Case study

Celine's
game-changing
placement year

A placement year in your degree can be a game-changer. For Celine Pypaert, it led to new skills, an invitation to address a major London conference and to write a chapter in a book on cyber security. And a full-time job.

What started as studying a Computer Science course has quickly turned into a web of opportunities and experiences for current student Celine Pypaert. She is now studying her final year part-time alongside a full-time role in IT security. She says, “I ended up with a postgraduate permanent role before even finishing my degree!”

Celine on her placement year with her colleagues at VMware
Celine on her placement year at VMware with her colleagues

Year placement

After her second year, Celine took a year placement at VMware, a software company, as a Systems Engineer. Here she was able to put the skills and theory she learned on her course to practice.

“There is a lot of competition in the market and getting experience is valued by many employers hiring graduates – it can make you stand out as a student," Celine says.

The year out in industry enabled her to learn time management and task prioritisation, skills she has taken back to her studies.

“I find that thanks to my placement, I am now a better student than before.”

Opportunities

During her placement year, she was invited to give a public talk at a Women in Software Development conference at Sky headquarters in London.

Delivering presenting at a Women in Software Development conference
Celine presenting at a Women in Software Development conference in London

She has contributed to a chapter in a cyber security book that has been published on Amazon and attended Black Hat Europe 2019, a huge cyber security conference.

Celine states, “These are opportunities I likely wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t done a placement year."

She gives her thanks to the University’s Careers Centre who helped her with her CV and covering letter. “I did a mock assessment and did the High Flier sessions which helped me problem-solve, improve soft skills, and prepared me for job hunting and assessment centres," she says. “I also did a Driven internship part-time during my second year which helped me get my foot in the door for my industry.”

Why Derby?

“What I love most about my course is that it is practically-focused," says Celine. Her favourite modules were the Team Project, Distributed Systems and Systems Programming. “The former because it’s so modern and relevant to the industry but especially because it’s a lot of fun!"

On the Team Project module, Celine worked in a group to make a mobile app that uses your GPS location to show you in real-time any local student events taking place. The team released the alpha version on the Play store for Android.

She recommends the Computing Society and Wellbeing Centre if you need support, and to reach out to your lecturers and tutors. “Don’t be afraid of their title or authority. They want you to succeed.”

Celine loves how Derby is a small city, and yet is so close to nature. “I’d also say check out Derby and you will find small treasures, and certainly check out the parks nearby and the Peak District!”

Image of a large screen at the Black Hat Cyber Security conference
At Black Hat cyber security conference in London

Future plans

So what’s next for Celine once she completes her degree?

“I initially wanted to someday become a people manager, but I’ve now realised I love working with technology too much! I’d love to progress to Principal Engineer in cyber security someday.”

Her plan, for now, is to train for and earn cyber security certifications and possibly get on a Masters programme.

“It’s amazing how work experience can actually change what you thought you wanted, as you figure out what you’re good at, aren’t so good at, and especially, what you actually enjoy doing!”

And does she have any tips for future students? “I would tell them to make the most of every opportunity. The University of Derby has so much to offer students, not only for career preparation and searching but also the student community. It is up to students to take up those chances and take advantage of all the great opportunities.”

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