’t feel restricted at all; if I had an idea, I was encouraged to go ahead and try it, provided I met all my other commitments too. We were told not to ask for permission to do things but to ask for forgiveness afterwards, it’s part of the US working culture.

There are very exciting things happening at Cisco and Tony [West – Vice President] has stayed in touch by email and there are some projects that he has asked me to get involved with so I still feel connected.

I love travelling; seeing and experiencing new things and places. During the year in California we [fellow placement students] went to New York, LA, San Diego and snowboarding in Lake Tahoe. My girlfriend came to visit twice and we visited Mexico where we had a chance to take a quad bike into the mountains to remote hot springs; it was so cool.

Coming back to university for the final year is like a different world! I thought I had good habits and knew what deadlines were in my first two years, but now I really understand! In a work situation there is no one setting minor deadlines so time management is hugely different. I’m now good at planning things as soon as they are set and each day or week I progress part of that project. I feel much more relaxed and in control.

I’m going for a first in my degree and I won’t settle for anything less! I’m applying to Stanford to do an MBA but I’d like to get more experience in Cisco first.

I absolutely, wholeheartedly recommend a Year in Industry. It’s like a trial run at real life; you get a chance to find out what you want to do in the future. Computer science is a really broad subject and the placement gives you a chance to explore what is beyond the first stage of your career. And you get paid!

Preeya Parmar BSc Business Information Technology with a Year in Industry
Preeya Parmar
  • Course: BSc Business Information Technology with a Year in Industry
  • Years: 2009-2013
  • Testimonial received: November 2012

Preeya Parmar

I chose my course at Kent because of family recommendations; both my cousins and uncle had studied here and I knew that the degrees were valued. I also liked the idea of being close to home in London. I used to go home about once a month, but now I’m in my final year there’s not enough time! I also liked the accommodation at Liberty Quay which is close by and has its own shop and takeaways!

Medway is a smaller campus than Canterbury, everything feels very close knit and you get to know people quite quickly and it’s easy to find out what’s going on. I found it easy to get involved in volunteering and set up a new society, the Hindu Society, on campus. I won four awards including the best new society and the Kent volunteering gold award. I also won an employability award with the prize of leadership training with the accountancy firm PKF.

I’ve always wanted to work in business and I chose this degree because of the connections the placement team has with leading companies. I’ve always loved science and have quite a logical brain which is why I like IT; it is quite concrete. As I will be working in business I wanted to understand how it works so the Business Information Technology course was perfect.

The placement team was very helpful with advice and feedback on CV writing and finding a placement; they’re very truthful! I worked during my Year in Industry for pharmaceutical company GSK at its UK headquarters. It was a great placement and I was determined to do my very best, have no regrets at the end of the year and make the most of every opportunity.

I project managed the migration of one internal website with 500 users to another, which involved a lot of research and organisation and also introduced me to risk analysis which I love!

I also took part in an international GSK competition, similar to Dragon’s Den, where you had to pitch an IT idea that could make things better. I worked on a pitch for gesture technology in the science labs that would save time and reduce contamination risks. Out of 90 submissions, we made it to the final and were promised £25,000 and the support of two mentors. It feels such an accomplishment that my idea is now being built as a prototype.

I have come back to university more determined and more organised. I’m more aware of myself, what I’m good at and how people perceive me. I am also determined to get a 2:1 to get into the GSK graduate scheme.

Feedback from GSK was that I needed to improve my leadership skills so I am chairing the KITC this year. The KITC is brilliant particularly for people who don’t have much work experience already but the people who have done a Year in Industry stand out because of their confidence; they are more willing to do new things and don’t think twice about giving a presentation to a client.

Neil Mendum BSc Computer Science with a Year in Industry
Neil Mendum
  • Course: BSc Computer Science with a Year in Industry
  • Years: 2009-2013
  • Testimonial received: November 2012

Neil Mendum

Why did you choose to study at Kent?

I actually came through clearing. I had visited the campus and knew about the course, but it was a very stressful 12 hours, from getting my results to knowing I had a place at university. It has been a really good decision. Lots of opportunities have come up that I couldn't have envisaged. I wouldn't call it fate, but I'm really glad that it worked out this way. I knew from the start that I wanted to do a Year in Industry; my brother had struggled to find employment after graduating so I wanted to improve my employability.

What has your course been like?

The course is really varied and the staff in the School of Computing are good. Since I've had my Year in Industry I'm enjoying my course a lot more and taking it more seriously. I know that it is really important for me to get good grades to get the jobs I want afterwards; the grade goes at the top of your CV!

Where did you spend your year in industry?

I had a placement in HSBC in Hong Kong in the production support team. It was the most fun I have ever had. I had a boss whose aim was to make me 'the most employable intern we've ever had' which mean that I didn't just have to do basic admin tasks but I got an overview of business, finance and technology and was given a free reign to set new things up. The team were really approachable and there were a lot of people intrigued to see a 21 year old English person in the office, most people were either from Hong Kong, or were much older. I also had a 'buddy' who was my first point of contact for anything that I wanted to know about the bank who became a good friend.

What did you learn in that time?

I am now more resilient and self-sufficient. At the time you don't think about it but I had the drive to go to Hong Kong, work, makes friends and make a life for myself. Now I feel I can do that anywhere in the world. I'm much more confident in my abilities.

Has it changed your approach to learning in your final year?

I have more of a routine now. I get up early to start work even when I don't have lectures, because I got used to starting work at 8.30 every morning. In fact I didn't like it when I took annual leave because I got out of that routine and felt that I missed out on things at work.

What did you enjoy the most?

I can't think of anything negative and I wouldn't trade what I did for any other job. I had to arrange the flights and accommodation myself online, but it all worked out ok. I shared with two housemates and we only worked 10 minutes from an area with lots of clubs and bars so we'd go out a lot with people from work. It's really cheap to eat out in Hong Kong, so we'd go out to eat every single night. I also got a chance to visit China and Japan and my friends and family came out so I got to show them Hong Kong too.

What are your plans after you graduate?

I want to continue to work in banking; it excited and interests me. I enjoy knowing that I can make things better and improve things. IT support in banking is crucial, especially when you are working in areas such as millisecond banking. I'd like to work in London for a while as I missed it when I was away and I feel like I know Hong Kong better than my home city. The Year in Industry has shown that I can apply myself and that should help with my employability. It can be hard to quantify what you do in university.

Anything else you'd like to say about your course, Kent or your placement?

The placement team is amazing; they gave lots of support, phoned twice and came to visit once. It made the whole experience easier, knowing I could come to them if there was a problem and that they were there as a back up. They also helped me get the placement in the first place as they had a say in who went, so I'm really thankful to them.

Zach Antonas BSc Computer Science with a Year in Industry
Zach Antonas
  • Course: BSc Computer Science with a Year in Industry
  • Years: 2009-2013
  • Testimonial received: November 2012

Zach Antonas

I chose to study at Kent because I really liked the atmosphere when I visited the campus, it seemed quite relaxed and the lecturers were approachable. I also liked the prospects for the Year in Industry. The partnerships that the School of Computing has in industry were unmatched. I knew that when I was looking for jobs in the future, any work experience that I had would be crucial, so for me the Year in Industry was the most important part of the degree.

I first gained an industrial placement at the end of my first year when I was accepted onto a three month long IBM programme. I worked on the 'Customer Information Control System', which is used by banks for transactions. I built a test tool to test new features and it was a shame to leave after only three months as I felt I was only getting started.

My placement with IBM made me even more determined to get a good Year in Industry placement, which I did! I worked for Cisco in California in the IT department's storage team as a design engineer. I had to learn fast and have good interpersonal skills with vendors and customers as well as being able to find logical solutions to problems. I also had to evaluate new technologies.

I got involved in other projects too. Along with fellow Kent student Phil Styles, I gave a 2 hour presentation to my Vice President and his direct staff about the use and recommendation of a particular piece of software, which Cisco are now using. I submitted an idea alongside a colleague to an IT global ideas competition and won an award. I was given a cash prize and resources to get the idea off the ground. I am still involved in it and am working part-time for Cisco with my team in California during my final year.

Working in Silicon Valley really is the best place to be for a Computer Science student. There is a risk-taking atmosphere and you feel that by having enough enthusiasm you can achieve anything. In the UK we tend to ask for permission more. In the US the attitude is 'don't ask, just go ahead and we'll tell you if you're doing something wrong'. It's ok to make mistakes, as long as you only do the same mistake once. We got the chance to work at Cisco thanks to a Kent alumnus, Tony West, who is a Vice President and has set up the international Year in Industry programme for Cisco in collaboration with a few British universities..

There were four of us from Kent at Cisco and as well as working hard we got a chance to explore the USA. We visited New York over Christmas and went to Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. There is so much to do; hiking, skiing, mountain climbing; you could do something new everyday if you wanted.

My final year now seems easier than my second year of my course. Before I would leave everything to the last minute and put off tasks that I didn't know how to do. In Cisco when a task is given to you, you do it straight away.

I touched technologies I didn't know existed and learnt things I never even knew about. If a new task I've never tackled before is given to me I'm confident that I will be able to work it out.

I've learnt not to make plans too far ahead and I'm happy to go wherever work takes me. I originally thought I'd like to go into databasing, then I wanted to go into programming, but at Cisco I really enjoyed the design and managerial aspects too. I'm not that hard to please, I like anything that comes with IT!

I've also learnt that you can't be the kind of person to say 'I only want to do this one thing'; it won't make you a good programmer if you only know about programing. I want to continue learning in an enterprise company.

I think the Computer Science course is very well structured and the modules are interesting and relevant. I came in not knowing anything about programming and have been taught functional programming and can do a good job. I also like the atmosphere on campus, I've always been able to ask lecturers about any thing that I haven't been sure of, I'm not sure that you'd get that level of support in some of the red brick universities.

Robert Day BSc Computer Science with a Year in Industry
Robert Day
  • Course: BSc Computer Science with a Year in Industry
  • Years: 2009-2013
  • Testimonial received: November 2012

Robert Day

As soon as I came to the Open Day I felt at home here at the University of Kent. I visited other universities but the Year in Industry was the main reason for making Kent my first choice. I didn't have any work experience and knew that you needed some as a graduate and the Year in Industry seemed like a good way of doing that. The Year in Industry programme was well promoted during the Open Day at Kent. It seemed to be an important aspect (because of the dedicated placement team) whereas it seemed like it was simply 'tacked' on to the courses at other Universities. The support that would be given and knowing about the companies other students had been to in the past was a major factor in my decision.

The course has given me experience of lots of things; theory, group work as well as programing and interesting modules such as 'human computer interaction'. In Hong Kong, where I did my placement, the computer science courses are maths based; ours is much broader than that.

I did my work placement with HSBC in Hong Kong. I worked in a team that supported the communication of messages between customers and the bank, using a piece of software that is used by the majority of investment banks. My team were all incredibly clever and made me feel like I belonged as soon as I started.

I got the placement last minute after someone else dropped out so I had to rely on another student from the course who was already out in Hong Kong to help find accommodation for us both. The placement team gave me the opportunity to go and I owe so much to them. I would recommend a work placement to anyone. I understand that some people don't want to but you don't have to go as far as I did, you can go to a local company that employs five people. Just working for other people gives you experience that you'll never get from studying. Also the application of the skills gained at University will go a long way to shaping you as a final year student and a graduate looking for work (it makes you stand out from the crowd of those who don't have work experience).

I enjoy university life and the independence of living by myself rather than living with my parents, that's one of the reasons I went to Hong Kong. There wasn't one bad thing about the experience although Christmas away from home was tough. I know not many people get that kind of an opportunity so I made the most of it.

In my first and second years on the course felt like I was coasting. Now I know that I need to spend more time reading and studying. The placement really has changed my viewpoint and now I'm aiming to get a first.

I'm looking at jobs in the USA when I graduate. I thought it was a big risk before, but now I know that I am capable of doing it. The Year in Industry boosted my self-confidence and now I've got the bug to do better things.

Benita Kailey BSc Computer Science and Management Science with a Year in Industry
Benita Kailey
  • Course: BSc Computer Science and Management Science with a Year in Industry
  • Years: 2009-2013
  • Testimonial received: November 2012

Benita Kailey

I initially wanted to go into medicine as both my parents are doctors, but after doing work experience with my mum at age 11 I changed my mind! I was always interested in business and did a week's work experience with Goldman Sachs as part of their women in business initiative, I had always been interested in computers too, so my degree was a natural choice. Everything we use involves computers and I want to use my knowledge to help find business solutions.

I chose Kent because the campus was so welcoming and I felt the staff wanted to know me as a person. The prospect of a Year in Industry also drew me in. I also loved the green campus and how close it is to the sea for the sailing and windsurfing society.

The course is really varied and is a very good balance of both computing and management, it also has the theoretical elements like maths and more hands on problem solving too. I hadn't done any programing before and I found that the most challenging thing.

My Year in Industry was at IBM where I was an executive assistant in the consulting team which provided solutions to public sector clients. I was treated like an employee and not classed as an intern; I was given lots of responsibility.

Part of my role was to provide financial data for fortnightly meetings. I also worked as a business operations manager working on account forecasting and making sure we could meet our targets. I also had the opportunity to project manage a bid to a major public sector client who commented that my ideas "showed IBM's innovation". I got so much of a buzz from my work being used!

The team I worked for was quite outgoing and I got to know them all really well when I went on a team camping trip! I had good feedback from my boss about how well I fitted in with the team and managed to work well and keep a sense of humour which is really important.

Having the Year in Industry has really boosted my CV. A lot of students find it hard to get a job without experience. Getting a few weeks experience is fine but it doesn't compare to a whole year.

When someone new comes into an organisation, it's a fresh pair of eyes for the employer to see things from a new perspective. It's in your interest to make the most of it and get yourself known in that year. I found that by networking, you can find out more about the jobs that are out there. As an organisation, IBM really encouraged that.

Returning to university for my final year, I'm a lot more motivated and I know where this degree can take me. I know how I can apply my studies when I graduate and I treat each day like it's a working day and I'm on campus even if I don't have lectures to go to.

IBM was my first job; it was quite daunting because I hadn't done anything in 'the real world' before. My confidence really grew and I didn't feel ready to leave at the end of the year. Now I feel driven to get my 2:1 and get back into IBM's graduate programme.

School of Computing, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NF

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Last Updated: 07/08/2013