Harry Messenger, MSci Computer Science with Industrial Experience

MSci Computer Science (with Industrial Experience) student Harry Messenger gained 'invaluable skills' working with The Printed Cup Company, which will help him in achieving his ultimate goal of starting his own company.

How and why did you choose to work with the business?  

"I applied for a number of roles via the Science and Technology Internship Programme and, after interview, decided to work with The Printed Cup Company as the requests they had seemed achievable in the timescale stated. The company seemed really friendly and approachable, and had a support structure in place, and I felt I could make a real difference to the companies’ product, as well as improving my skills in a key area for my future career."

Had you worked with a business before starting your project with the company?

"Yes – before starting at Lancaster University, I worked for a year as a trainee civil engineer in the railway signalling industry with a large company (AMEY consulting). As well as this, this role was my second internship via the SciTech internship program, after working in a company (The Reach Centre) last summer."

What problem did the organisation face? What did they ask you to do to help them?

"The organisation has a piece of boutique software that has been developed over the years to support the service they provide (printed cups); this software was in need of updates and development to keep up with the progress the business was making and aide the improvements in technology they have implemented over time. The company also wanted to make this software more key in their process, by integrating all other critical systems the company uses with this software, and during the internship I was to take steps to begin this process."

What skills did you use and develop working with the company? 

"One of the main skills I gained was negotiating with other companies and specifying for software. During the internship I was involved in the inception of two new projects – one an internal system for stock control, and, another, a spin-off company website. I wrote specifications for these and discussed with companies, including getting bids and offers from a number of businesses to help us build these systems.

"I also learned a new framework used to develop the companies’ software, as well as improving my skills in PHP, HTML and Javascript. On top of that, I developed my skills in the field of human-computer interaction, observing and conducting an ethnographic study of the business, creating and implementing a 30-point plan to optimise and improve the internal software systems."

What did you do for the business?

"My main achievements with the company are as follows:

  • Conducted a study into how the company uses their IT system/software and built a 30-point plan to improve the software and make it easier to use and more effective in the way it works
  • Spent time implementing the points of this plan in PHP using the Laravel framework, including planning, developing, testing and deploying these updates
  • Negotiated, specified and worked with several other companies to create plans to develop the business further and add links between more of the companies’ systems. This also required me to write PHP API calls to an API specifically created for this project
  • As well as this, I was involved in creative meetings to design a new spin-off company to sell wedding cups, and hire a web designer to build website. I was in charge of specifying this website, hosting and deployingit, telling/managing this developer what to build
  • I also implemented source control and documentation policies by writing Standard Operating Procedures for these (SOP’s) and wrote a justification for a full-time development and IT employee, took this to management and convinced them it was justified, wrote the job description for the role, advertised via a recruitment agency and through Lancaster University and conducted the technical side of the interview process with candidates including a set task and an formal interview. I will then be responsible for training this new employee.
  • Finally, I analysed and upgraded the physical systems in the office including RAM upgrades, purchasing of new machines and reformatting of laptops and hard drives

"The most lasting impact I will have had on the company are the useful improvements to the internal/external systems, as well as the introduction of a full-time development employee and policies/SOPs for the company to follow."

Did you get paid for your work? 

"For this role I was paid around £3000 over 12 weeks, with the cost subsidised by the Santander internship bursary scheme."

What was the best thing about the project for you?

"I have gained an incredible amount of invaluable skills to add to my CV, which will be vital in the future as I go into the back-end web design industry, with the ultimate goal of starting my own company.

"Also on this front, as the company is very open with what they do I was invited to discuss the company and the business progression, and also be involved in the inception and hiring process of a new roll. This gave me an insight into the running of a business and the investment required in employees and technology.

"The role also allowed me to add to my current skills in programming and to become comfortable with a useful, flexible framework (larvael) which I will be able to use in future projects in the rest of my course and beyond.

"The projects I completed lead to me being offered the possibility of more work with the company to fit in around my degree course, and I was offered the chance to interview for the new full-time role that we created (although I had to decline as I have two more years of my degree to complete)."

Would you recommend your course to prospective students? If so, why?

"Studying at Lancaster is an incredible experience. The main concept of everything being in one place leads to an overall experience that would be unobtainable if any component were missing. The ability to easily meet like-minded students, meet with the friendly and helpful staff, and also live within the same few buildings is invaluable to the learning experience.

"One of the features that attracted me to Lancaster was the knowledge that there were staff available to assist in gaining employment and internships, and having made use of this service I believe it to be second-to-none. My plan to have an internship or work experience every holiday, as well as my year in industry as part of my Masters degree, will leave me with a huge advantage over other students without this industrial experience going into the world of work.

"The ability to take a minor subject in First Year allowed me to discover my passion for organisations and management, and helped me understand that I wanted to run my own business in the future. The excellent courses and support provided by both the School of Computing and Communications (SCC) and the university allow me to work towards achieving this dream, and there’s nowhere I’d prefer to finish my studies.

"I would recommend my course (Computer Science with Industrial Experience) to prospective students not specifically for the content covered, but for the way the degree leaves me knowing the way to work and gives me the skills required to understand the source material to a depth I wouldn’t have found possible just learning the skills online. The overall experience and broad range of topics included in the program have exposed me to areas I wouldn’t have thought of learning, and have left me as a better-rounded, more employable individual."