A week at Deep3: work experience students find their feet in tech

by Lydia Kennedy

Deep3 opened their office to Wyedean School last month, offering work experience to the software engineers of the future, with some surprising results.

The first two weeks of July were truly learning focused for us at Deep3. Not only did we get to share our collaborative culture that gives our people the freedom to innovate, but we did so with six talented young people from Wyedean School. As part of our mission to support the tech industry from the grassroots, we welcomed two groups of future software engineers from Years 10 and 12 to join us for their work experience in the Cheltenham office.

They learnt what it means to be a software engineer on a live project, from improving their Python skills and communicating across teams, to dealing with office dynamics and learning the ropes of project management.

So, what did they take away from a week at Deep3?

Hands-on experience with a range of software

We didn't hold back when throwing our student team in at the deep end. To get the most out of the week, they worked with a range of technologies for their projects. The team used a variety of programming software, including Postman, PyCharm and Visual Studio Code, as well as project management tools such as Git, Trello and Slack. This allowed them to experience a variety of software from managing data to the more administrative side of their projects.

Kara, one of our Year 12 students, said the most enjoyable part of the week for her was using the different technologies. "It was very intriguing to try to solve problems," she said. "It expanded my knowledge of software development and the process involved, as well as broadening my skillset with programmes that I hadn't used before."

Although the student team found the work challenging, they were also given a lot of creative freedom and support when they needed it. This independent learning approach enabled them to appreciate when the project started to reap results. Daniel, another Year 12 student, described the challenge of the work as intense, "but," he said, "as we adapted to it and started working more efficiently within the team, it began to come together, and it was really cool to see when it did."

A window into a career that's collaborative and varied

While expectations were high coming into the work experience, for many of the students the week was an eye-opener for how fulfilling a career in tech can be. Kara said she liked the fact that you're always learning something new. "The work environment is very collaborative and structured, as it allows for the combination of different skillsets in order to complete tasks," she said.

Jake, another Year 12 student, was surprised by the collaborative working needed on the projects. "I didn't expect there to be people working together in different parts of the country on the same project," he said. "The level of communication between the offices was also surprising as I have never seen that kind of technology being used before."

We were pleased the students thought the atmosphere was friendly, cooperative, but also hard working. One student described our team as passionate and driven, but 'chilled out'. We'll take that!

'The tech field is full of surprises'

Our student teams both found their work experience week to be a surprisingly welcome break from the rigour and discipline of school. Allowing young people freedom to explore new learnings and technologies in an open and trusting environment gives them a window into an office environment that's exciting yet relaxed – if this encourages them to consider software development as a career, then mission accomplished.

"The tech field is full of surprises," said Daniel. "The programming aspect and the team dynamic really sold it [the project] as something interesting to work at, and I was really satisfied with the result."

The Year 10s in particular found the experience of office dynamics as informative as the projects themselves. Jacob, one of our Year 10 students, said: "I learnt a lot about an office environment, the different structures of work, delivering a product to a customer and the method of coding it. I also enjoyed the meetings as it gave an insight into communicating with other offices through technology."

Year 10 student Tim said he gained an insight into what it would be like to work in a software office. "At work, you need to be able to both work well on your own and as a group, and know your own task clearly. I've learnt a lot about a real workplace environment and what would be expected of me." He also added that the atmosphere at work was less arduous than expected. "The biggest lesson I learnt," he said, "was that as long as you get the tasks done, the workplace can be a very calm place."

Another Year 10 student, Will, agreed. "Not only have I learnt loads about coding," he said, "I've also learnt loads about the work environment. An office is much more relaxed than a school, and everyone seems to just do their work casually and efficiently, which I really like."

Will's most important lesson was learning it's OK to ask for help. Although at school, individual coaching is difficult in a classroom of 25, in a smaller office environment there can be greater opportunity for immediate development. "Although everyone is working," he said, "they are more than happy to help out with whatever problem you're having, which is important because not knowing how to do something and asking someone for help is infinitely easier than just bodging it and whatever you were working on breaking." Sound advice!

Preparation for a future in tech, and beyond

Our student teams walked away at the end of the week with a desire to keep learning and developing their software skills. This is always our greatest aim when working with young people.

While some students said they would continue to improve their Python and coding skills, others looked forward to incorporating systems like Trello and Sprint Planning into their schoolwork.

As they return to commitments such as their GCSE exams and finding a place at university, we hope that the positive experience at Deep3 will help them when starting out in their own careers.

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