Why did you choose to study Computing and why Aston?Lionel Muskwe

I visited the university during an open day, which was one of the best decisions I could have made. I really got a feel for the university and was very happy to see the level of diversity amongst the students, this really made me feel welcome. I was really impressed by Aston’s campus, it has all the necessary facilities located all in one space, these include the gym, SU, library, main building ( where most of the teaching happens), cafes, restaurants, and most importantly Tesco.

I wanted to pursue a career in computing and Aston was one of the only university’s that offered students experience by actively working with industry by participating in their in-house company that hired students to build software (Beautiful Canoe). I was very impressed that alongside my studies I had the opportunity to gain real-life experience, and then a separate placement on top of that too.

How did you find the transition from college to university?

The transition from college to university is smooth, the main difference I found was that the class size at university tends to be larger, however, you still get a huge level of support, and university certainly offers more support than college. At Aston, there are several dedicated departments just for providing students with support.

Why did you choose to study Computer Science in particular?

I felt that Aston provided students with a lot more support than other universities. Aston had a full-time Programming Support Officer, which meant that I could always get help. As if that wasn’t enough the Library offers a service known as LDC (Learning Development Centre), where they can assist you with any course content you are struggling with.

Additionally, Beautiful Canoe offered paid placement and internship opportunities which were quite lucrative. Aston was also one of the only universities that continuously hosted annual hackathons in the UK which 
supports students in learning new skills, and technical knowledge and networking with industry professionals and other students.

How did you find the support at Aston, in terms of academics?

The support from academics is amazing!

You are able to book in appointments with your respective module tutors for additional explanations on previously covered material. During labs and tutorials, there are several teaching assistants that circle the class ready to help any student who is struggling with lab tasks.

How did you find working at Beautiful Canoe?

I really enjoyed working on real-world projects and I learned so much about communicating complex computing terminology in easy-to-follow language. During my internship, I leveled up by learning new languages such as C#, advanced Git, bash scripting, and a few other technologies. Project management was one of the key takeaways, as the expert knowledge used in Beautiful Canoe to plan and manage client projects soon became relevant in my studies.

The Beautiful Canoe salary was very competitive.

Tell me about your highlight at Aston?

In the second year, students participate in a team project. Students are randomly selected into groups of seven to nine, the groups will have ten to twelve weeks to deliver a high-quality web application that meets a client brief.

The project was to design and create an e-commerce platform for selling a chosen product. The platform had to be web-based, offering dynamic interactions and a responsive design. This module was extremely challenging yet rewarding. By the time you begin this project, your course will have taught you the necessary skills needed for designing and programming this project.

The complexity arises from having to analyses and maximise the strengths of your teammates. Communication also evolves over time, and you learn how to resolve conflicts when individuals have different design ideas.

Ultimately, the way you build the software is entirely up to you as long as you meet the requirements. However, most of the team had to contribute to show the collaboration element of the project - I really enjoyed this project and it was one of my highlights of studying at Aston.

During your course have you liaised with industry members?

After submitting your team project, individuals from different companies are invited over to form a panel, and your group must deliver their presentation to them.

After all the groups are done presenting, the different companies start going around, speaking in more depth to the different groups. It goes without saying but, these companies can also offer students a fast track onto their placement and internship roles should they find any students particularly exceptional during the presentation deliveries.

Having real companies watch your presentation live and ask you questions about your design and development choices adds so much realism to the project.

What type of skills have you gained at Aston?

My presentation skills have improved significantly due to the numerous presentations carried out during the course. Concise and effective communication has become one of my core skills. Without great communication, I wouldn’t have managed to give clear instructions on what my teammates should do, nor would I have been able to articulate my thoughts and ideas. I have gained several technical skills namely, PHP, Laravel, Java, JavaFX, Ajax, Git. There are too many technologies to list out, but these are some of the few worth noting.

Have you been involved in any student societies?

I have been the President of the Aston Computer Science Society. Being the president you quickly learn that you must understand all the high-level processes required to run the society. Being president has meant that I have had to ensure we focus on making the society better for the upcoming administration whilst ensuring my administration still offers a range of different activities to keep our registered members engaged.

I had to run AstonHack this year, and this was very intense. This is a 24-hour event the ACSS runs every year, and as the president I had to ensure that everything ran smoothly. Securing sponsors for our £4000 + event was also one of my main roles.

In summary, my extracurricular activities have complemented my degree quite well. I am always busy, always up to something new, which I believe is the reason for my amazing mental health.

What advice would you give to future students?

Don’t be scared!

Yes, Computer Science is challenging and very abstract, but Aston offers so much support. You can never touch half the stuff you make but, the reward is worth it. The skills you learn in fixing broken programs apply to everyday life.

Computing is changing the world and will continue doing so for the next generation. This is a great field to enter in now, and although there have been massive tech layoffs from MAANG companies there is still a massive shortage of Computer Scientists.