Filling the gap at White October

My name is Tomi and I worked at White October for a year between finishing my A Levels and starting my Computing degree. This blog post is a personal reflection of my gap year at White October.

How it all started

I first encountered White October when they accepted me for 1 week of work experience when I was in Year 10 at school. Despite a week being a relatively short amount of time, that week turned out to be one of the most important of my life, as it was in that week I realised I wanted to pursue a career in programming.

During that week I spent some of my time observing their development process and shadowing Carl, a front-end developer. After my week there I got a lot more interested in web development, learnt a few programming languages and finished my A-levels.

After leaving school, I went to the All Your Base conference (organised by White October Events) during which I arranged to do another two weeks of work experience at White October, which subsequently resulted in a year’s work placement.

The placement

The first thing I noticed when going back was just how much the company had grown since I was last there, however despite the increase in size, people still seemed really close and the atmosphere was great.

Everyone I met made me feel welcome and it wasn’t long before I was able to get started on some actual client work. Obviously all the work I did was peer reviewed before being put live, but the fact that I was allowed to just get on with it straight away made me really pleased and was one of the first indications I had that showed me that it’s going to be great to work here.

Working with clients

I knew that White October worked closely with their clients, however I did not realise just how true this was until I actually saw and experienced it for myself. Having clients in the office is quite a common sight, not just while initially acquiring work but all the way through the completion of the project, we even had some clients who came to the office every morning to attend the morning scrum.

Not only are the clients in the office a lot, they are also in the group Slack chats for their specific projects. Initially I thought that this might be quite difficult or awkward from a developer’s perspective as I assumed it would make it harder for us to discuss things, however this open approach to the development process turns out to actually make things a lot easier as the clients are aware of exactly what is going on and can react and make adjustments almost instantly. Being so open and allowing clients to be so closely involved in our processes helps establish a sense of trust and also allows great relationships to be formed between clients and their teams.

The power of receiving honest feedback

One of the most beneficial things I got out of this year was the amount of feedback I received about the quality of my work. This contrasted a lot with how things were during my Computing A-level where the only thing that mattered was the end result of running the code and adhering to coding standards, quality or efficiency were never considering.
At White October every developer was passionate about their work and paid close attention to every detail of what they produced no matter how small the project was. Even small scripts that would only be run once to accomplish a certain task or to gather some data were created with as much attention to detail as code that would be left running for years. I think this attitude to work is really important and can make a huge difference in the quality of work a company produces. Picking this up in my own work has since proven extremely useful to me and has completely changed the way I do things when it comes to programming.

The challenges

Before coming to White October I did have some previous programming knowledge (mostly with PHP). However almost all my programming before was just me working on my own projects that I created from scratch, therefore, one of the really interesting and possibly also the most difficult challenges I encountered, especially initially, was having to work with large codebases that were written by other people.

I initially found it quite difficult to work on projects where I was inheriting someone else’s code, sometimes with little explanation or documentation. However, after a while, I found myself getting better and better at being able to jump into an unfamiliar codebase and be able to quickly get my head around it. I feel like this is an extremely valuable skill that I managed to pick up due to having the opportunity to work on so many different things and I’m sure it’s something that will be useful later on in my life regardless of what sort of development I end up doing.

The best bits

The atmosphere in the office and the close community feeling between everyone who worked there was one of, if not my favourite, things about White October, perhaps my favorite. Everything from going out to the pub with my colleagues on Fridays, to having Dylan (the office dog) wandering around in the office every day or going to Cologne for a weekend as a company trip, made working here a truly special experience. This was the first office I had ever worked in but I do believe that the culture at White October is quite unique and if wherever I end up working in later life is even just half as much fun as White October, I will be extremely happy.

An amazing experience

As illustrated above, my year working at White October was an amazing experience and one I’d recommend to anyone who has the possibility to do so. The programming skills I picked up here have already proven incredibly useful to me during the start of my degree.
I already miss working with such an fantastic group of people and If I had to get a job right now, White October would undoubtedly be my first choice! I’m quite certain that anyone who works here will agree with me that White October is more like a family than just another web development agency.

Thank you again to everyone who helped make my time at White October so memorable.

Are you interested in doing work experience at White October? We’d love to hear from you, please email jobs@whiteoctober.co.uk

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