My background and how I got here

Hello! My name is Todd Burlington and I am currently a physics undergraduate student at the University of Exeter. Starting next week I will be going into my fourth and final year 😨.

During the summer I have been working in the Informatics lab on a Summer Placement. This is an official 12 week scheme offered by the Met Office, and it means around 50 students work across the Met Office over the summer. I’ve been working in the Informatics Lab which has been absolutely great as it’s clearly the best part of the Met Office (no bias here what so ever!).

Why did I pick the lab? I love their fundamental principal of exploring the intersection between science, technology and design. This appeals to me for a few reasons; firstly I am a scientist (well, a scientist in training anyway), and secondly I am passionate about technology. So of course, with the lab being a place that combines these, I knew this was where I had to be! Sign me up I said…

My experience in the lab

Before I got here and on my first day I didn’t really know what to expect. The one thing I was expecting was to do a lot of coding and software development, which was a bit scary! My degree has given me some basic level of coding knowledge, I have done some C and Matlab, but I wasn’t sure I would be up to scratch. After being here only a few days, however, I realised that I needn’t have been worried, especially with the support from the other guys in the lab. There are some skills you do need though, and I think these are what makes the lab the lab!

So what do you need? Well let’s list them:

• An open mind
• An eagerness to learn
• A willingness to work as a team
• A problem solving attitude

If you can do this stuff then you won’t just work, but excel in this sort of working environment.

My fellow intern Antoine summed up the attitude of the lab wonderfully in his blog post. To quote him “Can you cook? Your answer cannot be negative! Of course you can, you just have to learn how to”. I couldn’t have put this better myself. From my personal experience when I got here I hadn’t used any JavaScript, GitHub, Responsive design or done any across the stack development. So in the true spirit of the lab I have learnt how to, and it has just been a fantastic experience.

This basically sums up my time in the lab, constantly learning new things!

What I have gained from the lab

I have gained a lot! It surprised me just how much I have actually gained, a lot more than a summer’s worth of work I am sure.

The main skills gained are the most obvious example of this. I think it is best to list these:

  1. JavaScript
    • D3
    • threeJS
    • node.js
  2. API’s
  3. GitHub and version control
  4. Responsive website design
    • HTML, CSS, SASS development
  5. Across the stack development
    • JavaScript stuff again
  6. Linux and Raspberry Pi
  7. Bash commands

The less obvious examples of what I have gained are the insights into this new working culture. The lab is fundamentally a different place to work. You share a communal desk which becomes the centre for knowledge sharing and I think this is the biggest and quite frankly best part of the lab. I’ve come to this conclusion because the only way to move forward on a project is to talk about it! This communal working allows you to do this, by asking questions sharing knowledge and understanding each other’s experiences. Another benefit is that if you have any issues you just have to say them out loud and I can guarantee you will get a response. This might be a solution or a conversation to help figure out the problem.

Projects I have worked on

I have worked on a few projects whilst I have been in the lab. The biggest and best is the #technorhino project. I have written a blog post all about this so I won’t bore you all with it all again.

Some other projects which I have worked on to varying degrees are:

AR Sandpit
• D3 weather visualisation - still ongoing
• Euporias ceramic bell project - still ongoing

This variety keeps your time in the lab fresh and interesting! There is always something else to swap onto if you are frustrated with your current work or just interested in something else. It has been a pleasure to have this opportunity.

Future

The lab has fundamentally changed my outlook on the world of work. I was expecting to graduate university next year and go and get a job. While this is still the plan, what I now expect from that job is completely different! I cannot see myself working somewhere with a ‘traditional’ working culture. I just love the freedom and rapid learning that comes from a place like this. I will aim to either find somewhere that also follows these principals, or try to change any future organisation I work in so that they also see the benefits of this culture.

So that is my future - but what about yours? If all of this sounds right up your street then apply for the lab! The summer placement scheme will soon be open for 2017, so keep and eye on that, or you could even try nicely ask the guys if you can visit for a day. Whatever you decide, I hope that you too try and change the world of work so that it can also follow the lab model.