placement year

6 months down, 6 months to go

23rd January, from the backup vaults of David Whale’s email inbox…

I’ve now been working for around 6 months at Airbus, and questions like “are you going to do the Grad scheme” keep popping up from the graduates I know. I get mixed opinions whether I should do it or not from graduates, and whether it’s actually right for what I want after I leave uni.

Think I’ve said this before: I’ve no idea.

What I will say though is it’s been a good 6 months, and I’ve grown and got more focussed – having less hours in the day to sit watching random stuff on E4 means I hack with code and projects more because I know my time is precious.

I had my interim review with my supervisor and another colleague last week and we went over what I’ve done so far, which was good, particularly as I should be having a similar review with someone from university in a couple of weeks, as this showed me “hey…I’ve done stuff here”. In total the “stuff” is 2 big techy projects that save Airbus a fair amount of contractor funds, both of which have taught me a heck of a lot about python and interfacing with other programs, a couple of intermediate ones that were easy and great because I came up with some new ideas to make it better and proved to myself I could figure out how to do them, and some training early on on interpretive python which I’ve mentioned previously.

Of the bigger projects, 1 is reasonably simple to get through, and in fact I think this week I’ve done a big chunk of what I need to get finished so it should be ready to get released soon (it’s an add on to an already released program which runs some mega calculations locally that are normally done remotely on a super computer) so I’m quite proud of that.

The other is a little more complicated because I have to talk to Engineers from various ends of the site and whilst all Engineers have to do a certain amount of code these days, there’s one thing that’s popped up from this project: the user never knows what they can get from the programmer, and the programmer doesn’t know well enough what job they’re trying to achieve to put the requirements in by guesswork. For the vast majority of applications anyway. And this is the biggest setback to the project, a long with some big complications in manipulating CATIA data (CATIA = 3d CAD program that’s very big, very slow and used in Airbus), but if I knew exactly what the requirements were then it’d be easier. Hah. hahahah. hah.

This is why people should do internships, because uni tries to simulate this but it’s the most frustrating thing and uni can never teach you it quite as well as asking an Engineer “what units do you measure this in and is this calculation important” “I don’t know, ask the person who made the tool before you”. *facepalm* (the task is some CAD modelling and it’s kind of important to know what the focus is, whether it be correct volumes or perfect positioning, or both, and what data they want to get out of the program…no one wants a fuel system with a hole in the middle…)

It also gets students used to the politics of a corporation and that you’ll have to one day work with people who aren’t the same type of person as you, and are, for the most part, a lot older than you but you need to figure out how to empathise and how to build up a rapport with people, even if they’re nothing like you. It also gives you a foot in the door when you leave uni, and tells you what the company is like if you’re considering working for them later on. I’m still getting used to it all to be honest and I never quite know what impression I’m leaving on the people around me, I find it quite hard to know what to say in certain situations and whether I should be introducing myself to everyone or speaking up (I’m pretty quiet most of the time) but at least I know my code works…sometimes. It’s definitely made me add to my list of questions at job interviews following uni (“what’s the atmosphere like” “what’s the team like” “what’s the social side of things like”) and given me a peek into the world of plane building 😉

It’s also difficult to know what to ask, and whether I should be trying to push for stuff that’s more varied: I’ve also had the chance to work with the team manager to make some service models for presentations which was nice to get a bit of variation, although a little stressy as I had actual deadlines for that task…On my list of objectives for the future from the review my supervisor suggested working with support on the toolkit my internship is based on which should be good. I know most of the other team work as support or managers for different bundles and applications, which isn’t what I want to be doing, realistically, so I’d mostly rather be sticking with python…eeegh. It’s a tough one to call.

This is what I like about the idea of the grad scheme, as placements last 3 months (over the course of 2 years so 8 in total) so you move round and see what areas you like and fit into, whereas the internship isn’t so much like that.

My supervisor’s been pretty good in general, and particularly he pushes me to go to meetings even if they’ve got nothing to do with my work: whilst sometimes they’re…erm…not quite as interesting as programming, it’s shown me how much financial stuff and paperwork everyone has to get through and this last week (and back in september), a chance to see Airbus HQ in Toulouse which is OMG-MASSIVE. Bristol looks like a piddly little site compared to Toulouse…I feel incredibly humbled by the opportunities I’ve got at work and it’s been an amazing experience.

Oh, lastly: my team has 3 intern spaces this next year and I’ll still be there in july as a friendly face…I don’t know if applications are still open but anyone who fancies a year in Bristol should deffo apply 😉