TLPD Industry Insight placement: Adam Clement

Adam Clement is a Programme Leader at Exeter College. As part of the preparations for delivering the Digital T Level from September 2020 Adam completed an Industry Insight placement at Sound in Theory. The placements are part of the T Level Professional Development support offer providing opportunities for professional updating for teachers that is industry relevant and that facilitates knowledge transfer and professional exchange.

What were your key objectives for going on a Staff Placement in Industry?

  • To learn what web programming languages are currently used in industry and to gain a better understanding of current techniques and workflows deployed in industry.
  • To gain an understanding of how projects are prototyped in industry, the tools and techniques and level of prototype delivered to clients at each stage.
  • To develop my understanding of how project work is undertaken – what development philosophy is used and how is work distributed across a team.
  • The learning outcomes from the Industry Insight placement will be embedded into a dynamic curriculum that will allow for learning to be delivered akin to a workplace environment.

Tell us about experience and the highlights from the placement
My placement was with a local Web-Development agency named Sound in Theory, where I participated in a one-day industry insight placement. My day began by being introduced to the company’s Managing Director, one of the company’s lead programmers and a senior account manager. I had the opportunity to watch each of these people conduct their day-to-day responsibilities as well as conducting 1-2-1 interviews with each to discuss any questions I had.

With regards to the programming languages used in Industry I learned the following: Laravel PHP Framework is used for most back-end development. Vanilla JavaScript is used for most client-side coding. Bootstrap is the most common CSS library in use. FlexBox and Grid are both popular methods for laying out sites – Grid is gaining in popularity. External library use is kept to a minimum to ensure page speed remains fast. Google Data Studio is used to store and analyse all marketing data, Hootsuite is used to manage social media for clients. Project task distribution and recording of time spent by each employee on each project is handled by bespoke software. Learning to use command line interfaces is essential. Slack is used for inter-employee communication.

Knowing the languages used in industry will allow me to ensure that the curriculum provides opportunities to use these where appropriate. With regards to gaining an understanding of how projects are prototyped I learned that Elementor in WordPress is used for prototyping. Elementor is a drag-and-drop page builder for WordPress. This plugin helps you create beautiful pages using a visual editor. It’s designed for you to build dynamic websites quickly. This WordPress plugin is an all-in-one solution—letting you control every part of your website design in a single platform. You can customise your website to fit your brand with motion effects, multiple fonts, and enhanced background images. Elementor is an effective tool for building everything from your entire website to specific landing pages. You can design sales pages, promotional pages, and even customised forms.

The most valuable knowledge was regarding how project work is undertaken, and the development philosophy used by the company. Sound in Theory use Scrum, an Agile development approach.
In the Scrum method of Agile software development, work is confined to a regular, repeatable work cycle, known as a sprint or iteration. During each sprint, a team creates a potentially shippable product increment, no matter how basic that product is. Working within the boundaries of such an accelerated timeframe, the team would only be able to build the most essential functionality. Placing an emphasis on working code motivates the Product Owner to prioritise a release’s most essential features, encourages developers to focus on short-term goals, and gives customers a tangible, empirically based view of progress. This outcome was most useful to learn as it will shape how we ask students to work, the methodology that they should use and the time constraints we should place them under.

What did you value the most about engaging with Sound in Theory?
Watching the team respond to an unexpected spike in traffic for a website that was featured on a national TV programme was fascinating. The MD researched the cause of the issue, then asked the Lead Developer to instigate a proxy server to spread the load and a queue system for handling the PayPal gateway. Rather than timing out, customers were then given a queue number and asked to wait. Whilst this was happening, the Account Manager for the company was in constant communication with the company in question to reassure them that a fix was being implemented. She then ensured that the television promotion was incorporated in the company’s social media campaigns. The demonstration of teamwork was inspiring and it was interesting to see how quickly client demands can change, and how quickly an organisation can respond to these changes.

What has been the impact on you, your colleagues and organisation?
I will ensure learners have a solid understanding of vanilla JavaScript and PHP.

Introducing students to Laravel would be beneficial, emphasising the need to ‘think on their feet’ and develop solutions to problems when specifications and circumstances change. Students need experience of developing solutions in teams, and the technologies that allow them to communicate efficiently. Giving students an opportunity to work using an Agile methodology would be beneficial. Students should be asked to prototype solutions prior to building them.

How will this positively impact on future T Level learners?
We now have a clear picture of exactly which technologies are being used in commercial Web Development as well as the methodologies used to implement them.

We have a clearer picture of the workflow in organisations such as Sound in Theory, and the different roles required in a team to deliver, support and maintain a solution for a client.

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