Going from university into the ‘real’ world

Like many students who graduate I was excited to see what life was like outside of education, start earning money and more importantly, spending it!

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At 22 years old and the last 19 years of my life being guided by some form of ‘expected next step’ along the road to adulthood. I was now completely free. No overhanging feeling that I would be back in a classroom in a couple of weeks, no more coursework and most importantly no more exams! Now while there is an expected next step here – to get a job. The commitment to that is something I hadn’t experienced before. It seemed a lot more permanent and important than anything I’d chosen before. So instead of doing the sensible thing and thinking about what I wanted to do, where I wanted to live etc. I took 10 months off to travel and continue in blissful ignorance of the huge life event that was to come.

But back I came and the decision was, unfortunately and not at all surprisingly, still there but at least I was now clearer on what I wanted. I knew I wanted to live in Liverpool after four amazing years at university here. And I wanted to be a developer. The hard part was finding a job that I wanted and a company who would employ me. But thankfully I found interconnect/it sooner rather than later and was offered a job. Next life step complete.

The Wake Up Call

As you’d expect, the changes of student life to that of a working one took some getting used to. Now I did a placement year as part of my degree so I had some idea of what to expect, particularly the early starts. I never want to hear an alarm at 6am again unless it’s to get up for a holiday. But with that job there was a lot of critical information that we dealt with. Responsibility was low for the most part because of this and there was always a senior developer checking any work before it was committed. Life was relatively stress free once 5pm came around. I still lived in a student house so had a good social life. And I was earning a good amount of money for a student living in a cheap house with little regard for what they ate.

There are many parts of student life I miss and I wouldn’t change the four years I had. Lie-ins and naps, living with your friends and having very little responsibility. Now it’s early starts, less time to see friends and working on real websites with paying clients. Gone are the days of ignoring edge cases that create some obscure bug and only completing certain requirements to reach the mark you’d like, i.e. sometimes doing the bare minimum because you left it too late. Sites have to work as expected and if you find a bug, you need to fix it and all in a set time-frame.

You can also run into the occasional issue of requirement changes mid development, as it is discovered that the original plan isn’t suitable or possible anymore. Something that doesn’t happen with a university assignment. That can mean your work is no longer relevant and you have to start again. It can be frustrating but that’s what happens and you take what you learnt from that previous approach and go again.

The time to socialise has greatly reduced. Instead of being in lectures for eight hours a week with all the time in the world to do anything I wanted or needed, I now do 9-5 (although interconnect do offer flexible working hours). Cooking, washing up, cleaning, shopping, exercise and socialising all now to fit into a few hours in the evening and the weekend. Time management was a skill I thought I had, but it has greatly improved in the past 12 months. I can’t imagine having to have any more commitments to fit in right now. Taxes and bills are also now a part of my life and I still don’t always know what is happening with those.

Image shows Jack graduating
Graduation day! (I’m the one in the middle).

Looking Up

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Now I have more responsibility and more work, and enjoy the chance to code more. Although still with the help of a senior developer if it is required. My course was very theoretical with a lot of maths, but I now get the opportunity to code every day. And some of the projects I have allow me to try stuff out for the sake of it just to learn. And from that I have learnt more over the last year than I did in the four years of my course.

My coding ability has improved. Whereas before it was a week-long assignment, where once completed, the code would never be looked at again. It is now code that not only has to be understandable to myself in a few months time but also someone completely unacquainted with the project. Variable and function names need to make sense. And whether it’s WordPress or Laravel, the relevant software architecture needs to be followed. There are more rules but for a reason. The days of cowboy coding are long gone.

Work is also collaborative. Apart from a single group project, all work was your own at university (which is understandable as if everyone copied each other you wouldn’t learn anything). But now I’m actively encouraged to work with others to complete a task as they might know a better way of doing it. If there’s a library or solution on Stackoverflow, then use it. There’s no point reinventing the wheel.

I participate in meetings both internally and external ones with clients, and help decide the direction of projects we are working on. I’m the secretary of our Tech meetings. I talk with our clients a couple of times a week regarding updates or issues with their sites. All of this has helped me become better at the human interaction side of work. Interacting with people you don’t know and who may not have the same depth of technical knowledge and coming to an agreement on the approach to take. It was something I had never appreciated that I would encounter while at University. But have enjoyed this side of the job a lot.

One Year In and the Future

I’m now at the end of my first year here and it’s flown by. I work on a range of websites, have helped create an Alexa plugin for WordPress and learnt to use a lot of tools I previously wasn’t even aware existed.

And as much as I like to moan about a 9-5 (who doesn’t?) Having a routine, a job I enjoy, a supportive and relaxed work environment, my own flat and money to spend on stuff I like. I don’t think there’s even a comparison to student life there.



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