The past 2 years have not been fun for anyone, but it has been especially tough on students. When the first lockdown started, I was only halfway through year 12, the first year of my A levels. Back then, we all thought we were getting a week or two off school and were ecstatic about it! Little did we know what we were about to go through would be the toughest 2 years of our lives.
I am the middle child of 3, and I share my bedroom with my 8-year-old sister. Ordinarily, I don’t mind this at all, but when you are spending 24/7 in the house with your family and you have no space of your own to get some alone time, things can feel pretty intense. Add in the stress of preparing for A level exams, not being able to spend any time with your friends right when they are preparing to leave for university, family members passing away, and the general anxiety that comes with living in times like this, and you have a recipe for disaster. Somehow, throughout all of this I managed to keep up with my studies: attending zoom lessons hunched over on the bottom bunk of mine and my sister’s bunk bed (which was terrible for my back but I have nowhere else to work), dutifully completing the worksheets in Word and handing them in online, and accessing the online textbook to revise. And at the end of all of this…
I got 3 A*s! Computer science, Maths, and Further maths, all top marks.
All of my hard work paid off, and I couldn’t have been happier. It was at this point I suddenly asked myself, ‘now what?’. I hadn’t applied to any universities because I wanted to do an apprenticeship instead, but the ones I had applied to fell through. I looked at applying for jobs instead, but they all require experience. How am I supposed to get experience then, if I can’t find an apprenticeship and the entry-level positions won’t take me?
It was at this point that my dad told me about a software company in the same building as him. He told them about me and how I wanted to be a software engineer myself, and asked them if they would be willing to hire me as an apprentice. They said they couldn’t take on an apprentice at the moment, but they could have me work there voluntarily as an intern to gain some experience. And that was where my journey with Space HR began.
The first thing I noticed about working in the real world, is how informal it is compared to school. No dress code, you don’t have to ask to use the bathroom, you can eat your lunch when you feel like it, and talking is encouraged! After a lifetime of being told to ‘sit down and shut up’, it’s taking some getting used to.
Up until this point, I had only used C# and Python in my projects, but Space HR use Ruby on Rails, so I had to learn a whole new syntax. Luckily, I picked it up very quickly, thanks to transferrable skills from previous projects (and Dan’s excellent teaching!). I have learned so many new concepts, like DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) methodology, and continuous integration, which is when you update your main program a little bit at a time by creating and merging branches. They have even given me the opportunity to do weekly demonstrations of my project, showing what I have been working on and setting goals for the week ahead. This has developed my confidence and presentation skills greatly, because I present to not only Space HR employees who know a lot about web design and development, but also my dad who is an IT Manager and has very little programming knowledge (but is very enthusiastic and asks lots of questions!). This helps me practice communicating effectively with technical and non-technical people, which is invaluable in the world of development.
The people at Space HR have been incredibly kind to me, teaching me so many life skills that I will forever be grateful for. Dan worked on my CV with me, Victoria did a practice phone interview with me, and Alec has helped me improve my LinkedIn profile and expand my network. They have gone above and beyond everything I ever hoped to gain from this experience.
If you, like me, are a young person struggling to get your foot in the door and join the world of work for the first time, I would definitely recommend an internship. If you can find a company to work with that is even half as friendly, enthusiastic and willing to help as Space HR have been with me, it will be more than worth it.
Moving forward, I would love to work somewhere with a sense of community like Space HR. I would like a role with a range of tasks, so that I can try new things and develop my skills in lots of areas. I have found that web development is something I enjoy, having never done it before in school, but I am open to all areas of software development.
I would like to end this by sincerely thanking everyone at Space HR. They have all done so much for me. I have known that I wanted to be a software developer since I was 10 years old, and this experience has brought me so much closer to that dream becoming a reality. I know that if little Robin could see me now, they would be so proud of how far we’ve come.