Confidence, Coding and Challenges: My NMI Placement

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Rob Barclay, Computer Science student from UWE Bristol, talks about his placement year at NMI

Throughout university, we are constantly told by tutors and professors that a work placement offers the most valuable experience of working in the ‘real world’, along with all the invaluable industry knowledge it brings. I’m happy to say that they couldn’t have been more right!  

I was aware of the close links NMI had with our university via previous students having had both fun and successful placements there, so it was highly recommended as a great place for me to get this valuable ‘real world’ experience. I saw that the company was creating real impact within the payment industry, processing millions of transactions yearly. 

How I went about finding a placement

First and foremost I had to show the company I wanted to work there. I sent in my CV and completed an online ‘code challenge’. The final stages of the process was a phone interview followed by a face to face interview.  

I would say that the best tip for an interview is to be as prepared as possible, this shows that you have a genuine interest in the company and learning new skills. I did loads of research and made sure I could really express why I was so keen to seize the opportunity!  

When I was offered the placement I immediately accepted the offer. Like all new jobs it seemed daunting at first. However, the company couldn’t have been more welcoming.  The team made me feel really relaxed along with a buzz that made me feel I wanted to work there.  From being able to dress casually to free fruit, and breakfast on a Wednesday.

What I did at NMI …

I joined the platform team, a group of 6 people; a team lead, four developers and one tester. All focusing on developing the central processing layer which is the fundamental server powering all our products and services. 

After some initial training, I was assigned my first task. This involved setting up the CI (continuous integration) for one of the company’s new flagship products. This is widely used within the software development industry as a whole is not touched at university. This experience has shown that it is necessary to have for my future career.  

I always felt in control of my workload and whilst the work was challenging, I always knew I was only ever expected to work to the best of my ability and I was able to ask for assistance.

Working life at NMI… 

Being surrounded by industry professionals helped increase my coding skills exponentially and complemented what I learned at university. I felt extremely supported by the team. It was also satisfying to be able to work on other projects where I could take the skills that I had picked up in my lectures and practicals, adapt them to the scope of the problem in front of me and create a solution that will potentially be used by thousands of people. It was an unexpected but great experience to know that I was making such a difference from the get-go. 

I have also had the chance to partake in company-wide presentations, cross-team meetings and representing the company to future candidates at UWE careers fair. All helping me increase my confidence and communication; both vital skills required in any industry.  

By adapting to a full-time job, focussed specifically on the field that I study, has given me a massive confidence boost for my final year, and future jobs to come. As previously mentioned, doing a placement is an invaluable experience and I’ve really enjoyed my time at NMI so far.  

I thoroughly recommend anyone considering doing a placement year to just go for it! 


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Placement Life at the Green Party

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By UWE Bristol Geography Student, Monique Taratula-Lyons

I debated about doing a placement for most of my first year of university. When I began my second year, I was determined to find one. There is a mix of reasons why. I wanted to throw myself into a new experience to give myself time to research ideas for my future.

My first day…

The first day of my placement at the Brighton & Hove Green Party was very special as I meet Caroline Lucas, the only Green MP in the UK. When I met her, I felt very honoured and excited. I supported her and the Young Green society at Sussex university fresher’s fair. It turned out to be a very memorable first day.  
 
Not such a typical day…

The most unexpected event that has occurred was the sudden rush of organising for the General Election. We only had five weeks to prepare so there was a lot of work to be done. I mainly helped out with a Crowdfunder campaign, in which we raised over £18,000, and organising volunteers for polling day. Both of these tasks were integral to ensuring that the general election went smoothly on the day. The importance of the task was exciting, but also required patience as they were time consuming and therefore required a lot of focus. 
 
My learning curves…

Pretty early on in my placement I was given the responsibility of drafting and sending our monthly update email to tell our members and supporters what we had been up to. This was a great responsibility and an opportunity to represent the party in the best light. I did research for the content, chose the layout and selected the pictures. I made sure to have my draft email reviewed by colleagues and took on board any advice or comments they had. Once the email was approved it was sent to roughly nine thousand people! I was definitely out of my comfort zone in doing this task but ended up really enjoying it in the end as it taught me to have confidence in my writing and research.   

I would say the biggest challenge is answering the office phone. It sounds like such an easy task, but I am not used to speaking on the phone in a professional context and the phone typically rings when I am not expecting it. I have not had previous experience of this kind of work, but with each new call I am overcoming my fear and increasing in confidence each time. 

Finding my placement..

At first, I felt overwhelmed about applying for placements; I was not sure if I would be able to find one or not and was uncertain in which sector that I wanted to gain experience in. I decided to try researching and applying for a variety of roles before I decided whether to commit to a placement year. I started my search by speaking to lecturers, doing research online and emailing any companies that worked in areas that interest me and hoped for a reply. In January I received a reply from The Brighton & Hove Green Party asking questions about what sort of placement I was looking for. This for me was a turning point. However, the whole process of actually confirming my placement didn’t happen until summer as it was important to ensure that the role the party offered me would fit with the requirements of a placement year.   

I sent over my CV and offered to send over any university work I had done. I also had two telephone interviews. I was asked a few questions about what skills I could bring, my passions and also a general conversation of what the placement may look like. Before my placement began, I popped into the office to say hello and ask any questions. 

My advice would be

It is worth trying and exploring placements as an option. Just send out a few emails; you never know what could happen. If you really want a placement, don’t give up. Speak to lecturers, ask about what past students have done and if you can speak to them. Remember not put too much pressure on yourself as trying to balance assignments with placement searches isn’t easy. Most importantly, you aren’t alone in the search so never be afraid to ask. 

There have been many times which I felt daunted by the prospect of doing a placement but now I am very glad that I went for it; sometimes it is important to take a different path to enjoy the reward of that experience. 


If you are inspired by Monique’s experience come find out about your placement options .