Each year Mark Caukill takes a group of final year students over to Wellington with the intention of showing them some of the opportunities available in the IT industry. This weekend was our chance to cross water.
A group of about 12 students headed off on Thursday morning, first stop was the Waihope Valley close to Blenheim where we were lucky enough to meet with the a government IT installation close to Blenheim, It was really interesting to see the datacentre here and to hear about how the guys there
Next morning, bright and breezy we arose in Wellington and headed out to our first stop, Trademe. We were welcomed by Matt Bowler, an NMIT graduate who is now working as a DBA (Database Administrator) for the iconic Kiwi company. First up Matt took us for a ride on the legendary Trademe helter skelter slide, it encompasses two levels of their office building and you can certainly get some speed up. Matt told us about his journey from NMIT to where he is today, told us a bit about Trademe, its history and where it is hoping to go in the near future. He also introduced us to some of the job possibilities that are available to us as graduates. Matt is a DBA at Trademe, he got himself there by starting at SQL Services in Nelson. Matts introduction was followed up by a really interesting talk on the Trademe API (well I found it really interesting anyway!!) and then a quick tour of the offices before we had to head away.
Next up the big hike up the hill to Fujitsu. The guys there was awesome, however this place had a more ‘serious’ feel than Trademe, that’s certainly not to say that Trademe felt like a playhouse (despite the slides) or that Fujitsu felt stuffy, I guess it maybe just had the feel of much more mature and larger company and I would imagine that overall Fujitsu would offer the greater possibilities and international options of the two. The guys at Fujitsi had been in the industry for a very long time and their advice on getting started was definately taken to heart.
Next we headed back down the hill to Assurity. Assurity is primarily a company that takes other peoples projects and test them, they then work with the developers to fix problems and bugs and get software working the way it should. Testing is one of my areas of interest and so I really enjoyed in the talk here. It was interesting to hear how the relationship between developers and has evolved over time, this evolution has come hand in hand with changes to software development methodologies.
Off now to XERO, the great Kiwi success story. XERO has grown from a couple of guys in a kitchen to I can’t even remember how many, but LOTS of people in LOTS of buildings, in a a very short space of time. They have developed a really nice culture here, there seems to be a real can do attitude and a lot of collaboration between different developers and indeed different teams/departments (although they don’t really have departments in the traditional sense). It was heartwarming to meet up with two ex NMITers as if to prove that this place isn’t out of our reach.

The final place that we visited was Weta Digital.  They have a lot of sites, we were taken to their main data centre and it was mental.  The highlight of the visit was seeing the ‘Render Wall’  This is a water cooled server room that can render their work.  They have the cutting edge technology, a huge amount of processing power and some renders still take weeks.  If XERO was the coolest office then Weta definately had the coolest toys.

One thing that I picked up from all of the companies was that cultural fit was much more important than technical ability.  I particularly got this vibe from XERO, where it seemed they might take on even non techies in technical roles if they thought they would fit in and be able to learn the ropes. In quite timely fashion a friend of mine who works in IT in London shared this picture of a real poster in his office on Facebook today. A lot of the companies that we visited try to nurture a similar culture.

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I don’t know about other people, but when I read this there are definately things that I need to remember on it
So…. What did I get from this trip?
I found a lot of the information that was thrown our way to be really interesting, it was good to hear a lot of what our tutors have been trying to drill into us for the last 3 years re-iterated by the people that we visited. It was great to see there is a wide diversity of job opportunities out there, and that all of the companies seem to be expanding.
Beyond that, I felt that I got a little bit of inspiration for my project idea, I’ve been weighing up a couple of possibilities for a very long time, and a few things that I heard over the last few days have made me certainly swing towards one of the ideas.
Best thing in this trip for me though was the chance to spend time with some really nice people that I have shared this journey with for the last two and a half years. This time next year everyone will have graduated and headed off on their own tracks, might never see them again. I look at other year groups at NMIT and I realise that ours is pretty special, we have a lot more mature students than other years, a lot of people with interesting backgrounds and history. I’ll be honest – I’m not really enjoying my third year at NMIT, I think I’m sick of sitting in a classroom now and actually just want to get out there into industry and start to learn on the job from people who are actually doing it. However, the opportunities that the third year has afforded me so far, this trip to Wellington and the trip to Hang Zhou will be remembered for a very long time. We took the ferry over to Wellington, a rather time consuming endeavour, however it was nice to travel as a group like this, the fact it took so long to get there and back made it feel like more of an adventure. A group of 5 of us shared a room, I also really liked that. Basically it was cool to sit down and have a beer with people that you spend far too much time in the classroom with. Oh and the fact that I got to beat Mark at 10 pin bowling was a huge bonus.

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