I am currently a Year 12 student studying at a sixth form college in Oxford, and I am hoping to study Computer Science at university. Since I will be applying to university next year, I thought it would be best if I could get an insight into the tech industry at an early stage. So, I reached out to many tech companies around the UK, and lucky enough, Michael, the founder of SkillStruct got back to me. We had a nice video chat about my personal story coming from Hong Kong to the UK to pursue my dream of studying in the UK and why I wanted to get a work placement. Several days later, I received an email from Michael telling me that I could come to his office to shadow him for a week. I was extremely excited when I heard the news.
SkillStruct is an early tech consulting firm based in London, and I had my work placement during the Christmas holiday in 2021. During the work placement, I worked with Michael for 1 week and gained many valuable skills which will be beneficial for my university applications as well as my future tech career.
The commute and community
The office is located in north London, but since I live in Oxford, I had to travel to the workplace by train and by bus every day which isn’t as far as I thought it would be. The SkillStruct office is in a shared workspace (co-working spaces), in which the workstations are rented by remote employees, freelancers, consultants, and individuals. It is also a space for different start-up companies to connect, to learn about different industries including fashion, consulting or even media. The people there are very friendly. They are always willing to chat with others and open up to learn new things. I even met a person from Hong Kong whose company is providing real estate services for non-UK residents who have just immigrated to the UK. I really enjoyed the social aspect of the workspace balancing both work and play; during my visit, I was lucky to participate in my first company raffle draw where people were holding their raffle tickets nervously including me, hoping to be the chosen one to win the various cool prizes. I didn’t win but it is the taking part that counts….
What I learned during my work experience
During the placement, I mainly learnt about Full Stack Development and Database Management. Both topics are highly popular in the tech sector, and I am highly interested in learning them. In Database Management, I learnt the Structured Query Language (SQL), a programming language that is used to manage relational databases and perform operations on the data in them. In general, SQL is a relatively easy language to learn. After knowing several important query commands, like SELECT FROM, WHERE, ORDER BY, I am already able to write code to extract relevant information from the database. In the end, I managed to create my own database listing the highest-grossing films at all times, using SQL commands to “communicate” with the database.
Since Michael is an experienced Full-Stack Developer, I learnt some important full-stack concepts from his first-hand experience. A full-stack developer is a web developer or engineer who works with both the front and back ends of a website or application. According to some research, a full-stack developer is one of the highest-paid IT jobs in the tech industry, and it is projected to reach 27.7 million developers by the end of 2023. Apart from learning the usual HTML/CSS web development, following a video tutorial and with the help of Michael, I also did some Django tutorials using Visual Studio code. Django provides rich support for URL routing, page templates, and working with data. It is incredibly hard for me and currently, I am still learning and more importantly making progress.
In addition to the tech-related tasks, I also helped to create some infographics for SkillStruct’s social media. The genre includes quotes, tables and other fun facts that are related to tech. I also act as a SkillStruct ambassador to promote the company and the really great initiate SkillStruct University.
The importance of work experience
Finally, I want to end by speaking to the student looking to break into a sector and highlight the importance of doing a placement /work experience especially because I believe the most important reason is to confirm whether the career path fits you or not, by understanding the real-life operation of a company, what they do and what service they provide. In addition, it helps to develop transferable skills, such as communication, teamwork, and the ability to learn and adapt to a new environment quickly. During my placement, I learnt the importance of resilience since things always didn’t follow the plan but we have to learn to adjust accordingly. For people who are in Year 11 or 12, doing a work experience will provide valuable content to your UCAS personal statement, proving your interest/subject passion to the admission officers.
In general, it was really a pleasant experience to have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with SkillStruct. I even got a book for free about Algorithms that I enjoy reading not to mention that the author recently took part in the SkillStruct tech conversation series which is quite surreal. I appreciate the opportunity Michael gave me and I look forward to meeting Michael again as he visits my school during the spring break to teach all computer science students about web development.