Tagged: placement

Adieu, Adieu (To You and You and You)

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📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

My placement at an end, I packed my things, got on a flight and came home for good today. Paris is currently in turmoil- in the past two weeks, protests against the law permitting gay marriage have blocked the roads and filled the streets with sound, a soldier was stabbed at la Défense, a man has committed suicide inside Notre Dame, and another in front of the Eiffel Tower. The airport was patrolled by armed soldiers, the boutiques locked down, security extra vigorous. Happily, the flight and journey home from the airport passed without incident- for once the Welsh weather trumped that of Paris. That’s a turn-up for the books.

How do I feel? I don’t truly know. It is a real mixture of emotions. It is lovely to be home, to know that I can sleep in my own bed without a dent in the mattress, that I can visit friends, get reacquainted with Cardiff, find out what has changed in the year I’ve been away. I can be satisfied with all that I have done, how much I have learned, changed, and, clichéd though it sounds, grown as a person (I’m not just talking about the after-effects of patisserie.) Linguistically, practically, interpersonally, I have made improvements. The year abroad frequently draws you out of your comfort zone, forces you to develop, explore, just try. Of course you will make mistakes. You’re (assumedly) human. I will readily admit that I have been reduced to tears over malfunctioning washing machines, accidentally ordered raw fish, been frustrated, confused, exhausted, embarrassed and occasionally asked myself Why am I doing this? But the friends I have made, the things I have seen and the experiences I have had have combined to make this an unforgettable and overwhelmingly positive chapter of my life, one that I am sure I will recall with fondness in the years to come.

After all, this is what it boils down to: for a relatively short period of time, you will have the chance to be a teacher, a student or an employee in a foreign country, teetering on the brink of responsible adult life. You might not always recognise it, but you are fortunate to have that chance.

You will never be in this time, this place, this state, again. So grab it with both hands and make the most of it.

To those of you who have followed my adventures, this is the end of the line. Thank you for your interest and your time. And if you yourself are preparing for a year abroad, the best of luck to you. Adieu. 🙂


Thank you Manchester... It has been a pleasure!

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📥  Health, Uncategorized

Hi everyone!

This is the first of my blogs which I have written away from my desk, I am currently writing it whilst working as a nanny (it is afternoon nap time of course!), which is much harder than I originally thought and will keep me busy this summer. I miss Manchester already, I had such a lovely send off last week, it feels strange not to be there anymore!

I thought in my last blog I would reflect on some of the skills I have developed, including technical skills relevant to my placement alongside some transferable skills which will be very beneficial in my final year of study, as well as in my future career.



I thought I would also highlight a few of the other things I have learnt; firstly preparation is key... how does the saying go? Fail to prepare, prepare to fail! Everything is more likely to run smoothly if there is some planning put into it, some things are still likely to go wrong but not as many things that would go wrong without preparation. Leading onto my overused saying throughout my blogs of not everything in research goes to plan straight away, it doesn’t always go wrong but there can always be setbacks. From this I have learnt to keep calm before getting stressed out, take time to think about the options available. In research there are always tasks that need to be completed, which will save time in the long run when everything is back on track, so I have learnt that when these setbacks do occur it is worth thinking ahead and working on other tasks which need to be completed. Finally I think that if you are looking to do a work placement working in research it is also important to note that you get out what you put in! I had some amazing opportunities whilst working at Salford and the experience has been invaluable, I have learnt so much! I wouldn’t of chosen a different placement at all and believe that this one was the one for me.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Have a fantastic summer, I can’t wait to get back to Bath!



Getting down to business- the cake is also a lie on the Continent

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📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

My job itself merits a lengthy description, so (brace yourselves) here goes.

The office is eeeeeeeenormous. The premises are actually shared by two separate companies, but ours is, broadly speaking, a translation company, working for big names of the luxury sector. It’s the kind of place where you need a special access card to get into the revolving door or use the lift, which for the first week or so gives you a slightly smug secret-agenty feeling (yes, I am easily amused.) There is an enormous marble lobby scattered with coffee tables laden with exclusive magazines for luxury products, just like you see in films, where smartly-dressed people of all nationalities flow in and out on their separate errands. This ground floor houses one large conference room, the HR department and a kitchen with a solid wall of microwaves and little cups full of plastic cutlery. One wall is painted with chalkboard paint, and underneath a deeply philosophical Victor Hugo quote you will often see such pastel-coloured gems as ‘THE CAKE IS A LIE!’ My personal favourite source of amusement is the passive-aggressive dialogue upon the following notice:

‘En cas de très grande faim merci de ne pas consommer le repas des autres!!!’- under a little ClipArt of a guilty-faced robber clutching a sack of loot.

‘Donc, quand c’est une petit fringole, on peut se servir?’- scrawled in black typically French handwriting.


‘Quoique :)’!

The next two floors are where the IT department work on integrating our translations onto client websites and some companies have their own PR teams, such as Rolex. The third floor is that of the Pôle Multilingue, and that’s where I worked. It had a communal fruit basket (a veritable cornucopia on Tuesdays, one piece for 20 cents, all for a jolly good cause) and even the proverbial water cooler, where we actually had a few hasty meetings between emergencies.

Imagine my astonishment at entering the main office, filled with around two hundred smartly-dressed, multilingual translators, proofreaders and project managers, all typing away furiously or barking into smart executive phones. Inwardly I quailed. But the two stagiaires from the English team herded me over to the correct desk. There are roughly eight people per team.  Behind us were the Russians, whose conversation I loved to eavesdrop upon with my one semester’s knowledge of the language. Then there were the jolly Germans, the businesslike Spaniards, and the Portuguese, Japanese, Italian and French teams. A computer hadn’t been installed for me yet, so I meekly took the hundreds of sheets of paper handed over to me with reverence, and studied the differences between British and American English, also brushing up (read: learning) watchmaking terms. Little did I realise I’d be reciting them in my sleep after a week.

At lunchtime we popped to a local bakery for (what else?) baguettes and patisserie, and sat outside the elegant town hall, basking in the sunshine. One of the (few) financial perks of being employed in Paris came in the form of lunch vouchers, presented to us each month by the HR department, just like little chequebooks. Each voucher is worth 7 euros and can be redeemed in most supermarkets, bakeries and restaurants. It does make you feel rather flash, handing one over. I would soon discover the joys of the steak haché baguette, basically a pizza in baguette form, often the highlight of my working day- and so revered it is only sold three days a week. Sigh...

My official job was that of a trainee translator, so I obviously assumed it would be like Munich, but on a bigger scale. Woe is me, I was so, SO wrong! What I actually ended up doing each and every day, 9 am to nominally 6.30 but usually 6.50 pm, was sifting and filing emails (sorting them by client company or project name), finding out the day’s assigned tasks and noting them down accordingly for the team, translating anything and everything into UK, US, international, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canadian English, from executive Powerpoint presentations and user manuals to power of attorneys, but mostly advertising, proofreading, so-called ‘urgencies’ which had their own special protocol and often came with the stupidest deadlines, issuing payment orders, filling in timesheets, filling in the ‘launches’ file and colour-coding it so we knew who had assigned which project to whom, testing new translators, filing projects in the appropriate folders, assigning projects to external translators (the bulk of our daily work), phoning project managers and errant translators (we all had our favourites- and it literally paid to be a favourite, because the amounts we paid them for one project were often more than we earned a month), formatting documents for use in the translation software, creating translation projects in this software (oh so time-consuming and complicated and error-message producing!), terminology and product research, website integration (HTML and back office), and in my last month I even became the subsidiary contact manager for Jaeger-LeCoultre, responsible for sending our translations of watch catalogues to company contacts in America and awaiting their approval. One key aspect of the job was the fine art of avoiding our team manager’s wrath. I had the dubious pleasure of sitting opposite him, and sometimes just the top of his head and an accusing pair of eyes would slowly surface from behind the monitor, and you would hear your name said very slowly and deliberately, “Lesleyyyyyyy......” and your heart sank instantly as you desperately tried to remember what you’d just done/sent/filed, because you knew you were done for. I was there a month before there was actually time to train me, so my previous knowledge of translation software was invaluable, but honestly, nothing could have adequately prepared me for this position.

Eep! Are you still with me? Had I known what a crazy learning curve was ahead of me, I might have opted for something else, I fear! Understandably, I was a quivering wreck at the end of my first day, and absolutely exhausted by the end of the week. But my colleagues were very friendly and helpful once you dragged them away from their desks, and little by little, the seemingly pointless rules I encountered each day gradually ingrained themselves into my very psyche- Chanel uses the term ‘Haute Joaillerie’, Nespresso is always UK English, etc.- and our team manager said my name in that very scary way less and less often. By month two, it was just great. I had stopped making mistakes- or at least those which mattered. It was pretty satisfying to wander round Paris and know that I had translated the legal notes on the tourist tax rules for Printemps; to see our translated Cartier adverts in the windows on Champs-Élysées, our Hennessy articles in brochures, our Tag Heuer plastered over bus shelters, even our Dior videos on a massive screen at the airport.

So next time you see an ad for a perfume you will never be able to afford, or a necklace that costs more than a car, kindly spare a thought for the humble desk jockey behind it. Merci. 🙂


Paris is the spring is magical. Supposedly.

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📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

During my last weeks in Munich, the eternal conundrum had reared its ugly head once more- that of finding accommodation at an affordable price, at a reasonable distance from work, in a foreign city, sorting out the paperwork which would get the ball rolling, without being able to view any places that were offered to me. Many sites wanted to charge me an extortionate fee just to use their services, with no guarantees. I sent dozens of messages from one site which I only found out weren’t being sent a fortnight later- apparently either I or the recipient of the message had to be a paying Premium member before they’d actually leave my inbox. Hmm. It all conveyed a terrible sense of déjà vu. In increasing desperation, I asked friends, friends of friends, and even friends of friends of friends for assistance- calling on every single French connection (ha ha) I had. Finally, in sheer desperation, I posted a cry for help on Facebook. Who says social networking is bad? A coursemate immediately steered me in the direction of a website, where a couple rented out properties solely to British year abroad students. It was pricey (200 more euros than I would be earning each month), on the outskirts of the city, and two train journeys/thirty stops/one hour away from the office, plus about twenty minutes’ walk, but it was the best I could do.

It turned out there wasn’t going to be time to go home in between my placements- I’d finished work in Munich on Friday afternoon, would arrive in Paris on the weekend and start work bright and early on Monday morning. Phew- no rest for the wicked. So I bundled my life into a couple of suitcases and set off on my travels again, roping in my mum to help me (nice excuse for a mini-break!) For some reason known only to the airlines, the cheapest way to go from Munich to Paris was to fly to Brussels, wait an hour, then take a connecting flight into Charles de Gaulle. By some strange twist of fate, my mum got sent to the back of the plane while I ended up in Business Class, and I spread my belongings over a whole row of unoccupied seats, reading the in-flight magazine as if I could afford the unnecessary bags and bijoux displayed there, and pretending I was the privileged daughter of a wealthy Asian businessman until brought back to earth with a bump- literally and figuratively. Before we knew it, we were on a battered tin can of a train, keeping our beady eyes on the luggage, speeding into the city. I won’t pretend it was a good journey, because none of the stations in Paris are equipped with lifts, escalators or anything else remotely helpful to the seasoned traveller. Reeling as we tried to get to grips with the fluorescent spaghetti of a Metro map, we bumped the cases up and down dozens of flights of steps, and- just as I was at the end of my tether- there it was, the tiny station of Porte de Saint-Cloud, which sounded rather quaint. A friendly lady who happened to live near my street escorted us to the block of flats. After a lot of waiting around and hammering on random doors, we found the Filipino janitor, whose cold facade immediately thawed when my mum started talking to him in Tagalog. He unlocked the flat I’d be sharing with seven other people and handed me the keys. I took in the cupboard-sized room and several breweries’ worth of beer bottles scattered over the sticky floors, and inwardly went “Hmmmmmnnnnhhh...” We went to pick up some groceries- I hadn’t located the local LIDL yet, so was stunned at how expensive everything was. I also met my housemates- half were studying abroad, half working like me- and burrowed grouchily into my pillow while they partied into the wee hours, and returned like a herd of bulls stampeding into a china shop. They would do this up to five times a week, while I would grow steadily more irate and sleep-deprived, before finally throwing in the towel and switching apartments, having heard of a vacancy in the 2-person flat upstairs on the grapevine.

In fact, the whole of my first week in Paris would turn out to be rather “Hmmmmmnnnnhhh.” It was a massive shock to the system, I admit. I felt like an aquarium fish who wanted nothing more from life than a regular flake breakfast and a resin tunnel to swim through, maybe some pretty neon gravel- but I’d been unceremoniously scooped up in a net and tossed tail over fins into the Dead Sea. Even things like the enormously long streets and thin buildings were enough to disorientate me. I’d been pretty cosseted in Munich, living a stone’s throw from the office and from all the main sights, actually earning a small profit, with plenty of time to socialise and unwind outside of work. Heck, even complete strangers were friendly. But this was Paris, my working hours were 9.30 am to any time between 18.45 and 19.15, you had to sell your first-born child just to buy mincemeat, everyone had their attitude switches set to lofty/aloof, and my life had assumed the standard Parisian pattern- métro-boulot-dodo. Rinse and repeat...


The Last Hurdle

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📥  Health, Uncategorized

Hey everyone!
It is nearly over and I can’t believe it, where on earth have the last 10 months gone?! I have had a great time in Manchester and will be really sad to leave work next Thursday, although I do plan to come back for a few days here and there over the summer.
In terms of my project I am now further with my data analysis (Matlab still confuses me) but I have managed to analyse the data for 18 subjects.. with over 200 peak values per subject this took longer to organise than I originally thought! My personal aim was to collect and analyse a set of data for 20 subjects before I finished my placement. After next week I should hopefully have done this, I had a meeting with my supervisor earlier this week and he said that over the summer there may be an opportunity to publish some of my work, which is really exciting!
I am still waiting for two pairs of orthotics to arrive from Spain, they arrived last week but both of them had been manufactured wrong so had to be sent back. This setback has delayed testing the final subjects, alongside this the equipment I need has been fully booked as one of the gait labs is been refurbished from next week and won’t be back up and running until later in the year. They hopefully will arrive by the end of today and I will be able to slot the subjects in around everyone else before I leave next Thursday, I know I am going to be cutting it fine.
I have learnt so much from my placement but one thing that I think I learnt on day one (I guess I may have mentioned this before) is that research does not always go to plan straight away. This can be very stressful especially as unlike a regular 9-5 job in this environment you work to deadlines, so when one thing sets you back it has a knock on effect to many other factors. During my placement there has been such a strong emphasis on that ‘you get out what you put in’, I am now much more able to take responsibility for my own learning. I think this is going to be very beneficial in my final year of study and in my future career, especially if I stay on into post graduate education.
Alongside leaving my placement I will be sad to leave Manchester in general, I have made some friends for life here and as a city it is fantastic. I never thought as a country girl I would have so much fun in what I think is a massive place (my friends in London don’t really agree), I just love the fact that the city never stops and that there are always people around in the centre whatever time day or night.
In other news Manchester United won the premiership, that is also really exciting and I am thankful for the opportunities working at Old Trafford this year has given me! I mean Fergie knows who I am, how cool is that…
I will write my final blog the week after I finish, I will reflect on the most important things I have learnt and how this placement has affected my personal development.
Thanks for reading!


So Long, Farewell- my last few weeks in Munich

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📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

It was time for me to go back to Munich, and I was feeling pretty deflated and sluggish- not just a direct result of mass turkey consumption. The novelty of abroadness was, truth be told, wearing off, and two weeks hadn’t been long enough for me to see all the people and do all the things I’d wanted to; yet it had been long enough for me to have got back into my old life, which was why I was feeling awkwardly displaced. Returning after Christmas is always the hard part, I’d been warned- and sad to say, it’s true. The permanently dark and dismal weather didn’t help (and considering I come from Cardiff, that just tells you how grim it must’ve been in Munich.) There is also such a thing as too much snow. Trust me on this one. I had bought heavy-duty winter boots which I wore from mid-September onwards, and by the end of February I was getting increasingly soggy socks as the soles wore through. Not ideal.

My birthday was drawing closer alarmingly quickly, and aside from work, I really wasn’t sure what to do with myself. Although it wouldn’t be my first one outside the UK (I had my 4th birthday with family in the Philippines), it would definitely feel different. Finally I decided to spend the day itself in a laid-back fashion- going for sushi and a late-night swim at the Müller'sche Volksbad, a beautiful public swimming baths with quaintly old-fashioned changing cubicles. The building reminded me of the Roman Baths with its elegant arches and pillars. The next day, I summoned everyone I’d befriended and we ate, drank and were merry.

My boyfriend came to stay for intersemester break. We took a guided tour around the main sights of central Munich, almost contracting hypothermia in the process- but it was worth it to learn that the people had once attempted to put out a fire in the theatre with beer, with disastrous consequences; and that the police apparently stole the airport’s maypole and only gave it back once promised great quantities of food, beer (no surprise there) and a party! Wahnsinn...

We also visited Dachau, which was a thought-provoking and sobering experience.

And for any Discord-goers, I have but one word to say: Rockstudio. And, oops, another two: Go there. The night we went, the guitarist from Marilyn Manson was choosing the set- there was an interlude which consisted purely of Irish jig-type songs. You will never see anything funnier than black-clad German goths in their heavy studded boots and curtains of hair linking arms and riverdancing. Really.

There was also Fasching to look forward to- officially a celebration of the dawning of the (so-far non-existent) spring, in practice, an excuse for shops to sell their Halloween stock in February and an excuse for all Münchners to have a half-day, dress up ridiculously and party with friends and copious amounts of... yep, BIER! Clouds of confetti littered the snow, a brass band blared from a stage on Marienplatz, and the whole city centre was a glorious, teeming chaos of colour and sound.

It was a triumphant end to my time in Munich. I arranged to see all my friends one last time, did  my final open mic evening and got myself abgemeldet. At times it had been stressful, it had been hard, but it was also a wonderfully enriching experience. I’d felt completely at home there, and was sorry to have to leave. But I’m sure I’ll be back.

Bis bald, München!


Mozart, Markets and Myriad Monsters- Munich is invaded by the Krampus

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📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

Even scarier than me in the morning...

Even scarier than me in the morning...

With the dawning of December, Munich put on its Christmas hat, and instantly became magical. Shop windows filled with tinsel and baubles and heavily-adorned trees, an enormous tree appeared in Marienplatz and strings of glowing star-shaped lights marked out the territory of the Weihnachtsmarkt. Later in the month, an ice-rink was built (free entry once a week if you wore traditional costume!) and finally, several Christmas markets opened up, selling all sorts of gorgeous things- brightly-painted wooden figures who ‘smoked’ if you put specially-shaped candles in their pipes, pick-and-mix style decorations ranging from the gaudy to the sublime, lace, ceramics, chocolates, the world-famous gingerbread hearts, sausages, candied nuts, fluffy plumes of candy floss, baked potatoes with sour cream and chives, and a Bavarian staple, Käsespätzle, which are very short egg noodles absolutely smothered in stringy cheese, and which are delicious, certainly life-shortening and make you want to hibernate for at least a week until you’ve managed to digest them. The nearby Odeonsplatz market had a fairytale theme, complete with Red Riding Hood, Santa and his elves and brightly-coloured Nutcracker soldiers as tall as me. Brass bands braved the cold and performed carols. It was all positively frolic-inducing.

At work, the office chocolate fairy visited and left Nikolaustag gifts on our desks on December sixth- chocolate Santas. We all exclaimed in delight, then proceeded to bash them to pieces and devour them. And since I was on a chocolate theme, I went to the Milka Welt shop and got an advent calendar, because you can never be too old for one! It wasn’t too difficult to catch up on all the missed days, oddly enough. The Germans, like the Swiss, don’t skimp with their chocolate. The sleighs, parcels and snowmen inside this one meant business.

My mother came to visit, and I proudly dragged her to my second poetry reading and choir concert in the Gasteig concert hall. Dressed in black with hints of festive red, we performed some Mozart, some Biebl, a couple of traditional carols and a Christmas medley which really put everyone in the festive spirit. One of our songs was aired on the radio, which was another really great experience. A couple of weeks later, we shivered our way through a Christmas market in temperatures of minus seven (!) and were rewarded with free Glühwein. I took what I was told was a cherry Kinderpunsch, but even inhaling the steam coming off it made me cough. It tasted like Calpol plus extremely concentrated Ribena, and I was forced to admit defeat, much to the amusement of my choirmates.

One weekend, I was minding my own business in Marienplatz, browsing the winter sales and admiring the markets once more, just enjoying the festive atmosphere. It was growing darker and colder, and the snow was beginning to fall anew, so I was about to set off home when I heard a steadily augmenting din of what sounded like cowbells clanking together, drumming and cheering. A stream of people was filing out of the market into a side-street, and I got sucked in and sandwiched between tourists, peeking out through gaps. Was I really seeing a parade of strange furry creatures with shrivelled faces, horns and beards, clutching drums and sticks, with enormous bells hanging from their bottoms, leaping out and growling at the children? Apparently so. This was the Krampuslauf, an ancient tradition, and these creatures were the Krampus, kind of an anti-Santa entity, whose mission it is to punish children who haven’t been well-behaved during the year. Eeep...

The crowd snaked through the streets, persistent in spite of the blistering cold; trailing the creatures through the markets, finally ending up in a field alongside Marienplatz. There the Krampus rounded on each other, roaring and brandishing their sticks, leapt up and down to make their bells jingle in unison for the amusement of their audience, and were kind enough to pose for photos, looking like something out of the Lord of the Rings films. You have to hand it to the Germans- they uphold most traditions, no matter how bonkers, exceedingly well.

A friend took to me to a painfully indie gig in a tucked-away little club. The first band gave out bananas to the crowd, as you do, and the second was a whole orchestra crammed onto a tiny stage, and a masked singer who had put a filter on the microphone so that when she sang, she sounded like something out of Doctor Who. That was a pretty strange night.

After a lot of patient waiting and also a lot of rather less patient waiting, it was finally time to go home for a couple of weeks, for the first time in six months. Excited didn’t even begin to cover it!


Applying University knowledge to Placement work

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📥  Education

Over the past 11 months I have been working at Harbour Sport in New Zealand. Being able to apply my university knowledge to my work placement has been key. From university I gained specific skills that I can apply to a range for work areas, such as communication, networking, skills development, and team work in different settings. It is important to utilise aspects you have learnt at university in a work environment, as this theory can be put into practice.

One of my main areas of work at Harbour Sport is Event Management (check out my earlier blogs). I studied event management in my 2nd year of university, where my group held a successful university and celebrity event, ‘A Question of Sport’. This event was created to raise money for different charities, and involved a panel of celebrities going against the winning quiz team of the night to become the ultimate champions. From prior to and at university, I have gained skills from learning about events and from running the actual events myself. This has enabled me to apply these skills to event work on placement. I have been able to understand the events terminology used and the processes to create an event from an idea to the final product. This has benefited me greatly and I have now been able to expand my knowledge about event management, which will further help me when writing my dissertation and in my future career.

By researching journal articles and templates for processes, I have been able to further broaden my knowledge and apply them to different areas of my work, such as health and event management. Therefore I have come across different pieces of information that I have been able to use myself and share with my work colleagues. Currently I am writing the ‘Harbour Sport Event Management Best Practice Report’. I have been able to access a lot of material to create the report. Here I have been researching a wide range of event management areas, such as: transport and travel, accommodation, VIP guests, communication, project team, location and venue, and debrief. This report will become a critical aspect for Harbour Sport to use when they conduct events, as it outlines what processes they need to do and why they need to follow them. It also will be a very useful document for myself, as I have gained more knowledge from further researching event management, and by setting all the information out in an easy to read report will justify this knowledge.

Therefore it is really important to make sure you use the knowledge that you have learnt in university in the workplace. This will benefit your placement work by making it easier to understand processes. Also the knowledge that you gain whilst on placement will benefit your final university year and future career decisions. I have learnt so much by going on placement for a year. I think it is really beneficial for your career and opens your eyes to the really “work” world. I am so happy that I came on placement and the fact that it is in New Zealand makes the experience even more worthwhile.

Harbour Sport Crew


From Intern to CTO - An interview with 10gen's Eliot Horowitz

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📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

It's one of the many reasons I love the working culture at 10gen; where else would you find the CTO of the company happily sitting down to chat to the intern?

Eliot Horowitz, co-founder and CTO of 10gen, knows all too well the perks and pitfalls of intern life. Though now head of a 75-person engineering team, Eliot began his professional life when he was 19 years old, when he undertook a summer internship with DoubleClick, a company co-founded by Dwight Merriman, 10gen's Chairman and fellow co-founder.


Before he jetted back to New York, I had the chance to ask Eliot about his time as an intern, and to enquire about any advice he would offer prospective and current interns of today:

C: What motivated you to pursue an internship in the first place - were you sure it was the right path for you, or did you have doubts along the way?

E: The reason I did it was that I was in the middle of deciding between a couple of different career choices, and I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do. I had to decide in the Fall, and there were two majors I was going to pursue. My internship helped me solidify my decision, which was great.

Deciding to undertake an internship is a big investment, both for the intern and the company hiring them - what do you see as the value of internships for both parties?

C: What do you feel the value of an internship is?

E: I think the value of internship for the intern is that they provide actual, real-world experience. When you're in school, especially in computer science, everything you learn is far too theoretical. You're given a conceptual task, and told to fill in its functions. In the real world, you actually have to complete that task.

My internships also definitely opened my eyes to what a 'real' company was like, as I'd never really been in that environment before.

For a company, one reason is  that interns add a lot of enthusiasm and excitement to a team, and that can be really refreshing.

Two, within a tech company, it helps because it gives the engineers an outlet for ideas. Often engineers will have their own projects, but too little time to follow through on them, so it's great for them to be able to say "hey, I have this crazy idea I'd like to spend two weeks on but I don't have the time, so could you (the intern) research it and see if it makes sense or not?"

Three, in terms of hiring, it's the best interview you can possibly have. If you get an intern you really like, you're going to do all you can to try and hire them.

C: There’s been much controversy over the issue of the unpaid internship - what’s your personal opinion on the issue?

E: It's actually not a big problem in the computer science field, where the majority are paid. I do believe internships should be paid though - after all, it's work. Interns are bringing value to the company, and they absolutely should be paid.

The difference is, if it's unpaid, it should be viewed as they're only coming to observe. You can't expect them to work for nothing.

C: What’s your strongest feeling when you look back at your internship days now - best time of your life, thank goodness that’s over or something in-between?

E: I really liked being an intern - I didn't have any major responsibilities so I could just try different projects and go around asking people what they thought, and how I should do something. You know...their expectations were quite low so it really was very easy to exceed expectations and learn a lot! When you're an intern you are supposed to not know anything - you're a blank slate - and you can just learn so much.

C: If you had the choice now, would you go back to being an intern for a bit?

E: If I could pause my 'real life'? Yes!

C: If you could offer one piece of advice to not only your past self, but current and prospective interns, what would it be?

E: Observe everything.

It's not just a matter of gaining skills, but learning about how people interact in real life situations at work and figuring out what you want from a working environment; if you can say 'I like the fact that there are flexible working hours' or 'I don't like that there's too much travel', then you can actually make an important decision about what you want to do.

C: Finally, other than your work with 10gen and MongoDB, tell me about something you are passionate about?

[He struggles with this - 10gen is obviously all-encompassing]

E: Okay, I really like playing with robots.

I took a Lego robotics class with my daughter, and she learnt how to build one with me helping her. In fact, that was the inspiration for the 10gen All-Hands robot competition!


Another experience draws to a close

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📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

The last month has been truly eye opening, even more so than the rest of my time here at A4e. As this placement draws to a close, I feel two things.

Firstly sad. Sad because I will be leaving a job I truly love and where I make a visible difference to people's lives, and sad because I have made some great friends, and will miss the customers I have dealt with on a daily basis for the last six months.

Secondly, excited. Excited to be moving back to Bath, a beautiful city I consider home, to move in with a fantastic friend into a gorgeous flat and back to the creature comforts and all my closest pals. Excited to be starting a job more closely related to my field in PR, for a fabulous company in the centre of Bath.

This mixture of feelings has led me to look back on what I have learnt, and moreover the harrowing, eye opening things I have experienced, or should I say; realised others experience on a day to day basis just to survive.

I voted Conservative in the last election for three main reasons. The first is that I HATE the EU. The second is that I liked the family values projected and the will to protect the institution of marriage (quite ironic for those that know me). And the third, is that I believed that there is a real benefit dependency problem in this country, and I hoped that the Tories had a vigorous plan to tackle one of the major issues currently blighting Britain.

I was wrong on all counts, they couldn't have got it more wrong, as like me, they are looking at the problem from completely the wrong angle... Top down. After working with customers who would be categorised as the 'underclass' (please note the air quotes) it is evident that this is a problem which needs solving at the root, not the tip. We as citizens needs to look deep down into the dirt and face the origins of benefit dependency head on.

As with all social ills, there is no one cause, nor one answer. But where we get it so wrong is starting with the attitude "well they put themselves there". This is me reporting from the front line, stating this is categorically untrue in 9 out of 10 cases. It is a fallacy imagined up by our media through mediums such as Jeremy Kyle and Shameless, it is the exception... not the rule.

To give an example, one customer who to look at could basically be the poster boy for the 'underclass' couldn't be less to blame for his current situation. He is homeless, his mother is a bipolar schizophrenic who picks and chooses when she lives up to her responsibilities, his father is nowhere to be seen and the police are on his back 24/7 for simply existing. Don't get me wrong, he has been in his fare share of trouble, but most of this has been to survive on the streets (beating up an over familiar tramp for example, or stealing food after going without for several days).

He couldn't finish school as he was living in a tent from the age of 13, an age where benefits don't exist. But despite all the adversity, he is a diamond in the rough. He has such great spirit, motivation and want for a better life. He is polite and helpful and selfless even though he has nothing he still would rather see a woman beaten by her husband take his bed for the night at the night shelter.

Herein the problem lies. The facilities available to a 19 year old in this position are close to none. The government gives him JSA and that is it. Around £80 every two weeks, that is less than the £10 a day quoted by the recent BBC3 documentary exploring this issue. As he is a member of the work programme (WP), he has a strict schedule of activity to complete to receive this money. Not just writing down a couple of jobs a week to show to his JCP advisor. But attending training courses, job clubs, weekly meetings with his WP advisor, and more. Should he falter, a sanction looms, which means he will live off fresh air for the next 4 weeks or possibly more.

This decision is not made by those who work with him every day, and can know if it is a deliberate deviation or a genuine inability, but by a string of admin people entrenched in DWP procedure. The worse thing is, that this system can fail. And someone like this young lad can be sanctioned for NO REASON AT ALL. Even if he has completed all mandatory activity there is a loophole which has seen him mistakenly sanctioned at least twice in his time on the programme. Meaning that a small administrative slip could see a homeless person without money for weeks on end, luckily for this boy, I was there to fight to get the problem rectified.

He has been on the waiting list for a place since he turned 18, and is likely to stay there for some time as his case isn't classed as urgent by those I'm the corridors of power. Therefore local charities are his only hope, and even such charities are bound by miles of red tape, difficult for even employees to navigate.

Housing shelters are not by nature free, nor freely available. This was news to me. Ergo, one has to be referred by a 'suitable organisation such as ourselves or the job centre' to just be put on the waiting list. Not much use to a boy with no money, no food and no shelter in the middle of winter. The local one costs £2 per night, may not sound a lot but for someone living off about £8 a day it is a massive amount to ask.

This is just one small example of the problem that plagues the UK. It is disgusting To realise the actuality of many thousands of human beings supposedly living in a welfare state. To work on the front line has been one if the most humbling experiences of my life. It really makes you realise how little you actually have to moan about and somewhat knocks the satirical saying 'first world problems' out of the park when their are so many existence in the 'first world' with such massive barriers to simply surviving.