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How we plan for our work experience students

Words by Megan HowellAugust 14, 2018

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At Atomic Smash we are keen to help others grow and will go out of our way to encourage aspiring designers and developers. As a part of this we offer work experience to students in Bristol. Following on from Isabelle’s post a few weeks ago, I’m going to be sharing with you how we plan for work experience placements.

Before

Before a student comes into the studio, there are a couple of things we like to do:

Whilst organising dates and times for the work experience, we spend time getting to know the person who is coming in: where are they from, what do they study, what are they interested in? It’s good to get some background on the person who you are going to be welcoming into the studio so you can easily get them involved with the team.

In order to know how many and what type of tasks to set during the week, we aim to get a grasp of what their understanding is and what their interests are around the subject. This helps you to know which areas of the subject to hone in on, skim over or skip completely. Ultimately, the week needs to be beneficial to them and we strongly believe in enabling people to grow and develop, so setting a two-day task on something the placement student dislikes is counterproductive.

Work experience can be daunting so we take time to find out where they are travelling from so we can give them options on how to get to the studio, tell them at what time to arrive and what to expect when they get here. This is a good time to ask if they have a laptop with specific tools that they may need to help them during the week.

Now you have spent time getting to know who they are and what they are interested in,  you can decide what tasks you feel would be appropriate to set them during their time in the studio. For example, if they are interested in user research, base their time around requirement gathering and discovery techniques. If they are interested in prototyping, base their time on developing a brief, learning UI techniques and various ways to produce prototypes and wireframes.

During

Everyone learns in different ways and at different speeds so it is important to have a flexible outlook. Be prepared for some tasks to take double or triple the time you imagined and others to take half or a quarter of the time. Consider, what tasks can you set if they were to run out of things to do? It is also worth considering how difficult to make a task. Getting the balance of this requires consideration and flexibility.

There is a balance that needs to be established when it comes to teaching and learning. The student is here to learn as well as be able to gain experience of what it is like working in a studio environment. It is easy as passionate designers to want to teach them and spend a lot of time with them, but, it is work experience, so it is important for them to get a flavour of what it is actually like to work in a studio. We take the time to let them know that if they get stuck, research the subject and try to find the answer themselves and if they can’t find the solution they can stop and ask questions at any time. This helps to make them feel comfortable in the studio.

With every task we set, there typically is some reading, self-learning, watching videos or webinars and a work-based task set. We ensure that each task has a work-based task so that they can have something to take away from each task and use it in the future for portfolios etc. For example, one task may be a persona generation task, where they will produce various personas to take away with them. We also take the time to feedback on work that is produced as well as promoting further research or reading on certain tasks.

Download our free persona template here

Persona Template

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We often do social things during the week outside of the office as a team, so we find it important to include this into the week as it is something that is a constant in the studio during our working week.

Towards the end of the week, we sit down and will offer a chance to ask questions about their future career and anything else they would like to cover. This is an opportunity for them to ask things that they may not be able to find answers online or at their university. We also prepare information on how to create a portfolio, where and what to look for when applying for jobs as well as collecting together a list of free courses, blogs to follow and resources to look at after their time with us is over.

Work experience

After

In the days after the work experience, we tend to pull together a list of useful free courses, webinars to watch, blogs to read and let them know they can get back in contact with us whenever they would like to, should they need to.

Holding work experience really is a rewarding experience. Not only do you get to be a part of the start of someone’s journey but, it is amazing to see students grow throughout the week and learn new things that they will hopefully use in the future.

I can’t thank everyone at Atomic Smash enough for the opportunity and for welcoming me into the team, it has been great to work with everyone and I have learnt a lot that I will be able to take with me into my future work.

A quote from Isabelle, our most recent work experience student.

Would you like to get in touch about some work experience for yourself?

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Megan Howell

Megan heads up the user experience design in the studio and works to ensure user-centric projects are delivered.

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