TargetJobs – Undergraduate of the Year Awards 2024

Tracey Dall
Thursday 9 November 2023

Could you be an Undergraduate of the Year? The TargetJobs Undergraduate of the Year Awards are widely recognised by graduate recruiters.

The TargetJobs Undergraduate of the Year Awards is an annual competition aimed at finding the best undergraduates in the UK. Each award is partnered by a prominent graduate recruiter who provides a fantastic prize for the winner, which could include a paid internship, a trip abroad or other exclusive opportunities.

Jack Waller – 2023 Software Engineering Undergraduate of the Year

Jack Waller

Jack Waller is a Computer Science student at the University of St Andrews. Jack won the 2023 Software Engineering Undergraduate of the Year award.

In this post, Jack shares his reflections on the experience, what motivated him to apply and the application process.

Why did you apply?

I was looking for a summer internship before beginning my Master’s year, when the opportunity was shared with the Computer Science department’s students. I was familiar with Skyscanner, both as a traveller, and via their site being a case study in one of my computer networking modules, and the opportunity for an internship with them was too good to pass up.

The application process

The initial application was a brief questionnaire, culminating in providing an idea for a feature that could be added to Skyscanner to improve the traveller’s experience. On passing this stage, I received an invitation to solve a coding problem. This was a timed online exercise, where I could use my language of choice to solve a relatively simple programming problem, with a Skyscanner twist. Similarly to other online programming problem websites, unit tests were run on your program to check for correctness.

A Zoom interview followed with the lovely Chelsea from Skyscanner recruitment. We had a nice chat where she asked questions to learn more about me, and see how well I would fit with the Skyscanner culture. She’s super friendly, and the interview was very relaxed.

I was then invited to a discovery day at Skyscanner’s Edinburgh HQ, alongside other applicants. I was pleasantly surprised to see two fellow St Andrews CS students (Ben and Hannah) when I arrived on the day, which made getting over the nerves much easier!

The day started with a group project, where we were asked to design a new Skyscanner feature under the supervision of two Skyscanner engineers, which we would later present. This was as much about working well together as it was achieving a good design. I would suggest keeping an eye on the time, and making a rough plan of what your team needs to do when, bearing in mind that you’re going to present your work afterwards.

This was followed by a technical interview with Rodrigo (an Engineering Manager), where I was presented with a programming problem to solve, again with a Skyscanner twist. This was a lot like pair programming, but with a whiteboard instead of a computer. The problem itself was a little trickier than the initial online problem, and I did ask for clarification and help. Rodrigo nudged me in the right direction, and I got a solution I was happy with. Rodrigo then asked several extension questions related to the problem, which required a good understanding of the solution I provided.

The last interview of the day was a “culture” interview, which was very similar to the initial Zoom interview with Chelsea.

Awards Ceremony

Target Jobs Undergraduate of the Year 2023
Awards hosted by Sue Perkins

A few weeks later I received an email from Chelsea inviting me to the awards ceremony in Canary Wharf. The ceremony involved a lunch with the other finalists and friendly faces from Skyscanner, and a presentation ceremony with the hilarious Sue Perkins. I was definitely nervous when it came to the Software Engineering announcement last, and was very happy when I won!

Internship

The Internship was awesome! I was a part of the very friendly “Shiny Magpies” squad, where I worked with the team to build several backend services, including Skyscanner’s Chat GPT plugin. I learnt a lot, especially the differences between St Andrews Computer Science and Software Engineering in industry. Everyone was very friendly, and happily spent their time to help me when I needed it.

Towards the end of the internship, I was happy to receive a job offer for a Software Engineering graduate scheme with Skyscanner the following year, and I am very much looking forward to starting!

Final thoughts

I’m very glad that I chose to apply – it was a rewarding and exciting experience, and I would highly recommend anyone applying. Everyone from Skyscanner is very friendly and welcoming, and the awards application process was very worthwhile. The internship was invaluable also – the software engineering at Skyscanner is world-class: there is a lot to learn, and you will actively contribute to production code. It’s an amazing experience.

If you think you could be a future undergraduate of the year, find out more and apply today!

Closing date: 29 January 2024.

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