There is a definite feeling of la fin du siècle* around at the moment. The white-heat of the 3rd year project has a gone and the associated pressure has long since dissipated. Up until this year, there was always a certainly of some form of academic continuation and a mission to accomplish. Now in the fourth year, my primary objective of a good degree is in the bag. I can leave now and graduate with a first class bachelors degree in Computer Science. It is necessary to be honest with myself and be sure that I’m putting the effort in where it counts, as I feel this year is going to be as hard as the last two have been.
Talking about hard work, the summer period was spent in London working for FactSet whose offices are located close to Liverpool Street. This area is the financial heart of the country and naturally runs at breakneck speed. FactSet gather financial information from across the world and then provide that financial information via their own software to organisations in the City of London and beyond. As well as offices in London, there have bases in other parts of the globe including Australia, France, India, Hong Kong, Japan and the US. It is multi-tier operation with includes round-the-clock gathering and processing of financial data and development of software to provide that information in the best form for its customers. Given the scale of the operation, they have teams working with a multitude of technologies. I had an opportunity to work with Perl and a distributed MySQL technology on a project to record timeliness information. It is not difficult to be relentlessly positive of the whole experience, which included many social activities such as poker nights and 5-a-side football (the latter of which I couldn’t make 🙁 ). However, I felt really comfortable there and it was a rewarding and challenging experience. The most striking aspect of the company was the understanding that good products are built on good engineering whilst not losing focus on the end goal.
During this time, it was also necessary to plan for a biking trip across Europe, which would represent my first holiday for three years. This involved four other motorcyclists and would last a week. In total, this was to be a holiday involving one electronic engineer and four computer scientists on a journey around Europe (Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and France) with only the vaguest idea of the route and place where we’d stay. All bar one of the participants was at this University. Yep, we’re proper hardcore. The journey started the moment I’d said my goodbyes at FactSet as I biked it out of London and made my way to the Ferry at Harwich – punctuated by the rather excellent ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’, which was showing at Chelmsford. To cut a long-story short, the holiday was as much fun as it sounded and despite being hard work in places, I’d recommend it to anyone.
This holiday quickly reminded me of one major reasons behind my return to education: work abroad. Whilst I have no misconception that working in a foreign land would be like a holiday, it is a challenge I wish to pursue whilst the opportunity presents itself. The internship at FactSet boosted my confidence in my own technical abilities, whereas the holiday highlighted that my language skills aren’t far off the level needed to work. So my mind is made up. Despite the challenges of the financial situation that would lead to the suggestion that one should be grateful for any job offer, I feel that the University course and my collective experience put in place where I can be more selective. The fallback position still remains a job in the UK, but the Continent is my preferred destination.
So whilst the air of la fin du siècle* remains, it is also married to a need to resolve the future. This will need to be harnessed quickly as the group design project – worth two-thirds of the marks this semester – will begin to dominate.
* The end of the century.