For this month’s '10mins with...' interview we spoke to Victoria Johnston, a student at Carrickfergus Grammar School who recently undertook a week of work placement at Novosco and completed Novosco Cloud Camp, in partnership with Ulster University.
Question: What sparked your interest in the IT sector in the first place?
Victoria: I’ve always taken a keen interest in technology and I was fascinated by the limitless opportunities it provides the world around us during my studies of Technology and Design in school. Technology has always amazed me and, as it is constantly changing, I feel it’s important to get a bit of an education around the topic as it’s so prominent in modern life. I think the IT sector is a great area to be a part of as I feel it offers a great overlap between work and play, especially if you take a good interest in computers in your free time.
Q: Are you studying IT in school?
Victoria: I actually didn’t study IT in school, only previously when it was a compulsory subject. I felt that the kind of IT that my school offered would never benefit me in the future as it didn’t offer any education on the IT skills that the likes of Novosco staff would use daily. I feel like it was a missed opportunity; however, I’m very keen to make up for the lost time.
Q: Tell us about your placement, what was your experience like?
Victoria: My time at Novosco was extremely helpful for me, as I was sort of new to IT and was jumping in at the deep end. Everyone I talked to was keen to help and gave me some seriously useful advice as I was a bit clueless as to what I could do. As I said I was a bit of a new-comer to the IT sector, so the work at Novosco helped me to wrap my head around a few concepts and to get some practice in areas such as coding and security. My time there opened my eyes to a new subject which I found myself really enjoying and could imagine myself working within this sector. My placement at Novosco helped me to understand what IT truly is and break down a few stereotypes of what I thought the work would be like – as it wasn’t just sitting reading and typing out endless amounts of complex code. For me personally, the seven days of my time at Novosco were pivotal in my next step towards a full-time career and it truly paid off as there is a lot of room for movement and improvement within this sector and, as it is quite a broad area, there are so many job titles and roles that can be worked towards.
Q: You took part in Cloud Camp, how was it?
Victoria: Cloud Camp again was another opportunity to make sure I was certain about taking a leap of faith and changing courses I want to do at university - and it paid off. I started Cloud Camp wanting to take advantage of this time and learn as much as possible.
However, there were quite a few overlaps from the knowledge I gained studying Technology and Design at secondary school. I gained a lot of knowledge and hands-on experience which is extremely valuable for going on to higher studies. But I also to get a feel for what life would actually be like for an IT student at Ulster University, which I found put me at ease as I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the willingness of the lecturers to help when trying to understand some pretty complex topics.
Having the experience of Cloud Camp and a placement has made me realise that there are a lot of transferable skills, as for me, creativity and ability to progress are important in terms of keeping an interest and to keep myself motivated and coming to the realisation that the IT sector offers this, I am looking forward to jumping into IT studies.
I would highly recommend giving Cloud Camp a go as, if you are thinking ahead a little, it is such a beneficial experience which can give you a taste of what uni life would be like and to get a bit of context for what you will go on to study. And if not, it’s still a really great time to take advantage of learning some tricks and playing around with pretty cool topics.
Q: What’s next for you?
Victoria: All being well, I would love to study Computer Science at Ulster University and if it doesn’t work out I have a few backup plans in mind, as I know that university isn’t the only way to a career. I think it is a crucial stage to keep an open mind and try not to panic as there are endless options available and with some hard work and dedication, the same outcome is within reach. I think the next step is to find an area within the IT sector that really appeals to me and then work towards reaching a good level of expertise there.