Ankur's diary entry - Summer 2012

Ankur continues to discover how different working life is from university and is given the opportunity to attend DATE 2012. He also offers advice to students currently searching for internships.

Ankur at the DATE 2012 conference, Dresden, Germany Not long has passed since my last diary entry here, and yet the past three months have been meaningfully busy for me. As I mentioned last time, my primary task at work is to develop process design kits that allow customers to design integrated circuits using the software sold by the company.

I have been primarily preoccupied with a single process design kit project during this time; it sounds like an incredibly long time for a task that is conceptually simple, but much of it has been fire-fighting issues with our software as it gets pushed to its boundaries by new customers in demanding sectors of the electronics industry.

Discovering how different work is from university

One thing that I mentioned in my last diary entry is how different university is a from a work environment. I got to see more of that in action in the lead up to summer. I had to pick up concepts in digital electronics design including new languages such as VHDL and Verilog as I was working on projects to include them in my company's software.

There simply is no luxury to take weeks to learn something new and then take a test in it to see if you understood, like in university. I have had to learn and implement as I go. What felt really good is that within a few weeks of starting new topics, I got to a proficiency level good enough to provide training sessions and demos for our customers, all of them highly-trained engineers in their own field - with complete responsibility and freedom on me to come up with content for these sessions.

Travel opportunities

Since I last wrote I’ve actually spent four weeks away from work travelling - two backpacking trips, one to Jordan and another to Hong Kong - and a business trip to Dresden, Germany for the DATE 2012 conference.

To those not familiar with it, DATE is the biggest annual event in Europe in the electronics design automation industry. I went there as a company representative, but it was an excellent networking opportunity as I got to sit in on panel sessions from experts in the electronics industry, check out what the competition is up to, meet customers from Europe that I have only interacted with online.

I even met with our company's German team for the first time ever and we also had people from our US team fly over so I got to meet them too. They gave a sneak peek into the next major release of our company's software - exciting stuff! Putting a face to a name and hearing praise and critique of our company all added a human element to my work, making daily tasks much more interesting.

It’s placement recruitment time

Now is the time when it's peak hiring season for new industrial placement recruits. I know because I have been speaking to my juniors at university, and my company is also looking into the next intern hire. It's a surreal experience to see the hiring process play out in front of me, from this side of the fence. So for those have not found an internship yet, here are some tips that I have learnt from what I went through last year and from what I have seen during the hiring process at my company this year.

Advice for those applying for internships

Try not to send a generic cover letter when applying for a job. There are far too many candidates competing for any given position, and hiring managers *will* pass you over if you cannot demonstrate basic knowledge of the company and what you are expected to do on the job. I know this sounds like a lot of work - researching a company to an extent that shows you simply haven't copied from Wikipedia or their company site takes time - but it really pays off.

My tip? If it is a listed company, look up what analysts in trade journals and market analysts are saying about it. Read up the former for technical details, the latter for business details and use those to demonstrate your interest in what the company does.

Be specific - and succinct

Do list specifics about your courses taken at university (list the marks you got / expect in each course) - and highlight specific instances for each application that show how what you have learnt is relevant to the job you have applied for. I have seen CVs that give no details about courses at all and instead just talk about broad areas of interest.

“I'm interested in electronics” or “I'm interested in software development” doesn't really catch a hiring managers decision as much as “In my analog electronics course, I researched and implemented a microphone pre-amplifier” or “I wrote a software in C++ to demonstrate the fundamental concepts of state machines in my programming course” does.

Too much information is bad too - don't write a ten-page long CV. Many universities have career officers who can help you out by giving you specific advice about your CV - use it! Also, don't forget to include your CV when applying for a job. Believe it or not, someone who applied for our company actually made this mistake!

If you have your placement sorted for next year, well done. If not, don't give up and keep trying. I can tell this from personal experience because I almost gave up - and then finally found the job I have in the last week of July. To all students reading this whether you are preparing for end-of-year exams, writing a dissertation, or searching for an industrial placement: good things do happen if you try hard enough!