Placement Year Final Thoughts

Whew! I’ve not written on here in a while now. Since we last spoke I finished my year-long placement at Microsoft in London working on Paint 3D, moved back to the United States for the summer, and am now a week away from finishing a summer internship at Microsoft on the Xbox team.

When I look back over these last 15 months, I can’t help but think about how lucky I am to have worked at one of the biggest tech companies in the world. The opportunities for growth and experience I could not have gotten in the United States. In a couple weeks, I will be starting my final year of university before I am thrust out into the “real world” and I couldn’t feel more prepared.

So, what have I learnt during my time on placement?

  1. It’s all about a growth mindset

A growth mindset is a Microsoft company pillar to success. It sounds cheesy, but has real substance and changed the way I think about my work. I started my placement worried that I wouldn’t be able to perform to Microsoft’s standards. I didn’t want to ask too many questions to hide that I didn’t know something. This is obviously ridiculous because the point of being an intern is to learn. To embrace a growth mindset, I shifted the way I looked at asking questions. I realized without asking questions I wouldn’t learn the answers and continue to be confused. I needed to put this silly worry behind to learn. In doing so, I have learnt enormous amounts these past 15 months. The problems I face now aren’t as difficult and I have the confidence to keep pushing towards an answer knowing that I have proved to myself that I can do it. Ask questions, learn, grow, and you’re forever smarter.

  1. Prioritization and flexibility is key

While at university, I have a set number of assignments due on a specific date and time. While there were deadlines at work, there was a lot more flexibility about when things are due, but also fundamentally what work needed to be done. The team’s goals shifted based on standard Windows deadlines, user feedback, and Microsoft executive requests. This means that I worked on something one day and had to put it to the side temporarily to do something more important the next. The ability to adapt to a changing schedule and prioritize multiple pieces of work to complete them all on-time and to a satisfactory quality is a skill I used daily.

  1. Workplace preferences

I started programming to work in the games industry. I thought that I wouldn’t enjoy anything else. Well here I am having worked on a creation app and a gaming platform and I absolutely love it. My internships have expanded my computing interests. I found that I enjoy working on products that have elements of creativity and fun.

Beyond that I have reaffirmed my goal to work at the biggest tech companies. At Microsoft, I get to work on products that are released to HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of people! For years to come, I will be able to say, “I did that”. I love Microsoft. They empower me to make amazing things and improve myself along the way.

I have shifted my workplace environment preference. I originally wanted an office thinking that it was a sign of success and that I would want my own space to work. At my first internship on Paint 3D, no one had offices. Not even the studio head. It was an open plan office that encouraged collaboration with different teams. We had loads of different spaces to take our laptops that fit the work we wanted to do. We always had our desks to go back to, but there was freedom to explore. At my internship on Xbox, the office is still fairly open plan, but there are offices around and we are separated into “pods” or large cubicles for sub-teams. It is a different experience that has given me the opportunity to compare different workplace environments.

  1. Plenty of subject specific knowledge

Wowza! I learnt loads about programming and software engineering. I learnt three new languages (C++/CX, C#, XAML) and learnt advanced techniques of one I had learnt previously in university (C++). On top of this, I gained much more experience with the development environment Visual Studio, learned how to develop a Universal Windows Platform (UWP) application, and applied a new engineering design pattern (MVVM). I won’t go into specifics here, but if you want to ask more questions, feel free to email me.

My manager and team were amazing teachers. They loved to help me when I needed it and push me to be a better developer. I have a lot to thank them for. The knowledge I learnt was applicable for my daily work and will always be useful to build upon when technology inevitably changes. I got practical experience that will stay with my longer than if I had just read it in a textbook. I feel much more confident entering my final year and ready to tackle my final year project with this experience.

  1. Reaffirmed my beliefs that you get out as much as you put in

I have always been a believer you get out as much as you put in. Over the last 15 months, I worked hard to get involved in my workplace and the industry. I never wanted to just be an intern. I wanted to make an impact and stand out. My efforts to try new things, be involved, and stand out gave me the opportunity for some pretty cool experiences:

  • With a group of women from Microsoft I got to speak to Imperial College’s Computing Society about life at Microsoft and my own personal career.
  • I worked on the global announcement of Paint 3D at the Windows Creators Update in New York, New York.
  • I independently created the NFL Super Bowl 51 demo presented onsite in Houston, Texas.
  • Through the Students to STEMettes mentorship scheme, I was mentored by a programmer from The Guardian newspaper. We attended conferences and panel discussions hosted by industry leaders. Inspired by strong women in technology, I wanted to help end the gender divide in technology. I worked with my local preschool to introduce a programming application to teach girls that programming is not “just for boys”.
  • I received an offer for post-graduation employment from the Paint 3D team in London and am on track to get an offer from the Xbox team in Redmond, Washington.

I am going to miss my work life. I learnt so much and met some amazing people. Moving to England set me down this path. I couldn’t imagine a better future.