James, Oxford, Maths & Computer Science

Casebooks James

At the start of my third year studying Maths and Computer Science, I was pretty set on staying on and doing a fourth year, but thought I may as well go along to the career fairs and presentations with friends for the food and drink; it may also motivate me to write a CV and practice some of those mind-numbingly dull job application questions.

After a couple of weeks I somehow found myself feeling guilty for all the food I'd consumed, wine I'd drank and false promises to apply. So I decided to apply to a couple of them. The first one, a bank, had such a long-winded application process that I didn't get beyond my name and email address before giving up. Two other companies fared similarly, with me pulling out at various stages of the interview knowing that I didn't really want the job and not seeing the merit in continuing.

However one company did stand out during my navigating through the flashing lights, jargon and graphs of the milkround recruitment: Ensoft. The presentation was friendly and relaxed and the work looked genuinely interesting. Too good to be true? I chatted enthusiastically about software and networking with some current employees and had no problem applying - it couldn't really have been made any easier than sending a CV could it?

A few days later I had an interview in Oxford, which consisted of a short logic test and a chat with each director; I was back in the common room at college within two hours. Soon afterwards I got the email offering me a job and the fourth year of studying no longer seemed so appealing.

I started in September 2007 with three others and began the first few weeks doing a series of programming exercises and interactive presentations. These are designed to give an overview of the methodology and tools used in developing and supporting projects that are destined for customers, that demand the highest quality and reliability.

After three weeks of intense training in software development I joined my team and started proper work producing real code. During the first year, I was assigned a mentor, who was there to give me all the help and support I needed, as I transitioned from messing around with bits of code as a curious student to an engineer developing production code. I started on a project implementing a new protocol that my mentor was working on. Within a couple of months I was able to support the existing code and had finished my first discrete feature. After 10 months and a few more features, we began work on a new project and I was involved in the design discussions, which really demonstrated the progress that I'd made and the responsibility that I was given as an inexperienced engineer.

The work is challenging and you work hard but you never feel helpless or completely out of your depth. This is surely down to the support you get from your mentor - and if they don't know the answer then there is an office full of people that are more than willing to spend their time and help you out.

However, the company goes to great lengths to ensure that you're not working too hard with the full spectrum of social activities covered. It starts with the open plan office where you'll always find last night's match or the lighter side of world politics being hotly discussed. Of course, there are also sofas and offices where you can go to work or relax by yourself. With a pool table, table tennis and table football you'll quickly find a place on the Ensoft tournament ladder or have a weekly schedule of people to play at various office sports.

Each week there's a company breakfast, 5-a-side football, pub quizzes, the list really does go on… Beyond that there's a dedicated social team that, whilst I've been here have organised events such as a day at Kempton Racecourse, wine tasting, a Christmas dinner and a separate Christmas party(!) and are currently organising a company weekend break.

Ensoft has been a great place to work. I've really enjoyed the challenge of producing high quality code and couldn't be happier with the lifestyle that I've adopted inside and out of the office. A year on, I feel confident in my ability, look forward to future projects with Ensoft and am pleased with the responsibility that I've been given - including (surely the greatest responsibility of all) choosing one of the director's fantasy football team in his absence. Though I don't think he'll let me do it again ;)