How I secured my placement by Kalina, Computer Science

It all started back, at the beginning of my second year when I set a goal to find the perfect placement opportunity that would prepare me for the professional world. It would be my first job experience ever, and that thought was quite terrifying.

What happens if I don’t get invited to an interview? What if I make a fool of myself while I’m being interviewed? What if I get the desired job but I don’t enjoy it?

 I felt scared and excited about this new chapter of my life. What kept me moving forward towards my goal was the desire to develop myself both professionally and as a person.

What I did before I started applying for placements

Like many other Computer Science students, I was interested in different topics, related to the computer science field. I was not sure what kind of job would really spark my interest. Therefore, I started researching the types of placement jobs while asking myself what job would make me feel motivated.

The application processes were usually very similar and included sending an initial CV, followed by phone or Skype interview and then, if successful, an assessment centre. I applied to quite a lot of placement jobs and the question that bothered me the most was how to present myself in order to be successful in my application. The numerous interviews were kind of scary but each one made me one step closer to my goal.

My placement at Seredipity AI Ltd

In July 2019 I joined Serendipity AI Ltd. as an Artificial Intelligence intern. Serendipity is a start-up company that focuses on giving unbiased insights on emerging topics to its users through Natural Language Processing (NLP) on news articles. As a computer science student, I was quite interested in AI so I found working with Serendipity to be the perfect opportunity to further my understandings of the field.

My job role included two main projects:

  • Data enrichment project for regularly updating the company’s database
  • An NLP project for identifying forward-looking statements in online news articles

Every day was a new challenge and a new opportunity to learn something new. Furthermore, I was supported by my manager – Dr Andreas Antoniades, who is a University of Surrey Alumni who specialised in Data Science. Working with him and the team was an amazing experience as they believed in my knowledge and skills and always made me feel like I’m a crucial part of the team.

Highlights of my placement

The highlight of my placement experience is that my manager and I submitted a research paper to The 28th International Conference on Computational Linguistics 2020 (COLING 2020). The research paper was based on the NLP classifier that was built from scratch.

Challenges and skills I developed

Throughout my placement year, I developed my technical and personal skills but most importantly, I learnt that I should believe in myself. I realised that even though I was a student, my work and ideas can be of great impact.

What challenged me the most was the shift to fully working from home since February 2020, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It was difficult to find the motivation and be as productive as I was in the office. However, I managed to get into a new daily routine and I adapted to the situation after a few weeks.

The verdict

The skills I gained will be beneficial for both my final year and my professional path. Doing a placement year was one of the best decisions that I could have taken and I would definitely recommend to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.