Placement Stories: Sukh Singh at the Science and Technology Facilities Council

We’re happy to welcome Computing student Sukh Singh to share his experience of being an IT Placement student at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

“Apply for as many placement opportunities as you can.”

At the start of my second year, we were encouraged to apply for placements as soon as possible should we wish to go on a placement year. One of the reasons for this is because some of the bigger organizations tend to advertise quite early in the academic year. One of the things which I did, and I would recommend other students to do (if they want to go on placement year) is to apply for as many placement opportunities as they can. I always knew that I wanted to work within the IT industry, but I wasn’t exactly sure as to what area in particular so I applied based on job applications within the IT area that sounded appealing to me. 

At first when doing my placement search I did find it quite difficult because filling out job applications can be quite time consuming as it required time doing the company research, job application, cover letter, references etc and this clashed with my assignment work but I was able to overcome this with managing my time better where I would set aside a few hours per day to purely work on placement search and aimed to submit at least one application within a two day period. 

During the search period I received support from the future plan team through looking over and assisting with my CV and cover letters. I received further assistance from the placement coordinators to go over my applications before I submitted them.

During my company research for my current role I found that the organization highly believe in their employee’s personal development whether it’s through external courses or mentorship, and this was very important to me because I wanted to make the most of the opportunity and develop myself through the skills and experience. 

“My biggest concern was ‘what if I have issues with the placement role itself?'”

Before I came to University, I knew that I wanted to do placement year because working within the industry, the experience plays a big part along with the qualifications when looking for jobs. Doing a placement year would’ve allowed me to use the skills and knowledge that I had gained through my course and put them into practice in a real-world environment. 

My biggest concern for doing a placement was the potential risk it involved for example “What if I didn’t like the organization?” or “What if I had issues with my placement or the role itself?” I was able to overcome these concerns with the help of the placement coordinators and the placement lecturer. During my second year we had multiple lectures on placement which provided us with the necessary information and that helped answering these questions. Additionally, we had a scheduled tutor visit on our placement from the University to ensure that such concerns are handled, and students are getting support they require. Students out on placements had full access to the university facilities which meant that we can book meetings with placement coordinators at uni should we need to reach out with any issues whilst working full time. 

The other concern that I had was transitioning back into full time education for the final year after the placement year had finished but I found the information provided by the University and the future plan team to be very useful as they kept us informed and provided us with resources and how we can access them. 

“I realised I wanted more of a challenge.”

A month into my placement I realized that the role and tasks I was undertaking were very repetitive. As time went on, I knew that I wanted a bit more challenge so after discussions with my line manager, placement coordinator at the University and, my senior line manager I was able to rotate into the Project management team. As this was a new team and role my responsibilities had completely changed. This change worked out very well for me as it allowed me to work on multiple projects and I enjoyed the work I was doing a lot more. 

I was responsible for the Windows 7 to Windows 10 upgrade project for all devices managed by Facilities IT and the figures were over 2000 devices. I was then introduced to the Sophos Upgrade project with the objective to migrate all devices from old Sophos to Sophos cloud across all devices that failed the original deployment. Due to the nature of my new role I had to greatly increase my level of understanding on the use of Active Directory, Sophos Cloud and SCCM. I have put tremendous amount of time to learn the tools mentioned above in a short amount of time to gather and analyses reliable device and user data which was then used to target specific users to get their machines upgraded. The data then had to be regularly monitored and maintained to ensure accuracy.

Other notable projects/activities that I have been involved with include:

  • Docker project – Creating Project plans and maintaining them for the duration I was involved in the project before the handover
  • Service desk– Continuously allocating time and assisting the service desk team during the busy periods
  • First line support – I have been carrying out first line support for the Business Application Systems
  • Port patching– some port patching to allow users to connect onto the network upon their requests.
  • Network extension– installation, wiring and configuration of expansion cards onto the switch for R106

“The best bit of my placement has been rotating through different IT teams.”

This was only possible because of the concerns I raised very early of the placement year and it has worked out very well for me, as I have learnt so much and was able to identify the area I wish to specialize in within the IT field. Normally placement students at the organization don’t rotate into different teams, only graduate students do. 

“Working from home changed my placement year experience.”

I began my rotation within the IT infrastructure team around February 2020, within this team my team leader had a few projects that we wanted me to work on during my rotation. The nature of this rotation required me to work physically on site as the work was very hand-on. This included tasks such networking the wires, looking after and upgrading the network switches of some of the buildings. However due to the policy change and staff members being asked to work from home it meant that the projects set out for me to work had to be postponed for the near future and most likely to be completed by another staff member. This certainly hindered my progression and experience but during my home working period there were small projects that I was assigned to work on, which weren’t on the complexity level, but it allowed me to continue to work within the IT Infrastructure team. After my rotation with the IT Infrastructure team I was due for another rotation within the Software team, however this was cancelled and my stay with the IT infrastructure team was extended.  

“I’ve gained confidence, technological skill and a potential graduate role!”

I have gained valuable experience and have had the opportunity to work with staff members from different areas of expertise allowing me to grasp the fundamentals of the use of different technologies. It allowed me to identify the areas that I am most interested in within the IT industry given that I had the opportunity to work in multiple teams and projects. I feel more confident in speaking from my experience and explaining the use of technologies and they work in a place of real-world environment. This wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t taken a placement year. 

I am still employed by the organization until the end of August 2020, and I have informally agreed to be join the organization as part of the Project Management team for their graduate scheme for when I complete my degree (providing I get the required grades of at least 2:1). 

“My advice? Get involved with extra activities outside your job description – work hard and go above and beyond.”

My advice for other UOG students who have the option to a placement year would be the following:

  1. Apply as early as you can 
    • Apply for as many companies as you can
    • Be resilient as you may face some rejections (I did too)
    • Do your company research and tailor your cover letters accordingly  
    • If you can, definitely do go out on a placement year because the experience along with your degree would you give you a competitive advantage and other rewards.  

One of the things which I would to like to highlight is the importance of networking, communication and making the most of the placement opportunity. This includes getting involved with extra activities outside of your job description, showing you’re willing to work hard and go above and beyond. 

Thanks to Sukh for sharing his experience. If you’d like to speak to a placement coordinator about starting your own placement search, log into the Future Plan portal to book a virtual appointment.

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