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Alex Penrose, Graduate Software Engineer

Alex Penrose, Graduate Software Engineer, reflects on his first year at MSP

How would you describe your first year in 3 words?

Collaborative – The team I work with have been very supportive during my learning and have made my first year here really enjoyable.

Diverse – I've been pleasantly surprised at the variety of areas I’ve been able to contribute to alongside my every day duties. My work as a STEM ambassador, member of the MSP social committee and mentoring an apprentice are just a few of the things I have been involved with so far.

Interesting – I enjoy the challenge of my work and my knowledge and understanding has developed quickly because of this.

What does your job involve day to day?

MSP is an associate company of Renishaw plc and my day to day job involves writing code to contribute to one of their software products, UCCserver. I write up documentation for every task I do and unit test it, ensuring that any new functionality I implement works as intended. This also requires working with the team to solve problems and meeting regularly to discuss the projects we’re involved with.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Every new task is a problem to solve. Whether the solution is research or programming based, I am able to broaden my learning with new problems to solve all the time. I also really appreciate my team and how well we communicate together.

What do you find the most challenging about your role?

There's always going to be a new task containing things I know nothing or very little about! Thankfully I like a challenge and I’ve got my team to keep me on the right track.

What have been your proudest accomplishments in the role so far?

I’m proud of being able to consistently contribute to the new developments of UCCserver, more recently taking on bigger tasks involving adding new functionality and support to the app. I’m happy that more of the tasks on our to-do list have become more achievable as my knowledge increases.I’m also incredibly proud to mentor a team of Duchess's Community High School (DCHS) students with their Industrial Cadets Gold project ran by Engineering Development Trust (EDT). This STEM project is one I participated in myself when I was at school, so being able to support a team from a mentoring perspective has been really rewarding.

The Industrial Cadets programme sounds great! Tell us a bit more about it...

MSP has given the students a real world software engineering problem to solve, with 20 weeks to solve it and produce a report of their findings. They’re all doing extremely well and I’m pleased to be able to support them in any way I can.

Alex (5th from the left) visited MSP on one of their Open Days.
Alex (5th from the left) visited one of MSP's Open Days

What do you hope to achieve in your next year at MSP?

I hope to continue developing my software skills further, learning more about programming and about the other products we develop at MSP. I also would like to spend more time mentoring students at local schools and encouraging and educating them about careers available in STEM. I appreciated those that helped me develop my career and would like to do the same for others with the same interests.

Why did you join MSP?

I always wanted to join a company that wrote software with a close tie to the engineering world. I loved both computing and engineering at school and wanted to be involved in both as much as possible in my career. During my Computer Science (Game Engineering) degree at Newcastle University, MSP really stood out to me at the careers events I visited. I was lucky enough to secure a 3-month summer placement and throughout this time got to know the people at MSP and was made to feel very welcome. I also gained an insight into what it means to have a job in software engineering and the learning I would acquire on the job. I made it my goal to apply for a software development role at the company after graduating.

Did you always think you would go into software development? How did you become interested in it?

Throughout school I knew little about software development or that careers even existed in the field. I enjoyed studying maths, science and engineering and by the time I got to high school I was spending all my spare time gaming. I found playing video games motivated me to want to learn how to code and understand how computers work in more detail. There weren’t any opportunities when I was at school to develop my programming skills. There was the option to study IT, with a great teacher I might add, but little to no programming aspect involved on the course. I only started programming in my first year of University and my interest in software development developed from there.

What’s your advice for people interested in entering the industry?

There are always ways to get involved if you put yourself out there and are willing to learn. If you’re in school and are interested in software development, I’d recommend taking any computer science, maths or physics related courses you can. Also, research software engineering for more information about the different types available and get in touch with local software companies for practical experience; they aren’t always advertising a position for someone with little to no experience, but you don’t get anywhere if you don’t try! My advice would be to ask if they’d consider you for some work experience and take it from there; businesses want people that show interest and use their initiative.

If you weren’t in software development, what job would you be doing right now?

I’d probably be teaching computer science or another STEM-related subject. When I was asked to become a STEM ambassador and mentor for MSP I was thrilled as this opportunity suits me down to the ground.

View MSP's open vacancies here.

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