Maths undergraduate Liam Peel has found his Year in Industry placement at Cervus to have provided a valuable insight into the world of Defence as well as a great many career-boosting benefits.
Over to Liam to explain his story:
What do I do?
I am a student at University of Leeds studying Computer Science and I am currently doing a year-long placement as a Software Engineer. I help support the ongoing projects that Cervus is doing, this could be finding ways to gather or extract data from another source, or even finding and testing new software that could be of benefit to Cervus.
What have I done?
During my first 6 months working at Cervus a lot of my work has been developing apps to accumulate data from training exercises. I have supported two different projects, the first was in the Netherlands supporting the Ex Autumn Falcon Project with the Dutch Army. This was at the beginning of my placement when I was still learning the basics and started developing my first app in PowerApps. The second project I supported was the VRLT Project in Warminster. To support this project I designed, developed and tested several apps using PowerApps. Also, I had to code scripts to help extract data from the software being used.
Ex Autumn Falcon:
See case study here
This project was with the Dutch Army using a training method that would be described as similar to Laser Tag. The Soldiers would wear TES vests (Tactical Engagement System) that had a GPS tracker on them. The vests as well as their guns would relay information about who shot who. We would then use software to view what was happening and able to pin point in a time frame when tactical moves were happening. There would also be Observer Mentors out in the field filling out questionnaires based on the soldier’s performance.
See case study here
VRLT stands for Virtual Reality Land Training. This project was to see if using Virtual Reality would be a viable training method as it would mean you wouldn’t have to use resources. The Soldiers would play out the scenario that had been designed, and then Observer Mentors would be watching over them rating their performance on the apps I made. The soldiers would also fill out multiple questionnaires to see how they felt about the use of VR, for example if they had any discomfort using it.
What have I learnt?
I have taught myself how to use PowerApps and now have knowledge of the coding language, the commands and the functions involved. I have also learnt some of the basics of SQL. Additionally, I been creating scripts to extract data in Virtual Battlespace 3 (VBS3). This is a software for the military to use for tactical training and mission rehearsals. I had to teach myself how to code the scripts as VBS3 uses its own programming language.
How the company works
The company is quite small. There are 3 Directors and then another 3 employees, including myself. I work directly with Chris Rolfs the CTO, who is my line manager. Recently the company held a corporate strategy day. Usually this involves only the Directors however all the employees and even some partners of the company were invited. This strategy day focussed on how Cervus wants to progress as a company, what they want to prioritise and what they want to be like in 5 years time. As a student without any knowledge of how a business works this was very insightful.
How was the transition from university to work life?
Being a typical University student, I imagined that I would struggle adapting to my new routine. However, it wasn’t as difficult as I first thought. Working 9 to 5 throughout the week is definitely different to being a student partying most days, However, I am enjoying working at Cervus and I am looking forward to the remaining months of my placement.
What recommendations would I give to a new starter?
The recommendation I would give to a new student that is going on to placement would be to not worry about adapting to the work life after being a student for years. Getting into a routine is easy and the work is enjoyable. There is also no need to worry about the work that you’ll be given. There is rarely a heavy workload and if you don’t know how to do something you get given time to figure it out or potentially can do some training on the subject.