Your time at Surrey
Ever wondered what your University classmates are up to or wanted to share your successes with your fellow Surrey alumni? We are keen to feature graduate stories that not only give our alumni a chance to share in your success but also help inspire current and prospective students on the opportunities that might be available to them. Email Lucy Evans on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
In this issue our alumni profile is on Daniel Ashworth who graduated with a BSc in Computer Science in 2016. He now works for Fivium Ltd, an IT company that works extensively with the UK, and Australian government and the private sector.
What attracted you to choose the University of Surrey and to study your course here?
I chose to study Computer Science due to the excellent professional training year programme that was on offer with the course. The University-wide percentage of graduates who found a graduate-level job after six months was unrivalled and that was a major selling point for me as at the end of the day a graduate-level job is why we go to university in the first place.
Surrey has an amazing campus and it was something that made an immediate impact upon my arrival at the open day. I had been to many open days at other campus-based universities but compared to Surrey many seemed dull and resembled concrete jungles. The University’s campus has many green areas, a lake and lots of lovely places to relax and catch up with friends. As well as the campus, Guildford was an ideal location with close links to London and surrounding areas as well as a great town centre with a good variety of shops and vibrant nightlife.
What is your strongest memory of your time at Surrey – what do you picture first when you think of being here?
Some of my best memories of my time at Surrey are from meeting new people and taking part in numerous societies over the course of my degree. Societies provide a great way to meet people who share a common interest outside your course. They also provide a great way to experience new things you may not have otherwise have if not at university. One of the first things I picture when I think of Surrey is when I first drove onto campus and saw how lovely the campus and all the student helpers were. As soon as I arrived I knew Surrey was the place for me. I look back at my time at the University of Surrey very fondly.
What were the best things about your course?
The Computer Science course was very practically-driven and a majority of modules included programming aspects as well as the relevant theory. This made modules very enjoyable as you re-enforced the lecture content through practical lab sessions in almost every module. This was very beneficial for me as I had no prior programming experience before coming to university.
The majority of lecturers were very friendly, approachable and always happy to take any questions during the lecture, in their office hours or via email. I was having a problem in one module and brought my laptop along to the lecturer and she sat with me and solved the issue I was having and cleared up my understanding in no time.
The department makes heavy use of students in the higher years to help out in the lab sessions and tutorials across all years. I myself was a lab helper assisting the lecturer in a second year Artificial Intelligence module. With older students helping out in the lab sessions you get to talk to students who have experience of the module from their own year and can provide an alternative view on a concept you may be struggling with. This also provides means of socialising and getting to know students from outside of your cohort year.
How did your professional training placement impact upon your ability to get a graduate job?
I completed a placement at the Department of Energy & Climate Change working as a database programmer in central London. As part of this placement experience I also worked with a company, Fivium Ltd, which worked alongside the students in the department to provide development support.
After my placement year had ended I was taken on as a contractor with Fivium working for the Department of Energy & Climate Change for an extra three months before returning to university. As a result of a successful placement year and contracting period, I was offered a graduate-level developer position with Fivium in central London one month after I went back to university for my final year. This meant I could focus all my efforts on the final year of study as opposed to finding a graduate job at the same time.
The placement year was crucial in providing me with the opportunity to gain skills and show off my abilities to not only the company I was working for, but, in my case, a company it worked alongside. The resulting graduate job offer would not have been possible without the placement year and I would thoroughly recommend the placement year to all students.
The placement year also provided me with the opportunity to gain a professional industry certification which made an excellent addition to my CV and was something I would not have achieved if I had not undertaken the placement.
What did you find most useful about your placement?
My placement year job was the first computing position I had ever held and allowed me to build on the knowledge and skills I had developed from my degree programme and apply them to the real work of software development. The year allowed me to develop skills and expertise in languages and frameworks that were not necessarily covered in the degree programme which meant that I had some experience on my CV that was different to that of my peers. The placement year was an excellent opportunity to trial-run a specific area of the industry or a specific job role to see if it is something you would be interested in doing after graduation.
What do you do now and what do you find most enjoyable about your line of work?
I currently work as a Junior Application Developer for Fivium in Covent Garden. I develop web applications using an open source XML framework for predominately government departments and users in the oil and gas industry. I enjoy the challenges of maintaining and enhancing complex systems which includes processing geospatial data. The development is always interesting as each day presents its own challenges. I get to communicate with lots of different end users to ensure that the systems function as expected and meet their needs.
What are your top tips for students aspiring to work in your profession?
The software development profession moves at a very rapid pace with new languages and frameworks constantly appearing, gaining traction and being used by companies all over the world. It is very important to constantly keep up to date with relevant languages, frameworks and tools that are being used in industry to make sure you keep your skills relevant. Once you know how to program, picking up another language is usually trivial once you can master the basics.
The degree programme at Surrey provides you with the fundamental understanding of programming and the logic behind creating a program. You can then apply these core skills to any language or framework if you put in the time. I would recommend putting in effort outside of the core contact time to expand your skill-set, which will not only help you within your degree programme but also in your future graduate job search.
What aspects of being connected with the alumni network are most important or of most interest to you and why?
The ability to stay connected with and enjoy the networking benefits of the University through the alumni network is fantastic. I very much look forward to the networking events that will be held in the future that may help benefit by future career. It is very beneficial to still be able to get advice and support from the careers service even after graduation. It is also great to be able to give back to the University by providing advice to future students who wish to pursue a similar course of study at such a fine institution, without which I would not be in the job I am in today