Thomas Perry – software engineer at the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office

Thomas Perry, BSc (Hons) Computer and Information Security, at UK Hydrographic Office

"My time as a software engineer intern has helped to develop my programming, communication and working skills as well as helping me to grow as a person. I learned so much that university can’t teach you over the course of my placement year and I got paid to do so, which is a bonus."

Who was your placement with and what was your job title?

My placement was with the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office, the world’s leading hydrography, cartography, and nautical navigation organisation. My job title was software engineer intern. 

What attracted you to this placement opportunity?

I was first made aware of the UKHO’s placement opportunities at a careers fair hosted by the University. I had previously known of the UKHO due to it being a local large globally known organisation and I had known others who had worked there in the past. The UKHO also offered placement opportunities relevant to my course and interests as well as great learning opportunities. 

How did you go about securing your placement and what was the process for this?

When placement applications opened, I submitted my CV and covering letter through an email. The next day I was invited to an interview at the UKHO. The interview consisted of two parts, firstly a 20-minute interview with two interviewers, in which they asked me questions about my programming, teamworking and technical experience. After that, there was a 20-minute written test asking me how to solve several programming related challenges. After my interview, I waited a few days before being informed that I had been accepted for the placement position. 

Can you describe the various roles and responsibilities of your placement?

At the start of my placement, I was made responsible for the automated testing process and system of an online management service that was in development. I was made a key part of the development team and was involved in all discussions and meetings about the project. Later I also moved onto developing parts of the application and fixing bugs. 

How did the Careers & Employability department (Placements Team) support you before your placement?

When I started looking for a placement I felt I was completely unprepared for the world of work. I visited the placements team weekly to help improve my CV and covering letter. I went to them for advice whenever I was struggling and I also had support in preparing for interviews. All of this was key to helping me get my placement position, I don’t think I could have done so without them. 

How did the academic staff support you during your placement?

During my placement, the academic staff supported me with any questions about the placement process I had. They were very helpful and quick to reply. 

How did your previous studies enable you to be successful during your placement?

My studies at the University into programming and databases gave me a great benefit to my placement. As a software engineer intern, I worked daily with programming in the C# language, the very language that we learned at university. I also had to make the system work between the programme and a database backend, which my studies in databases and web technology helped greatly. 

How will your placement help you with the final year of your degree?

During my final year I will have to work on a final year project, to create a system from scratch and develop it to completion. The UKHO have been supporting me in this by deciding to act as a client for the project and they have provided me with direction and requirements to what they are looking for. I will then use the skills I have learned over the placement year to develop this system for both them and the University. 

In terms of your career development so far, what have been the benefits of undertaking this placement?

Undertaking my placement has made me come to understand what the working world is like and how the skills I have learned at university can be put to use in real-world scenarios. I hope these skills assist me in future jobs, the application experience alone has made me much more confident at future job interviews. 

What would you say to a prospective student thinking about undertaking a placement year?

Go for it. A placement year is a fantastic learning opportunity that has the potential to set up your future. My time as a software engineer intern has helped to develop my programming, communication and working skills as well as helping me to grow as a person. I learned so much that university can’t teach you over the course of my placement year and I got paid to do so, which is a bonus. 

Was the fact that Plymouth offered a placement year a motivational factor in your decision to choose Plymouth? If so, why?

I’m afraid not. When I first started I wasn’t sure on the idea of the placement year and chose Plymouth based upon the rest of the course.

Inspired by this story?

For more information about student placements, please visit the School of Computing, Electronics and Mathematics' student placements page.

Want to find similar student placement students?

If you would like to find out what other Computing students are currently doing, please visit the computing placements page.