Case study

Front-end web developer — Tom Heaton

Tom uses the skills from his degree on web design projects for Plusnet, an internet service provider

How did you get your job?

I was put forward to a meet and greet session hosted at Sheffield Hallam University by my lecturer at the time. There I met the key members of Engineering and Operations at Plusnet, including the CIO and Head of Software Engineering. It was an introduction to the company and the opportunities available, and I was invited to another open evening at the Plusnet offices. I went along to that and met the managers of each department and was shown a presentation. It was there where I had an interview with the manager of web development, a member of the team and HR and I was subsequently offered the job.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

My degree in multimedia technologies is very relevant. I wouldn't have been able to apply for the job without it. It's important to have a related degree, not only for the technical skills learned, but for the general mindset and evidence of the ability to learn new things fast and work as part of a team. I also had some industrial experience, which helped during the interview process and while settling into my new role.

What are your main work activities?

My main duty at the moment is to work on projects, which involves liaising with developers, business analysts, project managers, QA testers, architects and stakeholders, to name a few. My role is to design web pages to requirements, while keeping the customer at the forefront of my mind, and to ensure great usability and customer experience. I then build the front-end code, using HTML, CSS, jQuery and PHP. All of our new web solutions are built responsively across all screen sizes.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

My role has developed since I've gained more experience and grown in confidence. I first started with smaller, more clearly defined tasks and I now work on larger projects where I represent the team in morning stand-ups and meetings. My career ambition is to keep learning, become better at what I do, and stay creative.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy the tasks that I work on. I find it satisfying to know the work I do directly inputs into the performance of the website, the user experience and the conversion of sales. In addition, the people I work with are great, and I've learnt so much from them over the last two years. I love anything to do with the user experience and looking at ways of increasing this.

Working for an internet service provider means there's no physical shop on the high street, so to work on the customer-facing website is really satisfying. Whether the customer is on it directly, or sales agents are using the website internally, it's great to see the work we do makes an impact on sales and stats.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

The most challenging part of the job was when I first started - there was a steep learning curve to achieve the required skills and standard. It was also challenging to learn who everyone was. Today's challenges are set with short-term and long-term objectives, which are used to push and develop myself throughout the year.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

Concentrate on developing the skills required for the job, whether you're a designer or a coder. It's also beneficial to have some evidence of the work you've done in the past, whether it's something you've done at university, freelance work or just your own experimenting at home. Anything you have to show will back up your ability and what you're saying during your interview process.

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