Matthew Tyas
Apr 7, 2012
5 mins reading time

A Clutch of Fresh Faces

You probably can’t hear the laughter emanating from the web delivery team at the moment but trust me it’s there. As it dissipates, heads return to screens and the coding begins anew, as we work to maintain, build and upgrade the various sites under our control. I’m Matthew Tyas; a student at the University of Kent and I, alongside my four fellow compatriots, have been a Web Developer of one form or another at Holiday Extras for the last year.

We’ve been at HX for a little over 12 months now and as our time here draws to a close, we thought this would be an opportune moment to look back and reflect on our time here.

As with all stories it is best to start at the beginning. Back on July 4th 2011 I entered the glass-fronted Holiday Extras building and sat nervously with the other industrial placement students. We made our introductions and then were taken for a tour of the building. We learnt a lot that day, of Holiday Extras, of the web delivery team and of the kind of work we would be doing here. Then we kept on learning, about the systems we have here, about technologies and languages such as: PHP, CSS, Smarty, JS, SQL, Java, Node.js, and about how a developer should, well, develop. The learning hasn’t stopped even to this day. A placement student seeking to learn a bevy of new things both technical and non-technical could do little better than come to Holiday Extras.

Of course learning new skills is only one of the many benefits that come with a placement year. It is the experiences that will stay with me long after my time here. I will remember the helpfulness of the team, developer and QA engineer alike, always willing to spare a moment of their time to guide you when you need help. I will also remember the fun stuff: the games of pool, table football, the summer barbecues, the sports competitions (if you can truly consider rounders a sport) and that’s just in work time. I remember to this day something that Jack, a fellow placement student, said to me on our second Friday at HX (which happened to be a mexican themed rounders tournament and BBQ):

“Any company where the CEO walks around in a sombrero and a Top Gun t-shirt can’t be half bad”

He was wrong; Holiday Extras wasn’t half bad, it was fantastic, especially as part of the web delivery team. Make no mistake, we work hard; we put out work fast and we put it out well and we do it every week. Our time at work was fun, but the times outside work were brilliant. Team nights out are a fairly common occurrence, we have one every month or so, and they are always memorable. Be it camping or drinking, dining or partying, the fun never stopped, and that in a way is as important as the learning. We have all really enjoyed our placements, and never felt unwelcome or thought we were treated differently because we were placement students. Consider this a warning though, if the Director of Marketing and Technology is approaching you, tequila and shot glasses in hand, do your best to get out of the way!

Tequila

Long after that drunken Christmas party, in July, a funny thing happened at HX. A clutch of fresh faces stood in the entrance, nervously glancing about the place wondering what they were in for. I cast my eyes around disbelievingly, had it really been a year already? How much have I learnt? How close is the deadline for that 20 page report? As they began a rather more in-depth training program than we had received I returned to my work, realising the new generation had arrived, young and ready to learn. I was part of the old guard now, as experienced as the last placement students, and expected to teach. It turned out that teaching was easy, we had so much to say, so many hints to give, so many nuggets of advice, and a fair amount of solid actionable knowledge, alongside more than a few puns in my case – to the constant chagrin of George, the poor student I had to train.

So as the year is coming to an end and I prepare to return to the much vaulted student life, I have come to a realisation, I don’t want to go back. I have learnt so much that more education seems a formality, a means to a degree. My time at HX has been invaluable to me, and I strongly advise any students to consider it whole heartedly. I have gained a valuable working ethic that I shall do my very best to maintain throughout my last year at university and beyond, and I think I speak for all of the placement students when I say that this year at HX has been one of the most productive and educating of my life. You couldn’t really ask for much more from a placement year now could you?

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