The Diary of an Engineering Intern
Meet Adam (Hey Adam!) our 2016 Engineering Intern, he’ll be giving us the lowdown on what it’s like to be an Intern here at Virgin Media…
Week 1: Learning the Lingo
The first two days were spent at a snazzy hotel for our induction, we spent the days learning about the business, socialising, eating free food (my favourite part) and catching Pokémon. It was a fantastic first step; getting to know the other interns and getting an idea of what to expect when we start work. On the first day I felt a bit nervous approaching the office but a part of me was eager to get started, I’d had a few weeks off of university and wanted to crack on. The first week mainly involved learning about our network and daily outings to the local pubs. My team gave me a lot of responsibility from the start and though I liked the challenge I did feel a little out of my depth at times, thankfully I was supported and my team bared the onslaught of questions I had. As a physics student I don’t know everything there is to know about engineering and that’s okay, as long as you work hard you’ll get the hang of it.
I quickly found that the engineers speak a strange foreign language, it is almost identical to English except every sentence is generously seasoned with Three-Letter-Acronyms (TLAs). BAU, CPE, HFC and MSO are some of the many TLAs I’ve come to know. There are so many I’ve even begun building a dictionary of them and while they can seem confusing at first you’ll soon find yourself weaving them in to your sentences like a native speaker. The graduates have made some of their own, my favourite is the BNO (the Big Night Out). They’re organising one for all the grads and interns to get to know one another.
My biggest recommendation for the first few days is to introduce yourself to as many people as possible, it makes everything feel more familiar and relaxed. Everything else will come in time.
Week 2: (Almost) Every Day's a Holiday
My head is ready to pop. I’ve learnt so much about our network and the structure of the business. The work is difficult and mentally demanding which is good, there wouldn’t be much point if it was easy. There is a ton of responsibility to deliver projects on time and to manage my priorities. Colleagues often rely on me to deliver in order to finish their work so it’s important I use my time effectively and communicate with the team. It’s a very different feeling to being at university where my choices and priorities only affect myself and the way I spend my day is more flexible. Work takes up a large portion of my time but when I finish I can help someone else, learn about another area of engineering or finish writing my blog (that counts as work, right?).
It is incredible how short days feel since starting here. Planning ahead is necessary to make full use of my free time, not because I want to escape but because it’s important to wind down and relax in a productive way. I think it’s crucial to have some time off to rejuvenate; it helps you feel refreshed when you’re back. I now make the most of my time by socialising with friends, organising day trips (I’m currently planning a trip to Germany), exercising (a bit of a love-hate relationship) and volunteering at the local hospital. Assisting people is something I did at university in our Advice and Representation centre so I’m glad I can keep doing so here. Gone are the days of stewing in front of a computer when at home. Overall, I have less free time than I did at university but now I make the most of it.
I recommend making the most of your holiday and free time, it’s healthy to have a good work-life balance and it is encouraged at Virgin Media, we’re all humans who need variety to ensure we feel fulfilled and happy.
You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough – Mae West
Week 3: Hot Team
My teams distinguishing characteristic is our tendency to raid the kitchen together to brew tea. It would be more efficient for one person to go but we prefer to take the break together; it’s a small thing that makes the environment feel more like a community. Security is an enormous priority so the one time I forgot to lock my computer while we went to the kitchen I found that the screen resolution had been rotated as a gentle reminder, we didn’t know how to reverse it so instead we flipped the monitor upside down (engineers are full of practical solutions) now I lock it every time I leave it, I’ve even begun doing it at home out of habit.
I’m very thankful to be a part of the data planning team; my colleagues have made the transition to working life much easier. It’s clear everyone here enjoys their job and genuinely wants their colleagues to succeed. The people are straightforward and the atmosphere is relaxed but not casual – we work to a high standard and think a comfortable and happy workplace produces the best results. My fears of intense office politics were unfounded, people are straight forward, there’s no fluff, just facts and genuine communication. The workload can vary, some weeks can be very intense with a seemingly endless list of tasks but it is very satisfying when I work through them and feel like I’ve accomplished something.
Work is where I spend most of my time, it should also be a place I enjoy being. I want to work with people I can call friends as well as colleagues and think that I’ve found that here. A placement isn’t just about learning new skills; it’s also an opportunity to network and should be an enjoyable experience. Make friends, have fun, drink tea.
Week 4-5: Volunteering
I’m finally getting in to the swing of things; I feel happy and comfortable working independently. Earlier this week I went to see the graduate committee give a talk on the events they were organising, changes they’ve made to improve our placement experience and some of the volunteering opportunities available to us. They seem to function similarly to a university society. I’m interested in getting involved (just hope they don’t mind I’m not a grad).
I see an internship as an opportunity to experiment. It’s a year for me to reflect on what I can see myself doing for the next 40 years and to sample the huge range of experiences available. I want to push myself and see what kind of workload I’m capable of doing and to find an area that challenges and excites me. At this moment I’m particularly interested in getting involved in some volunteering. I have (reluctantly) signed up to run the Royal Parks Half Marathon. I hope to raise £300 for Scope (our sponsorship partner) to assist people with disabilities to live more independently. As a company built on technology we are utilising our strengths to help Scope achieve our shared goals, we want to enable independence for people who struggle to communicate or control their home environment by developing technology to aid them. I think it’s really smart that we’re playing to our strengths; it ensures we have the most impact on the lives of those living with restrictive disabilities.
After my first run in Reading of nearly two miles and feeling like my legs were about to fall off, I have a feeling this might be a greater challenge than I first anticipated.
Week 6-7: Game of (Landline) Phones
This week I visited our Eagle Court offices in Birmingham. The day started with a crash course in strategy and the current state of our landline business. We reviewed statistics and formulated methods to strengthen our landline services. I explored the office during the break; it’s a quirky place with lots of colourful little rooms and hip furniture, definitely an attractive place to hang out whilst on your break. When we went for lunch I found out that they get free coffee! The only free coffee machine in Hook I found was in the finance area, clearly there is some favouritism going on…
I met up with some of the other interns who are based up in Birmingham and we chatted about how we were getting on. Everyone agreed that their jobs were very demanding and the culture at Virgin Media is different to that of other companies they’ve seen – the company prides itself on its friendly and personable culture. At the end of the day we were offered the opportunity to get involved in an app development project, I’m excited to help out and can’t wait to discover how an app is developed and delivered so I can apply that knowledge in the future.
There’s a plethora of opportunities to build on existing skills and gain new ones by joining projects but it’s really important to be pro-active and to show interest in anything that takes your fancy, let your colleagues know what you’re interested in and they’ll know who to talk to. The best thing is, once you’ve begun networking and working on one project, people will start approaching you with other opportunities.
An update: 10 months in!
The year has whizzed by, it’s hard to quantify how much I’ve learnt but when I think back to the first few weeks I realise the herculean leap I’ve made between now and then. Our team has been joined by two new graduates and they’ve settled in well. I’ve been tasked with bringing them up to speed on our network. I think it’s only when you teach others that you realise the extent of what you have learnt – it’s a really good feeling.
Some of the highlights of the year include running the Royal Parks Half-Marathon, it was a beautiful day and the atmosphere was buzzing. I think I did a pretty good job for my first time though my pride took a hit when at mile 10 the guy in the giant rhino costume casually overtook me. At work I have updated the reports we publish to make them more autonomous and efficient. I’ve also worked on some tough projects; recently we have been planning a whole wave of upgrades to our network. They all involve the installation of new cards which will ultimately increase the number of customers we can support, broadening our market share. I have also been constructing a guide of our network and the programmes we use, this will facilitate the integration of any new members to our team.
Day-to-day I plan projects by describing the work I need done on a project form, ordering the kit and reserving space on the network. I communicate with other teams such as delivery to ensure the work goes ahead as planned and the guys in design to facilitate links across geographic locations and within a site (basically to ensure everything is wired together correctly). I forecast utilisation of our network, this data is monitored closely to ensure the work we plan will be delivered before we reach a utilisation that is close to breaching capacity. I monitor high-utilisation business customers and work with our colleagues in business to move them to nodes that can support them, this means that all of our customers can enjoy reliable and high speeds.
I love volunteering and wanted to get involved in the local community so I joined St John Ambulance and I’m now a trained First Aider. I have accrued skills that could save a life and made a few friends in the process. I was recently on a duty at the Reading vs Fulham game which was the first football game I’ve been to and it was actually a lot more exciting than I thought it would be. Thankfully there were no major incidents but I did treat a few people, overall it was a great experience. I think first aid is a skill everyone should know, being able to take action if an incident occurs is invaluable.
I am a more confident person now and I can only thank the tutorage I’ve received for that. My team taught me everything I needed to know, pushing me forward to the point where I could work independently and effectively and ensuring I don’t forget my mistakes. The experience has moulded me in to a more capable worker, I can navigate the office environment and manage the multiple (and never-ending) streams of work that come my way. I am looking forward to tackling my final year, I know it’s going to be intense but my time here at Virgin Media has prepared me for it.