Emma is Head of Product at AppFox, the software development team behind apps for Confluence, Jira and Trello. She credits her placement year as a software developer for kick-starting her career. Here, Emma explains why it’s important to seize opportunities, join societies and make the most of University support.
Why did you choose to study at Bath?
I was keen to get professional experience early, and I liked that the majority of students at Bath did an industrial placement year. This meant that when I came back from my placement, I would be able to continue my studies alongside my friends and course mates.
In addition, I really liked the campus and its atmosphere when I visited. When comparing the computer science and mathematics courses from different universities, I appreciated that Bath was looking for individuals passionate about both subjects together, rather than being unsure about which to fully pursue.
Did you have a particular career in mind when you chose your course?
No, I was pretty unsure about what I wanted to do later in life. I had chosen subjects that I was interested in, and that I felt I could be good at, but I didn't know where that would lead me.
This is where I found my placement year particularly useful – it meant I could almost trial run a job, see whether it suited me, and work out from real experience what I enjoyed, what I didn't and what may have been lacking in a role.
Can you tell us about your experience of studying here? Any favourite memories, or places to go on campus and in the city?
I found university quite challenging at times as it was so different to what I had experienced before. The University of Bath had a great support network, and although it took time, I did eventually feel at home.
Bath is a great city. I really enjoyed going to the international buffet with my friends and checking out the local pubs in Oldfield Park. There are beautiful walks all around Bath, and some of my favourite memories are walking to and from the campus with the stunning views.
On campus, I always liked going to the Students’ Union for dinner. There was always something on, and the food and drink were reasonably priced.
Some of my friends at Bath started a tradition where we'd do a weekly quiz at their house. We're still meeting to do the quiz now, eight years later, although less frequently!
I tried out Judo again while at university, as it was something I had done before. In the end, I didn't join any societies or sports clubs, but I'd recommend others do as I think I was missing out!
I did enjoy using the gym in the Sports Training Village on campus; despite some top-level athletes training there, I never felt self-conscious or had to wait for the equipment.
Describe your career journey since graduating.
I realised from my placement year as a software developer that I enjoyed problem-solving, but that it was also important for me to work closely with customers on a day-to-day basis.
After graduating, I looked for roles in IT consultancy and joined Automation Consultants as a graduate consultant. I really enjoyed interacting with customers and clients in the role, utilising my problem-solving skills as well as my previous experience in the industry.
I completed several different projects for customers in this role, before working for a long-term customer as a test lead. It was in this role that I started to take on leadership responsibilities, and quickly realised this was something I loved doing. After several years at the company, I became Head of Operations, leading our consultancy department.
I was Head of Operations for just over four years before I was approached for the role of Head of Product at AppFox, the development department at Automation Consultants. I was very excited to move into this role as it was a new challenge for me and provided many different learning opportunities. I've now been in this role for just over a year and I'm loving it.
What is a typical day like in your current role?
My workday revolves around enabling my team to do what they do best – develop great software! This can mean anything from reviewing new UI designs and updating our product roadmap, to speaking to customers as part of an early access program.
From my experience, IT is all about people, from your team to your customers. I'm so pleased that I've had the opportunity to work with so many great folks.
How did your studies help you to develop?
I felt that throughout my studies, the courses focused on giving you a good understanding across many areas and explaining the "why" as well as the "what". In the context of programming, this meant that a lot of my learnings were agnostic to the language itself, giving me the ability to pick up what I needed to quickly, even if it was a programming language I hadn't encountered before.
My placement year as a software developer has been instrumental to my career. From the outset, you receive a lot of support from the University, which is helpful both in finding a role and in succeeding there. I came back to Bath with more clarity on what I wanted my career to look like, and importantly, more confidence in myself.
What advice would you give to prospective students thinking about studying your course at Bath?
Don't put too much pressure on yourself to have everything figured out before you start university. For me, it was the perfect place to work out what I wanted to do in the future. I'd encourage you to do a placement year if you have the opportunity.
I found Bath to be a great place to figure things out with good support and great people. Take the time to review the different module options, and if an opportunity presents itself to you, take it!