About Leah Fullerton
Leah is a Support Engineer at Kainos. She joined as part of the first cohort of Earn as you Learn and has most recently been working in our Evolve product division.
In 2013, we launched our Earn as you Learn (EAYL) scheme, paying tuition fees and paying a salary for students to study for a part-time degree in Computing Systems, with Ulster University, while gaining valuable industry experience on Kainos projects. Leah, one of the students from our pioneering group, is preparing to graduate this summer! In this blog post, she gives us the lowdown on the last three and a half years, experiences and opportunities, and what the future holds!
Discovering Earn as you Learn
I was just finished my foundation degree in Software Engineering at Belfast Met, and I was looking for some work experience for over summer and I just happened to come across the EAYL scheme online.
I wanted to try and gain some industry experience that summer. When I saw the advert for EAYL and realized I could continue my studies to do a full Honours degree AND get industry experience at the same time it appealed to me even more. As well as that, I wouldn’t need to get a student loan and was getting paid a wage while gaining experience. The scheme instantly looked better for me than anything else I’d been applying for. I was soon offered an interview -the process was quite quick. Before I knew it, I was offered a place on the EAYL scheme in August. Exciting!
So.. what is it REALLY like?
When I first joined Kainos I was placed in the Evolve support team. Evolve is our product for the healthcare industry, with customers around the UK and beyond. Before I joined Kainos I had no industry experience, and I was a bit nervous about starting something completely new to me, but everyone in Evolve was so helpful! My colleagues were always willing to sit with me and take me through things step by step. I was also surprised about the friendly atmosphere and culture here, and how everyone always had the time to answer any questions I had. I had a picture in my head of how I thought working in a software company would be, and thankfully I was totally wrong!
To be honest, I thought it would be a lot harder to balance study and work than it has been! During normal term time, balancing my university work while working was fine. During exam time it was more difficult, but manager had no problem with allowing me to take some leave alongside my study day which gave me extra time to prepare. My final year project has added some pressure which I was expecting, but I motivate myself to work in the evenings and weekends, and I’m now at the final hurdle with only three months left – the end goal is in sight!
For me, the major benefit of the scheme is gaining real experience. This has really helped me complete modules in my degree. University gives you the theory but being able to tie it in to real world experiences gives you such a better understanding. Another benefit is the fact that I have no student loans to repay! All of my university costs are covered by Kainos, and I also get paid while completing my degree. I think one of the best things about the scheme is the help I have been given throughout my time here, even if I have a question about something I am doing at university there is always someone who is willing to give me advice, and help on what to do.
Supportive colleagues and career opportunity
When I first started, I was an Apprentice and joined the Evolve support team. In less than two years, I was promoted to Trainee level. One year later I was promoted to Associate level. I think this shows how supportive the people in Kainos are, it also shows that students coming into Kainos on the EAYL scheme are treated like every other employee and given the same opportunities.
I have been given a lot more responsibility recently – for example leading customer calls, participating in the resolution of high priority issues and participating in escalations raised by customers. I have travelled to customer sites to provide on-site support for go-lives and I have been asked to participate in an upcoming Evolve upgrade and be the customer’s point of contact for any issues. On a day-to-day basis, I deal first hand with customers, picking up issues and resolving them.
The more knowledge I gain, the more responsibility I take on and any major achievements are always recognised by management. My managers are very understanding and acknowledge that I am balancing work and study. Everyone always asks how I am getting on with university – I feel that they have a genuine interest in my progress and development. I have been a member of the team for over three years now, and every day I am learning something new. I’d be happy to stay here – there is always a new challenge!
I would definitely suggest applying for EAYL. The people I’ve worked with are so helpful and always make time for you. It has given me so much experience and this has really helped me throughout my degree. I’m always learning something new and continue to gain knowledge in new areas. No two days are ever the same.
So if you enjoy a challenge, the Earn as you Learn scheme is definitely for you!
Applications open on Feb 13th – you can apply here!