How my placement helped me get a job at Foundry – Kieran Knight, Computer Animation

Kieran receiving the IBM Award for Best Creative Technologies Project

Kieran Knight graduated from Computer Animation in 2017 and won the IBM Award for Best Creative Technologies Project at the School of Creative Technologies Graduate Awards. Kieran completed a placement year in 2015-16 and now works for world-renowned visual effects company, Foundry.

Kieran tells us how his placement year helped him secure his graduate job and why you shouldn’t be scared to do a placement.

What are you doing after graduation?

I currently work for Foundry which develops some of the leading software world-wide for visual effects. I work as a QA Engineer within the Modo department which is a 3D modelling software.

As a QA Engineer my main duties are manual and automatic tests for the software. These tests ensure that the product is working as intended before getting handed to the customers.

Foundry Summer party
Foundry Summer party

Your placement company

On my placement I worked for a company called Identity Consulting which is a small
digital studio that produces work from concept to a physical product. I worked in the technical and animation department.

My role varied depending on the project at the time. It ranged from being an animator on a project for Volkswagen to leading the company’s Christmas animation that is sent as a thank you to the clients. Finally, I was a technical programmer for an in-house app that was being created for McLaren.

My workstation at Identity
My workstation at Identity

What are the benefits of doing a placement?

Doing a placement really lets you see how an actual company works. At university we are taught core skills that do help when we are within a company. However, experiencing how a company actually runs and evolves throughout a project is definitely one of the biggest benefits. It really teaches you how you’ll always need to think of the person after you as the work you are producing will also be affecting the work that they are trying to produce for one project.

What have you got out of doing a placement?

From doing a placement, I have been lucky enough to take that experience and land a
graduate position.

What did you most enjoy about your placement?

The best bit about my placement was being able to have an input into, and even take control of, some of the projects that I was involved with. This was very lucky  as not many people would get to experience something like this. However, it allowed me to develop personally and manage a group of people which is something I haven’t had the opportunity to do before.

What was your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement whilst on my placement was the McLaren app that was developed because it was actually the most challenging project out of them all. I had to learn a lot of new areas to do with development and also learn the most about working with clients. This project changed it’s plan of what the app would be like three times. As stressful as it may seem, it taught me a lot about how clients are and how to work with them to help the company as well as delivering what the client desires.

What did you least enjoy?

As you can imagine, when you start at every company especially as an intern you will get
bad jobs. My placement did come with a few of these. I had to fill out expense forms for the company. These were very long and tedious forms that could take a couple of hours. Even though these weren’t a great part to the year, it still allowed for me to learn how a company spends their money to gain profit on each of their projects.

What concerns did you have before going on placement?

I had concerns that everyone will more than likely go through too. I was concerned about is this actually the right choice for me? I won’t be graduating with my year or my friends so is this a good idea? Is this exactly what I want as a career? We all have these concerns…

You’re able really find your passion which then allows you to really dedicate your final year to developing the required skills.

How did they work out?

All of these worked out because I had the year to really think about everything . You have a year to really decide what it is that you would like to do for the rest of your life. You’re able really find your passion which then allows you to really dedicate your final year to developing the required skills. Also doing the work that you are truly passionate about and wish to have a career from. Finally your friends will still be there and you shouldn’t worry about not graduating with them 🙂

What advice would you give to someone concerned about doing a placement?

The only advice I would give is, yes you will be concerned as it is as scary part to your life. It is a very big change and pretty much the first step to becoming a true adult.

Coming to university…

It is scary, but we all managed to get by and a placement is no different.

However, we all made a big change when we chose to come to University. For some people it was the first time being away from their family and leaving some friendsbehind. It is scary, but we all managed to get by and a placement is no different. The only difference is you’ll get some real life experience, earn some money (which is always nice) and have a really amazing time before return back to university to pursue your desired career.

What new skills did you develop?

From my placement I have developed various software skills that I was not taught as part of my degree at University.  Everything that you are taught at University can be applied to any job. Being a Computer Animation student, we were taught to not so much focus on the software we use but the skills and techniques that are needed. This allowed for me to adapt very quickly to the software that I was handed, as I was taught core concepts rather than software specific techniques.

What training did you do?

I was trained in a couple of software programmes such as After Effects and Adobe Illustrator as these programmes aren’t essential for the Computer Animation course. Other than these I didn’t really have too much training as I was able to implement most of the skills I was taught whilst studying.

How did you gain from it?

It allowed me to become efficient in a software I didn’t know much about beforehand. These new software skills also helped me within my final year as I was able to implement them into different elements of my work.

Did the placement help you with your career decisions?

Yes, I feel that my placement really helped me focus on what it is that I want to pursue as a career.

…the skills learnt [on my placement] meant I was a more desirable applicant for potential employers

Did the placement help you get your current job?

I believe it has, the experience did help my CV stand out compared to other applicants and the skills learnt meant I was a more desirable applicant for potential employers.

Kieran Knight with work colleagues
Out with friends from Foundry

Advice for students thinking about doing a placement

If you get the opportunity to do a placement year, you should definitely go for it. It’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be turned down. If you do get one and find out that it’s an area you don’t wish to further pursue, then that’s still OK. You’ve gained amazing experience and you’ve also been able to get closer to what it is that you wish to do as a career. You’ll also get a bit of extra money which is always nice!

…don’t be afraid to go for the smaller companies. At the end of the day it is still experience.

What advice would you give to 1st and 2nd year students regarding their placement search?

I would say search for placements in the area that you are currently most interested in. If you are unsure what you are most interested in, pick the area that you are currently spending the most time on. Something is making you spend the most time on this section and it may be that you actually enjoy it a lot more than you expected.

I’d also say don’t be afraid to go for the smaller companies. At the end of the day it is still experience. The smaller companies will actually be able to give you more experience as you would be able to get involved in multiple departments rather than just one area as you would in a much larger company.


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