Category Archives: Information technology

What Would I Do Different?


Hi guys! I’m Sophie and welcome to my first blog post 🙂

As an introduction I thought to give advice on what I would have done if I was to do the application process again, I know a lot of you will be at the time consuming stage of applying to as many relevant applications as possible!

There are so many things which I would have gone back and told myself when I began the process of applying for placements and I hope when I cover some of these in this blog, it helps you to avoid these same mistakes!

I study Business Computing and IT at Aston University (Year 3 Representative) and despite it working out well for me securing a placement in Vauxhall Motor’s IT department in Luton as a Business Intelligence Analyst, there are many things which I could think of which would have made my process easier to give me less stress.

Mistake: Last Minute Applications
I believe that I left applying for placements much too late. When I began second year, I didn’t start to look into placements as soon as I should have and this is what put me behind in the process. In my head I predicted I would have secured a placement by my summer exams, however I had to go to assessment centres through this exam period (which was hell), and this could have put my grades at jeopardy.

Solution: Plan Your Time
If I was to go back, I would plan my time and my studies out in the first term and make sure I set aside real study time to apply and research into placements. A lot of placements deadlines are before Christmas, and so it is essential that you would note down the deadlines of ones which you are interested in and complete these first. I also underestimated how time consuming the process of applying for placements is – it is literally like applying for a real job – you go through various stages which can take hours to complete. This can be a challenge when you need to juggle both coursework/revision and applying for placements so great time management is the main thing I would recommend for this process. Put specified time aside in your diary to apply to placements, you will thank yourself for this later.

Mistake: Limiting My Options
Before I secured my placement I was mainly looking on RateMyPlacement – the main website to search for placement and job opportunities, if you have not looked at this website, look now! (I inserted a hyperlink, I got you 😀 ). However, I found my placement external to RateMyPlacement and the only reason I found this was because another student who had secured a placement there told me to look at Vauxhall’s website.

Solution: Search Everywhere
I would recommend to search for placements on RateMyPlacement, but also on specific company’s websites which you are interested in working for as they may have opportunities for internships and placements of your interest – look at their ‘Careers’ section on their website. Even if the company you want to work for does not have placement opportunities readily available on their careers page, send them an email to inquire! What do you have to lose?

The process on a whole can be described as time consuming, frustrating but completely worth it. A placement year can help structure your career, I will write more posts about how General Motors and my experience has helped me finally decide what I want to do! So I would recommend to take the application process serious to guarantee you spend a year doing something you enjoy and will benefit you the most.

Good luck!

Sophie x

The 3 Factors

Once a month, we have a meeting with our EPDM (Early Professional Development Manager), alternating between having a group meeting with 2 other placement students, and then a closed door 121. It was in the former that my personal manager told me that there are 3 factors to every job that you’ll undertake in your life: job satisfaction, work/life balance, and salary. He said that you can only have 2 of them in a job, so take for example an artist, be that musical, or someone putting pen to paper, they’ll generally have very high job satisfaction, and a good work/life balance, but the salary for most is very low.

Another example would be a banker, especially from when they start out in the city, they have very good pay, quite high job satisfaction, but an absolutely awful work/life balance.

He said for his own job that he felt he had an excellent work/life balance, as does seemingly everyone at IBM Hursley, and he felt he had good pay, but he did not get very high job satisfaction.

So of course it got me thinking about my own job I am currently doing for placement. When I think about the work/life balance, I genuinely don’t think that it could be any better. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere in Hursley due to it being a software development lab (Europe’s biggest as it happens), and a software lab is only going to best function when there isn’t too much pressure applied. The attitude generally is, it doesn’t matter how you get the work done, just as long as it gets done and it is of good quality. Some people really do take advantage of this relaxed atmosphere with colleagues of mine quite regularly not wearing any shoes to meetings.

In terms of job satisfaction, as I’ve said previously, I really enjoy it because quite often I feel like I’m applying skills that I would apply in my own spare time, so it is quite a pleasant realisation that I am getting paid for it. I never feel glum about having to head into work, unlike with school.

As a placement student, my pay isn’t great, but if I were to come back to IBM as a graduate, it would get doubled, yet the work (from what I can see from the current grads) isn’t that different.

So in summary, I think that I almost have all 3 factors covered, and the fact that make EPDM says that in most cases you do have to sacrifice one, then it just makes me feel that much more appreciative I got the placement that I am currently on.

Positive “Blue Monday” thoughts

Blue Monday is the one day a year where everyone is, well, blue. Everyone got fat over Christmas, and is now depressed they haven’t lost their weight by now. The smokers who said they would quit for new year have left the E-Cigarette behind, everyone is sad that the festive season is all over, again.

It’s difficult being an assistant in January because your supervisors are stressed because reality is back and this then impacts you. Everyone’s to-do list’s are getting longer and nothing seems to be getting ticked off.


Weirdly enough though, I’m still positive. I know this rut will be over soon enough and this is what placement is all about. there are going to be highs, like being able to go out and really help someone with a problem they are facing, and there are going to be lows, like crying in your supervisors office because the colour coded, graph covered spreadsheet you made needs to be redone because some statistician somewhere decided it should be presented in another format…but that’s another story.

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January is a funny time.

I am in the second week back after Christmas (I say back; not back to work as such as I hadn’t taken any holiday after Christmas, but back in the office. Trust me, it’s a big difference) and it feels weird.

Nearly 7 months into my placement and I’m pretty comfortable with my job role. I was so consistently busy when I started that I had to learn fast. And I learned A LOT. Strangely, the most important things I’ve learned have never been those I would have expected (more to come on this in another blog!)

However, now that onboarding graduates into IBM has become second nature it’s become hard not to get complacent. Plus, complacency nearly always equals boredom and I refuse to be bored. Thank goodness then for end of year reviews (I know, I can’t believe I’m saying this either!), but seriously a formal review process forces you to reflect on your experiences. By reflecting on them you can learn from them and then plan ahead for the future. Not only that, my manager wanted the chance to give me personal feedback from all my colleagues and let me know that my work is appreciated. Like being back at school, who can deny that they enjoy receiving a gold star to show their parents?!

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