A young professional man in casual clothing is smiling into the camera at the reception area in Liberty IT.
Sam Gourley, associate software engineer at Liberty IT. Image: Luke Maxwell/Siliconrepublic.com

What’s it like to return to the company where you did your internship?

19 Nov 2019

We spoke to Samuel Gourley, who started as an intern at Liberty IT, about why he decided to return to the company after graduating.

Samuel Gourley is an associate software engineer at Liberty IT in Belfast. As a student of computing science at Ulster University (UU Jordanstown), he spent a year interning at the company, before joining its graduate programme after he was finished his studies.

We spoke to him to find out why his experiences during that year prompted his return and what he now hopes to get out of the programme.

‘I am looking forward to availing of more training, building my own skillsets and, hopefully, progressing upwards’

With your degree in computing science, are you now working in your desired industry?

Yes, I knew when doing my A-levels that I wanted to work in the tech industry. I changed one of my subjects from biology to computing and had a wonderful teacher who inspired me to see this as a career choice.

When the teacher retired, my classmates and I pulled together to make sure we all passed the course – which we did!

What drew you to Liberty IT when you were seeking work as a graduate?

The reputation of Liberty IT at UU was very positive and it was definitely held in high regard among the teaching staff. The company does a range of outreach to attract students, such as recruitment and careers events – but it was the input given by the Liberty IT talent team at the start of a lecture that pushed me to apply for a placement. I wanted to be working in the emerging tech they talked about.

After my placement with Liberty IT, gaining some amazing experience, I knew I wished to start my career here after finishing my studies.

What expectations did you have before you began the programme?

Based on my placement year as an intern, I expected to be given the technical guidance and training required to complete my role, alongside the freedom to innovate and work autonomously as part of an Agile team. I got all of this and more.

After orientation, I spent five weeks taking part in Liberty IT’s Training Academy (while staying in touch with my new team) and then moved into the working environment, which combines training with learning as you go.

What duties and responsibilities were you given initially?

When I joined my team, I was treated as a software engineer, the same as everyone else. I was given responsibility to provide business value through functionality I created or updated. This meant I was following the established development and delivery process with some supervision and guidance from my colleagues, while ensuring the process was still relevant and questioning areas I thought could be improved.

I love the atmosphere of working in a relatively small team – we get the work done but it’s a fun place to be and we socialise as a team too. I can ask colleagues for advice on their areas of expertise and in turn they can ask me about mine. We all learn together.

Did the scope of your work change as you progressed?

As the weeks have gone on, more trust has been placed in me to effectively deliver work to a high standard, while adhering to engineering principles.

I function as any other member of the team, with similar responsibilities and tasks. There is no hierarchy, and my knowledge and input are given equal value and recognition.

Can you describe a typical day in your role?

A typical day consists of daily Agile ceremonies such as stand-ups, along with focused time to work on our assigned tasks individually or through pair programming. Every day I am interfacing with customers and business stakeholders, and reviewing the code of others to ensure high standards of software are maintained.

We work with Java and Spring Boot and we use machine learning models. We’re leveraging new public cloud technologies in AWS, which is my particular area of interest. We are pushing to modernise how we create traditional applications to suit the ever-changing technology ecosystem.

There are lots of training opportunities too and I want to use these to progress in my career at Liberty IT – at the minute I’m hoping to do some Python training and some security training.

How do your responsibilities compare to more experienced employees?

I complete work in the same manner as my more senior colleagues. Employees at a higher grade could have extra responsibilities such as managing more junior employees, but many responsibilities are shared among us all.

This allows a friendly and approachable environment, encouraging everyone to innovate.

Do you feel more prepared for working life after joining Liberty IT?

Joining Liberty IT as a graduate has helped improve my technical knowledge, along with softer skills such as teamwork and communication, all of which allow me to function more effectively in a modern Agile workplace. I have gained great experience already, and that allows me to perform my duties to a higher standard.

I am looking forward to availing of more training, building my own skillsets and, hopefully, progressing upwards through the self-nominated promotion process here. This means I can put myself forward for promotion and take responsibility for showing I can progress into a more senior role.

Why should graduates consider working at Liberty IT?

Liberty IT provides an opportunity for graduates to improve their skills both technically and in other areas, while also providing experience in a modern Agile workplace that will enable you to thrive.

The atmosphere is friendly and open, and the company encourages innovation and provides the necessary supports to succeed and grow your career.

I have learned so much from my intern year and in the months since I joined as an associate software engineer – and I’m looking forward to what my future holds at Liberty IT.

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