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Confessions of a placement student: My year at Edward Robertson

Chris Prusakiewicz Posted by Chris Prusakiewicz Email Chris
Confessions of a placement student: My year at Edward Robertson

A look back over my student placement year at Edward Robertson.

Hello, My Name Is Chris

As I come to the end of my student placement year, I want to let you know what it was like to work at Edward Robertson from a student's perspective.

How Did I Find a Placement?

I began to look for a student placement (which was a part of my Web Design and Development degree) back in January 2017. Before I spammed every local web company with emails, I made sure that I had a presentable portfolio website, a good CV and cover letters. Many of them replied, three companies showed interest and invited me for an interview. On 10th of July 2017 I joined the team at Edward Robertson for the next 12 months.

Challenges During the Placement

The first quarter of the placement was the most challenging because I'd never worked in an office environment alongside professional web designers and developers before. I wasn't sure if I would fit in and be able to design and build industry standard websites. For a few weeks, I struggled to communicate with others, I needed time to adjust to working in a team instead of individually. However, as my task list grew taller, I began to push myself and started to ask questions and work with my new colleagues.

I was given challenges beyond the scope of what I had learned in the first two years of my degree. I needed to learn SASS and investigate how to integrate SagePay and social media on websites. As well as needing a deep understanding of these and other technical issues, I gained experience across the width of web design. I was given an opportunity to take a website from start to finish, from creating the design and doing the development up to the launch, including e-commerce features and a secure checkout.

You Learn More from Others than You Learn by Yourself

Yes, you learn a lot from books, video tutorials and articles, but in my case, I was able to absorb new knowledge faster by observing someone else's work and asking questions. Graham, our director, helped me to understand search engine optimisation and how to improve websites' rankings in Google search results. James, our developer, and his out-of-the-box thinking helped me to write a better PHP code and create more efficient database architecture. Paul, our head designer, and his visually stunning websites inspired me to use larger fonts, vivid colours, and striking gradients. Kevan, our senior developer, and his years of experience helped me to understand the hosting and management of websites. Lastly, Luke, our newest developer, helped me to detect problems in the code that I otherwise couldn't find.

Things I Enjoyed During the Placement

The course material covered during my first two years at Northumbria covered programming techniques and design principles that I used during my placement. I liked that because it helped me to get started.

I also liked the fact that I wasn't just building websites. I was involved in many aspects of the project lifecycle that I hadn't  experienced during my course, including talking to clients, which helped me to improve my communication skills.

It would be a shame not to mention team building events throughout the year that helped me to integrate with the team. When I started to work here Graham took all of us on a welcoming lunch to know each other better. I have enjoyed bowling and playing pool against my colleagues (and my boss!) during special events. 

Things I Missed During the Placement

I had hoped I would be able to build websites using JavaScript frameworks such as Vue, React or Angular at some point during the placement (as I was actively learning to use these frameworks). Instead, I built websites using open standard PHP and MySQL on the backend and HTML, CSS and JavaScript on the frontend. I was able to create fast, reliable and stunning websites this way though, just take a look at our portfolio.

Twelve Months in Work

Overall my student placement at Edward Robertson was exciting and educational. It helped me to improve my skills, learn from passionate people and develop business awareness. I've experienced times when work was nice and smooth, and times when I wanted to pull my hair out of my head! I've become a better team player and I look forward to putting everything I learned so far into practice for the final year. Lastly, I want to say thank you to all at Edward Robertson - it was a pleasure to work with you all.