Praveen Purushothaman and Participoll Ltd

Praveen Purushothaman, MSc in Cloud Computing with Industry, 2013-2014

My first degree, in Computer Science and Engineering, was very theoretical but it also included a placement at Tata where I became involved in web development. I worked in this for three years after graduating but I began to find the work repetitive and gradually realised that I needed to develop my technical understanding and knowledge. Studying at MSc level would allow me to do this and, if I studied abroad, to travel outside India, something I had never done before. This year was the first time that the University of Leicester had run an MSc in Cloud Computing and this really attracted me as the subject is very much at the cutting edge of computing these days. So far the academic part of the course has really motivated me, as it is very practically based, and I was keen to combine this with the more hands-on experience of a work placement.

I started career planning activities as soon as I began at Leicester. The department encouraged us to use the Career Development Service (CDS) and I signed up for a number of different activities including the Working in Social Enterprise (WISE) programme, part of the Leicester Award, and the Business Bootcamp. These were useful in their own right but also helped me to develop my network of personal contacts and, through these, to find out more about the economy and working practices within the UK. I also attended conferences run by Google and Microsoft in order to keep up with new developments in technology. My department sent me details of possible placement providers and I was very proactive in following these up. I also attended sessions run by the CDS on CV writing and interview techniques which were very useful for helping me to communicate with employers more effectively.

My placement came about through one of the contacts that I made during my various networking activities. I was fascinated by a small start-up company in Leicester, Participoll Ltd., that was developing tools to allow presenters to incorporate audience participation within their presentations. I met and talked to the founder about a possible placement and, after being interviewed, here I am! My placement will last for eight months and essentially I am employed to add new features to the company’s main product and to help iron out any bugs in the system. I am working with a great team, doing something that I really enjoy, gaining valuable experience and learning all the time about both the technical and the commercial sides of the business. At this stage, I am not sure what the future holds for me but, at some point in the future, I would like to start my own business and I am sure that my experience at Participoll will be indispensable.

My advice to MSc students seeking work placements is to take the bull by the horns and get involved in as much career-type activity on campus as you can so that you build your experience, develop your career management skills and widen your networks. The CDS are a key ally in helping you to do this so engage with them early on. At the same time, don’t neglect your studies as it is clearly a priority that you should succeed in these.

Ben Ravilious, Commercial Director, Participoll Ltd.

participoll.jpgParticiPoll Ltd. is a brand new start-up developed as a spin-off of our web development company Ultimatweb Ltd. The company has designed and developed an audience polling add-in for PowerPoint users which allows greater audience participation using mobile device technology and thus facilitates feedback to the presenter. Earlier this year, the product experienced a rapid growth in user numbers and we needed to increase our development capacity quickly. At about the same time, Praveen introduced himself to me at a networking event at the University and I was immediately impressed by his motivation and enthusiasm. He also had some relevant work experience and appropriate technical skills that made him an outstanding candidate for a placement with us. You can call it serendipity if you like!

Currently Praveen is working on optimising the ParticiPoll PowerPoint add-in and website so that its features and value can benefit a broader range of potential users and extending our public profile as widely as possible. Soon he will move on to adding some new features that we plan to release.

We are a small company so having Praveen with us on placement has added significantly to our resources and, in particular, has enabled us to expand our coding capacity so that we can develop new features more quickly and get these to market more effectively.

My advice to any employer considering taking a student on placement is to check that the timing is right and that the student has usable skills that fill a current need. We are a small company so have to think carefully about taking on new staff as the atmosphere and dynamics within the business can easily be upset if we get it wrong. That is why I always prefer to meet someone in person rather than just to receive a CV and cover letter through the post. If everything fits into place, however, then it should be a win-win for both employer and student.

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University of Leicester 
Tel: 0116 252 3497