As an industrial placement student at SquaredUp, you’re not going to be the placement kid who makes the coffee and generally gets bossed around. Our industrial placement students join as a full member of the SquaredUp team and are put to important, productive work from day one.
To give you a bit more insight into why a placement at SquaredUp is different to your average year in industry, we interviewed Sam Lord, one of our 2016/2017 placement students. Sam is currently in his final year at the University of Kent, studying Computer Science.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in technology?
I’ve always been interested in tech and the fact that it’s such a fast-moving industry was really attractive to me. I love the challenge of staying on top of the game and keeping up to date with the latest developments – the industry is changing every day and I find that really exciting. Plus, technology is the future so it seems like a pretty fruitful career to pursue.
Why did you choose SquaredUp for your placement year?
My university have a really great placement department and they helped to connect me with organisations looking for placement students. SquaredUp really stood out to me as they sold themselves differently to the rest of the pack. Loads of other places really pushed on the ‘fun’ aspect but didn’t give much information about the learning side. SquaredUp made it clear that I’d be hands-on from day one and would be working on projects just like their permanent staff. The fun bit for them kind of sold itself…they have a ping pong room and loads of cool gadgets to play with, like an Oculus Rift and a HoloLens, so it was obvious I’d have access to great perks as well as great learning.
What kind of work did you do during your year with SquaredUp?
When I started I was working on developing SquaredUp’s internal systems, like their licensing application, which was a really great training ground to improve my development skills. Then I progressed to working directly with the product, developing new features and improving existing ones. I had loads of autonomy and was given the freedom to influence the design of what I was building. It was pretty cool knowing that even though I was a placement student, I was directly helping to build a product used by loads of huge companies. Seeing customers using what I’d built was definitely a proud moment for me.
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
The obvious one would be our product releases – the weeks running up to those were always pretty mad! It was exciting though and it was a great feeling to push live on a release and see months of work pay off. On a non-development side, I was encouraged to step out of my comfort zone and present on client webinars (check out Sam’s webinar here!), join customer calls, demo the product at exhibitions and run training for the rest of the team. This was a whole new experience for me and although at the time it was pretty daunting, it really improved my communication and presentation skills and I feel way more confident in this area now.
Do you feel more prepared for working life following your placement year?
100%! SquaredUp put a lot of time into nurturing me and constantly encouraged me to keep learning and to push my skills to the next level. I was surrounded by so many smart people at the top of their game which I found really motivating and made me want to improve myself. My technical skills and other skills like communication are all streets ahead of where they would have been if I hadn’t done a placement year.
How would you describe the culture at SquaredUp?
It’s a really supportive culture, I was given help relocating and when I was having issues with my living arrangements, Richard, who’s the founder, helped me out…I can’t imagine that happens everywhere! There’s also a really collaborative feel to SquaredUp, we had a wrap-up every Friday where we’d learn about what other teams were doing. Everyone has loads of respect for other teams because they’ve got a good grasp of all the great work they’re doing. It’s also really, really fun…Friday beers, summer and winter parties, board game nights, I even got flown out to Orlando for an event.
What advice would you give to someone who is about to start a year in industry?
Keep asking questions – you’re surrounded by people who are experts in their field, so take the time to learn from them. Attend as many meetings and as much training as you possibly can, spend time with other teams to learn about different parts of the business. Also, don’t be afraid to make your voice heard and share your opinions!
Sound like the kind of thing you want to get in on? You can apply for our industrial placement programme here.
Want to work at SquaredUp but your student days are behind you? We'd love to hear from you.