Kenan Yusuf

Moving from a sluggish university syllabus to an ever changing industry

At some point in all of our lives, we make the transition between education and full-time employment - but what is it like moving from a sluggish university syllabus to an ever-changing industry in 2016?

For the last 10 months, I have been on a placement year as a front-end developer at Clock - a digital agency in an idyllic village called Kings Langley, just north of London. My role involves making websites - sort of.

Prior to working at Clock, I had dabbled in a bit of freelance work - producing sites for myself, family friends and small businesses. The main difference between what I was doing then to what I do now is that instead of designing, developing and hosting sites, I only do the development bit - well... some of it.

You see, what I naively didn't realise is that hundreds of hours go into the creation of the sort of sites that Clock build and those hours are much better used by specialists.

Multidisciplinary teams

Clock's production team is split up into three groups of specialists: creative, front-end and software engineering. Having the three departments creates a somewhat natural workflow; the creative team produce designs, front-end translate the designs into a visually perfect site and software engineering bring the site to life with dynamic content.

Working in a specialist team took some getting used to, and to be honest, is something I still struggle with. I constantly find myself wanting a say in the design of our sites, and also, how our sites function from a technical perspective.

This, however, has always been an issue for me. Like others in this industry, I find it difficult to pick one path and stick to it. My university course caters for people like me, and covers everything from web development to video production, 3D animation and even writing screenplays.

Despite my struggle, the pros of working in multidisciplinary teams far outweigh the cons. I can't think of anything worse than working with a group of people that can't make their minds up about what they want to do.

Transferable skills

For the most of it, the skills I have learnt whilst in education are transferable e.g. how to communicate, work as part of a team and also work independently. What seems to make the transition from university to the industry more difficult is the lack of up-to-date technical courses.

Catch-22

In England, there is a catch-22 that means universities have to go through long, formal processes to change the syllabus in which they teach. This is all well and good if the content they are teaching is unlikely to change - but in the ever-changing world of web development, that is not the case.

In the three years since I started my degree, countless changes to coding standards, new language frameworks and smarter design trends have emerged - leaving almost everything technical I learnt at university out-of-date.

Taking matters into my own hands

Like many others in my situation, learning has had to come from outside the sluggish education system. Fortunately, in this industry, we are spoilt for learning resources and if I ever hit a brick wall, a quick Google/Stack Overflow search will be sure to set that straight.

Another great way to learn in this industry is by undertaking work experience/placements. I can't even begin to explain the amount I have learnt from working professionally.

As the end of my placement year is in sight, I look forward to taking the invaluable experiences and skills learnt from working at Clock back to university, and applying them to my final year project.