We asked 5 recent graduates from a range of universities and web design courses to talk to us about their experience of life pre and post graduation. We want to find out if there is a gap between what’s taught at uni and what’s expected in industry. This is what they said:
Firstly, thank you for doing the interview, could you tell us a bit about the industry experience you had before graduating?
Simon: A year and a half internship at the HMRC. This wasn’t anything to do with web development but gave me a good chance to learn how things worked in an office environment.
Tim: Yes, internships during uni, but not web based. I also started up a web dev company during uni for some extra cash.
Mark: Yes, I worked at HSBC during my summers at uni.
Nye: A couple of internships for the Civil Service doing mainly web stuff.
What languages did you learn at uni that you used in industry?
Simon: None, apart from the obvious HTML/JS/CSS but it was more about the concepts behind the languages that was useful.
James: None. But I do use C# which is very similar to Java, which I did of course learn at university.
Tim: PHP, HTML and JS to a basic level.
Mark: Um .. Free stuff like Bootstrap [made by twitter] .. html5 is a big point.
Nye: In uni, I learnt Python (which I used regularly) as well as lesser used languages including Java, C# and some HTML/CSS. Also learnt Perl but haven’t touched that since leaving.
Was there a gap between uni and industry?
Simon: I was fully open about this when I went to interview, when they said “We use C#” I said I didn’t know that languages but they are mostly all the same and referenced that C# was similar to Java so I would be able to pick it up quickly.
James: Yes, the projects are much much bigger in industry. More focus on formal methods (in my branch of safety critical software). You have to get used to reading other people’s code much more. Lots of time is spent dealing with clients and stakeholders ensuring that the requirements are correct.
Mark: Yeah, it was kinda like when you pass your driving test, yes you know how to drive but there’s loads of little things you pick up that they never teach you. I kinda felt like that.
Nye: Yes, wasn’t really taught real life situations for languages. Was a very abstract way of learning.
Did anything conflict from what you were taught at uni to what you learnt ‘on the job’?
Simon: Mainly the “You should always do things the correct way” mentality in uni. In the industry it’s not like that in my experience, you do what you have to do to get the job done, even if it’s not the “correct” way.
James: How to track issues and manage developing a larger project, but it was up to me to learn those skills, which is something.
Mark: Kinda. It was very project and team orientated at HSBC whereas at uni you’re expected to do everything yourself. Uni’s need to do more team projects to emulate real life.
Nye: No, enhanced.
Is there anything web design companies can do to reduce the gap or conflicts?
Simon: Maybe training to make sure basics are covered that may not be directly relevant to web design, like code versioning/ web design best practices.
James: I think having a good project for people to work on once starting at the company is key, one that allows them to try out a range of skills, whilst not being too large.
Tim: Actually go into uni’s and teach.
Mark: Run courses ? Go into uni’s/schools ? .. I dunno.
Nye: Run specific uni courses? Maybe paid ones that would help to bridge the gap between education and real-life.
When applying for graduate jobs do you feel they were asking for skills you didn’t have/ weren’t taught?
Simon: Not really although my course was quite hands on (Computing rather than Computer science).
James: I don’t think that any of the material we learnt wasn’t relevant, I just think 3 years is too short of a time to become a specialist. There certainly needs to be more focus on formal methods and verification, but that is a specialist topic.
Tim: Surprisingly not. My boss was okay with the skills I knew – none of which uni taught.
Mark: I felt a lot of jobs were asking a lot from people who had literally just graduated, some of which had no “real” experience at all.
Nye: I applied to be a teacher not a web designer.
What do you do now?
Simon: I work as a junior web developer at ICUK.
James: I work for a mid sized software firm in London.
Tim: I’m a web designer at Evangelical Alliance as well as still running my own web dev business.
Mark: I ask that most times I hit a bug!
Nye: I teach Computing and ICT.