Internships at Rapid7: Is a placement year right for you?

  • How Meabh MacRory went from intern to Software Engineer II while graduating with a first-class honours

    Q. At what stage during your education did you decide to work in tech and what were the main influences for this decision?

    When I  started my A-Levels, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I studied IT, geography, religion and maths. At first, it was such a random combination however I very much enjoyed IT. I think the main influence for me would have to be my former teacher, Mrs McElroy. Her husband was a software engineer and he said for someone with my outgoing personality and communication skills, I could really do well in a field like tech. 

    Q. Before graduating from Queen's University with a First Class Honours in Computer Science you spent 12 months as an intern with Rapid7 before returning full-time. How valuable is the internship experience for undergraduates?

    A placement year is invaluable and I can't express enough how much I learned in my year here. Obviously, in university you learn the fundamentals and the logistics behind everything, but once you get into the industry you start learning on the job. I probably learned more in three months than I did in the first two years of my degree. 

    One of the other things about our internship is that we were taken very seriously and always treated as a member of the team. We hit the ground running with the code and I was worried at the start that it would be such a big step up technologically. From day one, all of my team members took the time to go through the programming and talked me through our entire code base. 

    We also had access to different learning platforms like Pluralsight, so anything I did come across that was new I was able to do training courses paid for by the company. That support really helped with the learning curve. 

    The comparison between those in our class who'd done placement years against the ones who didn’t was night and day. We were more advanced because we had been learning on the job for a year. All of that really helped us with our final year project, and also in terms of time management, communication skills and accountability. Things that you learn from being in the working world that I wouldn't have experienced previously.

    Q. Starting a first job in a multi-national global corporation would be a daunting experience for many young people. What sort of support and mentoring did you receive?

    With Rapid7 it was clear from the outset, even through the hiring process, that the culture here is a huge part of the company and everyone really looks out for one another. Obviously, I was nervous going into my first day but straightaway everyone makes you feel so comfortable. Plus, there were loads of events set up for us to network with other people in the office. 

    From when I started my placement year to now, I have bi-weekly one-to-one meetings with my team lead to make sure that everything is on track and that both he and I are happy with how everything is progressing. 

    We also have a really strong community of women in Rapid7 including our Women Impact Group and Belfast girls. These are communities where we can talk about anything from a conference that's coming up, to more personal things. This adds another layer of support and community. 

    Q. There is a misconception that working in technology is maybe not as exciting as other sectors. How would you respond to that?

    I have to disagree. I know that from the outside looking in, a nine-to-five office job in tech doesn't seem like the most exciting job in the world but there are just so many different aspects to it. It's constantly evolving and every single day we are learning something new. I think what makes it really exciting is that you can't stand still in tech as you have to always be learning and always advancing.

    There's so much more to technology than I could ever have imagined. I'm a software engineer and within that, you can be front-end or back-end, or you can be full stack. Each of those things have hundreds of languages that you could do, so if you don't like one you can move on to the next.

    There's much more to tech than software engineering such as data analysis, user experience engineers and user experience designers. In fact, there are literally hundreds of jobs that fall under the umbrella.

    Q. As a female working in a male-dominated sector, what would you say to other young women who might feel intimidated to follow your path?

    It can be intimidating to be a minority in any sector but what struck me is just how strong the community of women in STEM in Belfast really is and it is just growing and growing. There are so many outreach groups, events and even conferences popping up in Belfast. I would encourage anyone who is considering the field to go to some of these events because they're such safe spaces for learning and networking. 

    I actually had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to represent Rapid7 on a panel for young women in STEM who were thinking about pursuing a tech career. We all just shared our advice and our experiences in the industry so far and it was all very relaxed and everyone is so supportive of one another. I think that regardless of gender, everyone has something to bring to the table. Everybody has their unique perspective and their unique skill so if you're confident in your ability and confident in what you can bring to the table, then it's definitely something that you should go for.

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