Placement Year with Connor McLoughlin.
We spoke to Connor about his experience of taking a placement year with us.
- Connor McLoughlin
- 14 mins
Tom: Hello and welcome to Episode 32 of the Make Things Better podcast. Today I'm joined by Connor McLoughlin. Welcome on the show, Connor.
Connor: Thanks, Tom.
Tom: Cheers for coming on. Today we're going to be talking about project management and Connor's experience with Hive as a placement student. So thanks a lot for joining me. Do you want to start off by telling us a little bit about yourself and what you've been up to over the last year?
Connor: Yeah. So I've been a a student at the University of Sheffield for the past three years now, this is my third year there and I'm on a computer science bachelor's course with a year in industry. I've been with Hive since probably mid-May last last year. And I'll be leaving at the end of May this year. So I've only got about two weeks left.
Tom: Yeah. It's going to be a shame to see you go. Hopefully you've had a good experience with us and it'll be interesting to sort of explore a bit more about what you've took away from this last year. So do you want to start off by maybe sharing what sort of things you've been doing on your placement with Hive and maybe any experiences that you've enjoyed sort of in particular?
Connor: Yeah. So as the title kind of kind of says, the main thing has been project management. So that's sort of like being a client liaison, you know, tracking project projects, making sure everyone who's on a project is up to date and in the loop, organizing meetings with external clients, anything of the sort. And one of the major things I've really enjoyed about doing all that is the work I've done on the Sheffield Eagles Heritage Website.
And if you don't know, the Sheffield Eagles are a local rugby club and they approached us in August or September last year because they wanted us to make a heritage website to store kind of pictures and videos and programs of events over the past few decades of the club's life. And also to kind of share any current news and upcoming games and just be a kind of hub of information about that club.
Tom: Yeah. And am I right in thinking you had quite a lot of responsibility when it came to that project?
Connor: Yeah. So to start off with, Liz kind of helped out a fair bit with the initial phases and having everything set up. But as we wandered into the design phase and eventually the development, I certainly had more and more of a sort of independence on that project. And that was probably one of the first projects that I had, like almost complete independence on.
And it's certainly one of the larger ones that I worked on as well. So that's been really, really good.
Tom: How did you find that experience? Was it scary at a all?
Connor: So it was a bit daunting at first, but I suppose anything new is because, I mean, I'd learned at university about how how projects are handled and the basics of Agile and Kanban and Scrum. But it was never something that we went into depth about and you know, nothing trumps experience. You know, first time experience will always, always be different from exactly what you've learned.
So it was daunting at first, but once I started getting into it, it was a really good learning experience, seeing the sort of how reactive you have to be as a project goes on, reacting to, you know, maybe finding out that a certain aspect of the website isn't needed anymore or maybe some other aspects to the website can fulfill what that other aspect has to so you can cut that out of scope or how time scales and budgets all affect scope of a project and how you go about that. That was a very kind of eye opening learning experience and it was really enjoyable as well. Yeah, daunting though.
Tom: Yeah. Sounds like you did a really good job on that project as well. Has there been anything sort of in this year of industry that kind of you weren't expecting, given what you'd been learning about at university?
Connor: Well, I didn't really come in to this with too many expectations, I guess, because the course that I'm on is a a computer science course. So while there are aspects of agile and methodologies like that, it's a mostly code, theory and math based course. So when I saw this job, I thought, oh, I don't completely know what that means, but I may as well give it a go.
You know, there's no harm in trying it. So I really came in without any expectations. So I suppose everything was a bit of a shock to me.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. And what do you think you've learned from this experience?
Connor: I think a lot of what I've learned is like more softer skills, like people skills. So the best ways of communicating with clients, with colleagues and how to go about being firm in emails without sounding overly kind of annoyed or strict and how to handle any like possible issues that there might be between like me and others or things like that.
It's certainly been very good at developing some softer skills like that and confidence as well has been a massive one. I don't think if you'd asked me a year ago if I was going on this podcast, I think I would have said no.
Tom: Yeah, yeah. That's really great to hear. And I think those soft skills are so, so important. I'd love to know what you've learned about being maybe more firm in emails. Like what have you learned around that? Because I think that's a skill that can be very, very difficult and it's good to hear you've gained confidence in that.
Connor: Well, it's hard to kind of put into words, but I know that my emailing prior to being here was very, very professional and very kind of blocky and robotic almost. It wasn't great. But then being here has like I can tell that my emailing style has drifted more towards like a casual yet, professional tone that makes it a lot easier if you have to break bad news about not being able to get work done on time or a project going overbudget and other things like that.
Tom: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And has there been anything in your experience that perhaps could have been improved?
Connor: I mean, I have really really enjoyed this experience and I can't think too much about things that I say would would need to be kind of improved or worked on. I know I've been asked about feedback and I've put thought into it and I can't think of anything. Maybe I'm too much of an optimist.
Tom: Is there anything that you think companies could do to improve the experience that students have on their work experience?
Connor: Yeah. I think one of the key things that I have really enjoyed and really taken advantage of is the fact that there's not really any emphasis on having to work in office.
Because while I'm not opposed to working in office and in-person work and occasional in-person meetings are very fun, it's nice to have it as an option rather than something that you're forced into.
Like it's become something now that if I look for future jobs, it's something that I've really enjoyed having and something I'd look for in jobs in the future.
Tom: And talking about future jobs, have you got more of a sense of what sort of work you would like to do in the future?
Connor: I'm still very open, to be honest. So I've got my my last year of university at the start of September and I've picked a bunch of modules that are all very new to me and out there that I'm looking forward to. So maybe, maybe project management is for me, maybe I'll end up doing something in like AI next year that really interests me.
I'm keeping my options open. Yeah. So not too tunnel visioned.
Tom: Yeah, and I'm sure there's going to be a lot of opportunities open to you in the future. And what tips would you give over to other people who are considering having a year in industry?
Connor: Well, the first step I would say and this is probably a very easy one. But if you're changing courses, then do it early as otherwise it's a lot of paperwork. It's a lot of emailing. You may as well do it early, but as a more general rule, I suppose one thing to really keep in mind is to not be afraid of failure and to not let it stop you.
Because this wasn't the first job that I went for. This was like the third or fourth and the jobs that I went for prior, I think one of them ghosted me. I didn't end up getting any response. And the other one I did maybe the worst interview that I think I've ever done. I was so awful and that really knocked me.
And obviously that kind of confidence knock made me think, well, is it worth doing a year in industry? But then I found this, I thought I might as well give it one more go and I think, you know, the fact that I'd had such a bad interview, in a way, had just boosted me a bit because I was like, "Well I can't do worse than that."
And it really helped because in that next interview, because I had picked up things that I did wrong in that interview and things I could do better. And obviously the interview I did here landed me this job so I can't have done that bad.
Tom: Yeah absolutely so not looking at those sort of times where you don't get a job as like a failure as such but as an opportunity to learn and then take what you have learned from that.
Connor: Yeah, and I think it's especially important because I know lots of people have part time jobs throughout college and into uni, but for some people applying to jobs in that year in industry might be the first time that they're going through an experience like that which can just add on to how daunting it is if it's uncharted territory and then you fail early, it can feel really, really daunting and push you back.
But then, you know, after you've failed once you'll do better the next time. And if you fail again, you'll do better after that. It's always a learning experience.
Tom: Yeah, absolutely. And we spoke a little bit earlier about kind of you being given quite a bit of responsibility on a project with Hive. Do you think there are any pros to working for like a smaller company because you do maybe get given a bit more responsibility?
Connor: I think so yeah, because I'm assuming if I'd worked somewhere larger like an IBM, I know lot of students have ended up going there, I mean I might not have gotten the same level of responsibility and while extra responsibility is more work, it builds trust with that company easier and it makes you feel more welcomed and happier to work there.
And ultimately that outweighs any extra work that comes with having extra responsibility.
Tom: Yeah. And you did say how, you know, that's been one of your favorite things about working for Hive is being given a lot of responsibilities to take on that Sheffield Eagles project and really applying yourself and learning a lot through that.
So final question then and yeah, thanks again for coming on and sharing your experience with us, it's been really interesting.
What would you say people can do to make things better and you can interpret this however you like?
Connor: That's a good question and a broad one as well. I would say my go to for things like this is to always try and be kind no matter what, because any kind of emotion that you show someone else it tends to spread. If you go to someone really angry, you'll probably make them a bit angry and then it spreads a bit.
If you're really down, everyone else might be really down. But if you go in to like life with the mindset of just be kinder and to always like be the person that takes that first step towards kindness - it spreads. And you do find that it spreads.
Tom: Yeah, absolutely love that. And that's so true. And that knock on effect can just impact so many people. So you might think it only impacts one and then actually it impacts two and then more.
Connor: It's that butterfly effect.
Tom: Yeah absolutely brilliant. Where can people find you? Are you on LinkedIn or anything like that?
Connor: LinkedIn yeah. And I'm not sure what my username is on that, but it's some variation of my name I'm sure.
Tom: I'll find that and put it in the description of this podcast. All right. Thanks so much for coming on.
Connor: It's been great.
Tom: Thanks a lot for watching and listening or reading. And I hope you have an amazing rest of your day.
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