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From University To Net4 by Damian Bemben

4 January 2022
Damian Bemben

Leaving University for pastures new

Only 4 months ago I finished my masters at the University of Sheffield and moved down to Southampton to work at Net4 as a Technical Projects Manager. I’ve been really enjoying my time and responsibilities (and it’s nice not being on a student budget anymore!), so I wanted to take a little time and talk about my experiences moving straight from education to working at a quickly expanding start-up.

Work experience

I’ve had a lot of work experience before, mostly summer jobs doing programming for the university, part-time work in programming as well as an intern year at IBM, but I think there is a huge difference between those and the real thing.

The role of technical projects manager as opposed to life at university

Firstly, as a Technical Projects Manager, I have additional responsibilities in terms of project development, iteration design and sprint management, so having to set my own deadlines, as well as prioritise and plan tasks needed for project releases was one of the key differences I noticed initially.

In university, there usually is a very clear set of criteria; Use this programming language, add X processes, complete Y questions and get Z number of marks. A start-up environment is more akin to designing your own mark schemes, adhering to your own specifications, then having to mark yourself and your team critically afterwards.

Net4 team meeting
Net4 team meeting

Variety of work

One of the things that I didn’t expect, is the variety of work.

Since joining, I’ve written scripts in multiple different languages, worked with docker, machine-learning, AWS, but also planned out future iterations, worked on write-ups, documentation, hardware devices, network communication, design diagrams, pitches and demos. Especially in a start-up environment, there’s a large need to be adaptable, and have skills that aren’t just limited to pure programming.

I learned some of these skills in different modules in Sheffield, but a lot of these aren’t skills that you can get through a university course (and it would be difficult to create one for it).

Every day, I end up applying lessons learned through not only academia but through extracurriculars. That’s why I think it’s critical to not only focus on your course, but to try and get practical experience through hackathons, tech-festivals. Just last week I had the opportunity to apply video-editing experience gained from my job at the University of Sheffield in creating videos of our demos.

Keeping up to date with technology

I also realised how important staying up to date with the latest programming trends, technology is critical. In a work environment, the education doesn’t end (if anything it increases!). Knowing how to learn is a skill, and I think that’s one of the most critical benefits that I’ve received from the university. Once you’re in an actual work environment, the education only accelerates, especially in a rapidly evolving field, where staying up to date on the current events is critical.

Only 4 months in, I’ve already managed to learn a huge amount at Net4, and I hope to learn a lot more over the new year!

Net4 christmas escape room
Christmas escape room with Net4
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