This review was submitted over 4 years ago, so some of the information it contains may no longer be relevant.
This was my first job, so I didn't have much to compare it to. Overall I found it to be very enjoyable and worthwhile, although my security clearance was 3 months late in coming through and so my start was badly delayed. As a result I missed out on some of the introduction to the organisation that could have improved my experiences.
I always felt like an active member of the team, as the work I was tasked with was of a similar level to what they were all doing. The office was always a very friendly atmosphere. However I would have appreciated my colleagues taking a greater interest and having more input into some of my more lengthy and individual tasks.
Most of my support came from the colleagues on my team who brought me up to speed at the start of the placement and were able to support me throughout. While always very friendly and welcoming, my manager was usually too busy to be able to be as involved in my placement as I think we would have both liked.
At the start of my placement I was a bit bored for a couple of weeks as I was still settling in and lacked the requisite skills to get stuck in. Once this barrier was overcome, I usually had some sort of work to, ranging from the menial just to keep to busy, up to very interesting and innovative work. I had a reasonable amount of control over my workload and could ask for more tasks as required.
I was given some very interesting and lengthy tasks that were purely my responsibility. To complete them I had to do a lot of learn computer programming for the first time, and it was a very rewarding and interesting experience. These projects will hopefully be very useful for my team in the future.
Skills like programming, time management, team work and practical engineering will all be invaluable on my engineering course and in my future career.
In general my team was very friendly, and once a few members of staff had returned from leave there was always a laugh to be had. I had an especially good time once the past students had returned to the team for summer placements. However a few of my colleagues were a bit eccentric and/or dull; it took a while for me to get used to the occasional lengthy unwanted lectures on uninteresting topics, and I had to improve my patience to deal with other peoples' foibles.
My experience was spoiled by my security clearance being delayed by 3 months, pushing my start date from September back to December. However this was mostly the fault of the vetting agency (a different government department) and had less to do with Dstl and the Year in Industry program. Once I finally started, I had missed out on the initial introductions that had been provided to other students and so I may have missed out on a few good opportunities. However for the rest of my time the Year in Industry staff were always very helpful, especially the mentor they assigned me.
I was allowed to take part in a number on courses whilst still on company time. In return I believe that the work I have done could provide savings for the organisation that more than make their investment worthwhile.
Staff Sales/Staff Shop
Above 25 days holiday
While I have enjoyed this gap year at Dstl, I have realised that Defense is not a field I'm especially interested in or passionate about, and as a result I doubt I will pursue further work with this organisation.
My late start meant that it took me some time to get involved with the other students. I found them to be a very friendly group, and we made numerous trips to local pubs and a few parties.
Sevenoaks/Fort Halstead and the surrounding area is quite expensive. The cost of rent is particularly high, but I think we are paid more to compensate.
The closest clubs to Sevenoaks/Fort Halstead are in Tunbridge Wells, and even these aren't fantastic. However there are many good pubs and bars nearby, and it only takes 30 minutes on the train to get to the centre of London.
Sevenoaks is my home town, so I mostly socialised with friends from school. Although I never took part, I believe that Dstl Fort Halstead had a new-starters group which was always running trips and nights out.
Placement Year (10 Months+)
31st July 2013