1. To what extent did you enjoy your work placement or internship?
At the Huntingdon branch I absolutely loved it, at the Coventry branch: not so much. At Coventry I was originally pair programming with another placement student for two weeks and did not belong to a team. For the fortnight after we were added to another team but were continuing with earlier work, I felt detached and out of place. I understand the importance of meeting people, but we could have moved to the Huntingdon branch within 2 weeks, not 2 months. Coventry is far bigger, 100s of employees, Huntingdon has about 30 in total. Coventry is slightly more professional, but Huntingdon was by far more fun to work in. I would rate Coventry 4/10 for this and Huntingdon 10/10.
2. To what extent did you feel valued by your colleagues?
I was a full team member from the start; they had the same expectations of me as they do for each other. I made a real impact. The work I did will be used by up to ~140 retailers, across 57 countries, on some 20,000 tills. My colleagues trust me to complete my tasks, to a high standard, within the short time they allocate. I much prefer the general ambience at Huntingdon, too - far more banterous.
3. To what extent were you given support and guidance by management/your supervisor(s)?
Throughout my placement I have had complete independence with all the support I need. If I have a problem, then I am easily able to reach out to my mentor. Both mentors were able to support me with any questions I had. I also had regular (~6 weeks) 1-2-1 meetings with my DPM to discuss my progress and address any concerns I may have.
4. How busy were you on a daily basis?
Since I started they have been gradually piling me with increasingly work. I am now at the point where I'm managing 3 feature branches, juggling defects for two clients, and trying to do some additional QA in any spare moment (I've only QAed one defect...). My DPM regularly reviews the progress of the sprint and expects me to be able to easily drop what I'm doing, pick something else up, and then come back to it. There are teams in PCMS that don't have deadlines, if you don't enjoy the pressure, you can ask to swap.
5. How much responsibility were you given during your placement?
I am the scrum master for my current team, meaning I run the daily stand-ups, retrospective, and planning. I handle the management of several feature branches and have completed stories from start-to-finish by myself. I am trusted to keep track of everything I am, have, and will, work on; as well as keep a broad idea of what everyone else is doing. There is no expectation for you to be able to prioritise tasks or already be skilled at this; they will help you.
6. To what extent did/will the skills you developed, and training you received, assist you in your degree studies and beyond?
PCMS use the Atlassian package which includes Jira and Confluence. I have bought a license for both (£20 lifetime) because I honestly don't know how I functioned without them before. These tools will help me manage the work in my modules and get everything out of my head and tasked out meaning I won't forget to do anything. I will consider using Java but the use cases for it are so narrow that I doubt I will. I have enjoyed learning and using it and, as the corporate world use it so much, am glad to have had this experience.
7. What was the general atmosphere in your office?
PCMS has a wide range of teams and, while some would describe my current team as 'unprofessional' or 'different', I would describe them as 'absolutely amazing'. They could make any job fun and I will honestly miss them. You'll need thick skin to work with them, but there are always other teams.
8. How well organised was the overall work placement or internship set up?
I think I am an exception here, but I've not had the best experience with the organisation of HR - they weren't expecting me when I showed up for the interview day, and I had to repeat my details so many times; but once you start, these problems are past you. The induction wasn't great, either. A lot of repetition and I spent far too long in Coventry when I was supposed to be based in Huntingdon (again, HR miscommunication this). We also had the PCMS placement project but this was very last minute and we spent 4 working days just elaborating what they wanted us to do
9. In terms of personal training and development, to what extent did the company or firm invest in you?
Other than the induction and natural continuous development, I received no formal training. However, as I have learned so much from this placement, I feel it is unfair to mark them low for this. My mentor helps me whenever I need it and we have the occasional conversation on a completely random subject (e.g. kubernetes)
10. What were the perks on your work placement?
11. How appealing are future employment prospects within the organisation?
I would like to work for them after graduating or through my final year at uni but, as I live close to Cambridge, there is a lot of competition and there are many companies hiring graduates there. I think I would like to try several things before settling down in one industry.
12. Was there a good social scene amongst any fellow placement students/colleagues?
In Coventry all 8 placement students regularly spoke and got together for lunch. We also went down to the pub a few times and a few other places for the leavers do of the previous interns. At Huntingdon we had pizza several times and went to the pub a couple of times - once being the Christmas do.
13. What was the cost of living and socialising in the area you worked in?
I lived at home so this doesn't apply. There are sandwich vans which come to the car park everyday so if you wanted to, you could spend £3 on a sandwich everyday - far more convenient and they have quite a nice range of products available, you can order custom things, too.
14. What was the Nightlife like in the area you worked?
Lots of pubs. Not much else. You have Cambridge not far away which is easily accessible via the Guided Bus route. The nightlife there is decent, but expensive (as Cambridge is). I honestly don't see how nightlife can be the deciding factor for a placement, so I'm ranking it as 10.
15. Were there many opportunities to get involved in activities outside of work?
Not really. I recall being told that there are several societies like F1, golf, frisbee-golf, kayaking, but it seems that these were just a few friends who got together and did it, PCMS was not really involved in this. As I lived with the other placement students for a while, there was no need for me to do anything extra but it would've been nice. At Huntingdon there were definitely no 'societies'.