My first “real” job

Having left school in June I needed a job to make some money over the summer. I was going to settle for something tedious and in-my-view boring like waiting tables at the local restaurant or working at the nearby supermarket, but instead I decided to go further and look for a job which I would actually enjoy.

I’d already been designing websites (mostly personal projects) for about two years, and I’d earned quite a bit off freelancing, so it made sense, since I had the skill set, to look for jobs in the web development/design industry.

Searching online for "web design" jobs yielded rubbish results. Most of the jobs listed were freelance focused or not based in the UK. I would have been happy to adopt a couple of freelance jobs but nothing is more valuable than real industry experience, and that meant getting employed properly for the summer.

After even more searching I eventually came across NMA’s "top 100 interactive agencies". I started at the top of the list, visiting each agency’s website, having a look at their client list, and seeing where they were based. I ended up picking eight agencies, all based in London. I wasn’t looking for "vacancies" because I knew I would be unsuitable for any official listed job. Since I was only looking for an internship to get me through the summer I figured it would be best to simply send some emails explaining this amd hope for the best.

After writing my CV and emailing the applications nothing much happened. Obviously I had to give it a bit of time, so I did…

A few days later I picked up the phone to the HR manager of AKQA London! She asked me to come in for an interview with her and the "Presentation Technical Architect"! After the first interview she mentioned the possibility of me doing a year’s internship! This was great! I hadn’t even considered doing a whole year but now that she’d hinted at it I started to consider how cool that would be, to have a whole year of developing proper online solutions for massive multinational corporations, plus it would look really good on my CV!

The interview consisted of some questions and a short test in which I had to demonstrate my skills. Overall it went quite well considering how nervous I was… my nervousness was mainly due to the fact that this was my first job interview in my life! I had to go in for a second interview with one of the heads of technology before they made their decision… luckily this interview went well too!

Two days later I was offered a year’s internship as Web Developer at AKQA. I had no idea what to expect in terms of a salary so their proposal sounded very reasonable considering I had no prior experience in the industry. I accepted and agreed to start on the following Monday.

The whole application>interview>acceptance process happened very quickly and was really exciting! I’d had jobs before but none of them were what I would class as real jobs, they mostly just lasted for a couple of weeks so the possibility of doing one job for a whole year was a little daunting!

My first day at the new job was overwhelming. I was thrown right into a massive project. The first week was just totally confusing to me, I didn’t really get anything done, I just spent the whole time trying to learn the way in which they did things. Plus the project I had joined was close to completion so getting accustomed to its structure and components took a while… actually I didn’t really get a chance to get used to anything because after the first week I was transferred to another project.

This new project involved developing for mobile devices which is something I had never done before; it was a massive learning curve.

I’d never used any version-control software before either so Subversion was totally new to me. The project was Java based; again something I had never worked with before. Luckily my job only required fluency in front-end technologies so my lack of Java knowledge didn’t hold me back too much. Another totally new thing was Velocity templates! I’d never heard of those!

Within about a week on this new project I had a rough idea what was going on, although there was still a lot to learn! Bug-fixing, QA and user-acceptance testing were all totally new concepts to me. Obviously I knew that testing occurred on sites like these but I never really thought it would affect me as a web developer. I was wrong of course! The amount of testing that occurs is phenomenal, all to guarantee the client an excellent product.

So far, the work which I have enjoyed most is that which has challenged me and made me think. I don’t really have a long attention span for monotonous tasks which, I suppose, is one of my weaknesses. Luckily this internship has challenged me quite a lot and as a result I’ve learnt a massive amount about how the industry operates and the various technologies used… I just hope the next nine months will as interesting as the first three!

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