51 Months Later – back in the life with Zircon…

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By Juan, UWE Bristol Graduate and Software Engineer at Zircon Software

My name is Juan and I am a software engineer at Zircon Software. The title of this post is related to my previous blog post for Zircon (Ten Months in the Life …, available on the company website). As one might expect, a lot has changed in that time, not least my academic progression from undergraduate to graduate and making my way back to Zircon. The focus of this post will be to compare my perspective from back then with the one I hold now. 

As a placement student at Zircon, you spend a lot of time learning. Concretely in my case I learned the languages Python, JavaScript, HTML, CSS and SQL; got to grips with object oriented programming and threading; and acquired skills in web development and database management.

As a graduate, the training-working balance is shifted somewhat towards the latter, but I am pleased to report that I am still learning, having now also added Java & C# to my repertoire as well as developing experience with messaging patterns and Xamarin Forms. Furthermore, Zircon takes a proactive approach in ensuring you are continually improving your skillset, building in time for training and suggesting development routes. 

The cohesive and supportive work environment at Zircon continues. Some faces have changed, due to the period of time I was away to finish up my degree. However many are still here and the office culture that has proved so conducive to Zircon’s success prevails, curated and maintained by all those privileged to form a part of it. 

In my previous post I touched on Zircon’s tangible ambition and hunger for success, well it seems like once you have a taste for it nothing else will do. Zircon has roughly doubled in terms of staff numbers and turnover since then, and continues to aim higher. Regular in-house communication and coordination ensures that we are all striving for, and ultimately achieving, this common goal. 

Coming back in a graduate capacity has offered up fresh new challenges which I didn’t experience as a placement student. I work much more closely with clients, auditors and project managers to deliver high quality software. I have had excellent guidance in navigating these new challenges and have not just acquired new professional skills, useful in any context, but have also become a more complete software engineer. 

As a placement student I discussed the excitement and motivation that comes with the opportunity to work on a product to be deployed and used regularly in the real world, by real users, for a real application. Upon graduating I wanted to return as Zircon is always keen on acquiring new customers and breaking into new markets. I have also had a chance to do something I didn’t predict; revisit a past project. 

The product I worked on as a placement student is live and stable, with continuing enhancements as new requirements come in. The opportunity to revisit this work was very gratifying, like catching up with an old friend. As I come to the end of this post, I feel like this is perhaps the best and closest metaphor to how I feel about my experience here as a graduate versus a placement student, a feature enhancement. 

How Nursing Changed my Life

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By Emma Powell, UWE Bristol Alumni. Emma is now District Nurse Team Lead and Single Point of Access Clinical Lead at Sirona care and health.

Nursing.  What can I say?  It is not easy, not glamorous but it is very, very rewarding.  A cliché maybe but true nonetheless!  I feel very proud that I have some fantastic experiences to reflect back on, some not so fantastic but they in turn proved to be important learning curves, not just in nursing but in life.  And I knew from the beginning of my training I wanted to be a community nurse.

Back in 2004, I began my Adult Nursing degree as a mature student and I was terrified.  I was the mother of three with a husband who worked shifts and I also have Crohn’s Disease; as I stood in the reception of Glenside Campus at the UWE Bristol, I asked myself – more than once – what on earth was I doing?  I had loved my Access to Health college course but university … well, that was completely different.  It made nursing real.

And so began my nursing career, something I had aspired to since I was 14 years old. It was a completely different world. I cannot express enough how it will change you as a person and how you view the world, life and people. I remember being told this in a lecture early in the course and it has never left me.  My first year was a raw mixture of shock, horror, speechless wonderment and gratitude. I was tired, excited, happy, sad and enjoyed every placement I had – there is always something you can take from your experiences.  I’ve helped to clear all kinds of bodily fluids, comforted, cajoled, supported and listened.

As the course progressed, I knew from my first community placement, that that is what I wanted to do.  I found my niche, as they say.  I discovered I could communicate well and adapt to whatever scenario I found myself in; I had a particular passion for End of Life Care and feel very privileged to have some fantastic reflections in that discipline.  Nurse training gives you experiences and opportunities available in no other career and working as a registered nurse is a privilege and honour.  The bad days are there, I won’t dress it up – times when you want to just walk away and scream, both in nurse training and working.  I nearly left my course at the end of the second year; I was tired, fed up, drained, poor and for the millionth time, wondered why I was doing it.  A tutor told me this feeling was common, and after all the support from my family I knew I had to finish!

Two student nurses in a hospital setting are practising their skills on a dummy.
A simulation exercise with students at Glenside Campus.

I was lucky enough to get my first job in trauma and orthopaedics.  Although I knew I was a community nurse at heart, typical of many students, I wanted to work on the ward to develop myself with confidence.  Three years later I began community nursing and although I had confidence, there were so many different skill sets to learn.  You never stop learning with nursing – even now, with a career as a District Nurse Team Lead and Single Point of Access Clinical Lead with Sirona care & health – there is always something to learn.

Which leads me to Sirona care & health’s Taking It Personally which is at the heart of our organisation.  There are very good support systems for staff, whether you are struggling or doing something well, everything is recognised. There are policies in place within Sirona to support those times when life throws curveballs. I am also an author under the pen name of Louise Wyatt and was able to adjust my hours when my first book was published.  My History of Nursing book has been supported by Sirona in their newsletters and communications; in fact, all employees who have another skill or achievement outside of work are supported.  There are wellbeing, Continuing Personal Development and personal support systems – community nursing is hard and becoming more acute with a wide range of skills needed – and Sirona will support you all the way.

Taking It Personally for people in your care?  Well, you are in a person’s home and you need to respect that; all you have to do is imagine it is the home of someone you love.  That alone will guide your practice, even those visits that can leave you pressurised and emotionally challenged.  The clinical, communication and personal skills that Sirona will help you to develop will prepare you for the future and allow you to thrive, both within yourself and for modern, highly skilled community nursing.

Three students in a simulation hospital ward care for a patient.
UWE Bristol students practising Community Nursing skills.