A week in the life of a work experience student at Fivium

Earlier this year, we were delighted to invite Sophie for a week long work experience placement at Fivium. In our latest guest blog she highlights her expectations, experience, and learnings from a very full week with us.

Day 0

I expected Fivium to be a stereotypical office environment where everyone sat at their desk quietly getting on with their own work for the day with limited interaction with their colleagues. I also expected that as a work experience placement, I might shadow a few people or get given a task and be left pretty much alone with a computer for a week. When I first arrived, I saw a “big fancy office” which seemed to meet my expectations from what I know about Matt (the co-founder) and my impression of an office environment. However, as Ana showed me around I realised that Offices can actually be very friendly and sociable environments to work in.

Day 1

I spent most of the first day with the students at Fivium, starting with a tour from Ana who introduced me to the office and everyone was extremely friendly and approachable from the start. I was quickly thrown straight into my first stand-up and handed a mic- at this point I understood close to nothing that was said but I was eager to try and figure out what everyone meant by tickets, delta, all the acronyms and even what a stand-up was.

Lastly before lunch, Chris gave me a presentation about the company as a whole and explained the background, origins and work of Fivium. There was a lot of information that I didn’t understand but I could follow enough of it to keep me engaged and it was a good introduction to the week.

The Year-in-Industry students then gave me a presentation about what they have all been doing this year. This was really interesting for me because I had previously dismissed the thought of a placement year entirely but now it is something that I am very keen to do. The students clearly all seemed very enthusiastic about the projects that they have been working on and the company as a whole.

Day 2

I spent the morning with Nicola and Ellie who showed me around how they work on the front end of eCase and training new clients on how to use the system. They showed me how they set up a new environment specific to the customer and the case types they encounter before letting me set one up myself! I really enjoyed being involved in this and the interactivity of this session. It was also really interesting to see how they work on the front end of eCase tailoring everything towards the clients needs while also keeping the authenticity of Fivium and eCase.

In the afternoon, I shadowed Nills and Anika in the testing section who showed me how they use both manual and automated systems to try and break the new features of eCase. It was interesting to see how they work both front end and back end to try and find bugs in the systems.

I also got to attend an accessibility meeting which I really enjoyed because of the different aspects they discussed in order to make the software usable by the widest possible range of customers such as visually impared and neurodivergent users. It was also nice to see how everyone interacted with each other as a team rather than a single main speaker taking control.

Day 3

The morning started with my favourite session of the week where Digital Dan introduced me to his job as a Developer before we worked on one of his tickets to code a page for a form. Dan talked me through how they reuse code from other pages as well as using the code publicly available from the government. I got to code a textbox, change the character limit to 250 with a counter and change the “save” button so that it showed an error box when the user doesn’t provide any text or goes over the limit but also so that it didn’t delete progress when an error was thrown. Being new to coding and Java, it was really exciting to be working on a real task and seeing all the complex back-end side of the government style website.

In the afternoon, I shadowed JB in the service team who talked me through all the different graphs they use and how they prioritise different customer help requests and make deadlines to fix and respond to each customer. He showed me how they respond to different messages and fixed various problems that the users had come across, however they were quite quiet so there wasn’t too much for me to see and do.

Day 4

In the morning, I was with eCase Dan who showed me a few things he’s been working on both with his student mentee and as part of his current sprint. He showed me all the different apps they use and talked me through how he and Ana are working on making two factor authentication for eCase. During the session he was working on the email option for this and the code for sending an email for a one time password. This was really cool to see how he used some old cold for a different automated email and made changes to make it work for this. It was especially interesting to me because I have used systems with 2-factor authentication so now I understand a bit more about how that works.

My afternoon session was with the marketing team Catriona and Nick. Firstly, they explained what their role is in Fivium and what they do on a day to day basis. They then set me the task of analysing the fivium website from the perspective of firstly a student looking for work experience and then as a potential customer. This was a fun exercise to think critically in different ways and provide feedback for them.

Day 5

I spent the morning with Adam who showed me his role overseeing agile at Fivium. We looked at how Fivium works in sprint cycles and how the construction of the backlog is based on priority for the minimum viable product or extra “bonus” features. I also got to join in a few stand-ups which was encouraging to see how much I had learnt as I could understand significantly more of the terms and stand-up as a whole compared to my first day.

We then created a hypothetical situation for building a robot lawn mower and how you would build the user stories in some of the earlier stages of each project. Finally I was introduced to the review process and using the 4 L’s- learn, love, long-for, lacked. This was a good activity to do on my final day because I got to see how much I have learnt about eCase and Fivium and as a whole.

Overview

Overall, I had an overwhelmingly positive experience at Fivium, it is so difficult to put into words the friendly and welcoming atmosphere. I have loved this week and especially enjoyed getting actively involved in various parts of eCase and digital. Everyone at fivium has been incredibly approachable and willing to answer my questions, tailoring how they explain things to my interests and things I could understand.

My favourite sessions were when I got to see the back end development and how the developers work with the placement students and the strong community they have within the company. I would love to have had longer than 5 days with Fivium but I am very grateful for this experience and have learnt so much, not just about the company itself but a large range of different roles.

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