I really enjoyed my 3 months with DSTL this summer. It gave me the opportunity to understand what it's like to work in a defence and government environment, which has given me a new perspective on my future career options. I was able to work on a umber of projects both within and out of my comfort zone which I feel has increased my confidence moving forward with my studies.
Everyone I have worked with has reiterated how nice it has been to have a summer student available to work on parts of projects, helping to ease workload pressures. My team has been extremely welcoming, It has been refreshing to work as part of a team that enjoys the work they do and the people they work with.
My team leader has been very helpful over the course of my 3 months with DSTL, recognising my long commute and any issues I have had including a family emergency and health issues. My fellow team members have been equally supportive helping me with day to day administrative tasks and requirements, which has made my experience easier.
At the beginning of my placement I was quite slow, but this was to be expected with security and IT requirements. Within a few weeks I was set up with my 4 main projects which provided me with plenty of different types of tasks during the day. I never felt the need to work far beyond my normal weekly hours as I found I could complete work during my normal work day.
On three of my projects I was working with another summer student, during these projects I felt I supported and help him to understand our tasks and organised out work for the project leader. In this sense I felt I had quite a bit of responsibility. On the other project I equally felt a lot of responsibility for the work as it was only me to plan and deliver the work.
The placement has been invaluable for me, I have gained perspective, new ideas and ways of approaching my PhD research. I feel I have greatly improved my confidence in terms of my ideas and approach to planning and organising work within defence. I feel my personal discipline has also improved due to the need to be in the office and delivering work to a deadline. Overall it has been a great learning experience and has given me the chance to sample what it is like to work.
The atmosphere of the office changed on a regular basis due to flexible working over the summer and from Monday to Friday. However the office tended to be relatively calm and social with discussions on work taking place regularly. Equally, the open office space really helped with working across other teams, decreasing barriers for knowledge exchange.
Once I has been assigned work the placement ran very smoothly, I knew what was expected of me and accepted new challenges when they were presented. Any issues were more down to administration rather than any one individual. The only issue I encountered surrounded the placement being advertised as potentially being based at another, closer site, which was not the case. However my team leader was very understanding of my long commute.
I was able to attend many external opportunities which was paid for and encouraged by my team leader and team. I was given plenty of time to settle into the environment with its various security and IT requirements. Equally, helpful resources and people were pointed out to me and I was able to access this support whenever I needed.
Working from home
I am hoping to come back to DSTL once my PhD is complete. The work I could potentially work on in this environment I far beyond that of other career options open to me. I feel DSTL would provide me with a good work life balance with flexi time and working from home which is important for me wanting to start a family in the near future.
There were social events advertised for new starters and the graduate scheme, I would have taken advantage of these social excursions if I had lived closer to the site. However the lunchtime seminars were extremely insightful, and my team had a nice social dynamic with having lunch together and team away days.
I had a 1:30-2 hour commute to and from work each day which has a substantial impact on how much I spent on petrol each week, however the subsidized canteen was very helpful in keeping food costs down. Equally some other expenses I incurred for travel for work and food were covered by work.
I did not experience the nightlife as I lived in a different area.
There were many opportunities to get involved outside of work, however because of where I was living I was unable to attend most of these events.
Internship (1-4 Months)
13th September 2019