Science & Technology is a varied and exciting sector, covering many specific fields which demand the best of the best. Jobs in Science often require candidates to have a flawless understanding of their specific area, while Technology jobs look for graduates who are not only academically brilliant but also possess a creative edge in order to drive projects forward.
This sector shares many similarities with Computing & IT, Energy & Utilities, and Engineering, and most positions require graduates to have a speciality.
How to Get a Job in Science & Technology
Although the sector covers countless fields, Science & Technology graduates will have earned many of the required skills at university. Candidates should think about what they have to offer employers which will set them apart.
Candidates should display the following:
1. Academic achievement
Academic foundations are essential for work in this sector. Employers look for a high standard of academic achievement, often requiring a minimum 2:1 in a related degree. For some positions a general Maths or Science degree may be adequate, but a more specific degree will increase a graduate's chances.
2. Experience or internships
Work experience, placements and internships are excellent ways for candidates to stand out. Many of the larger companies operate summer internship programmes, which offer graduates the opportunity to gain experience and to learn how to apply their knowledge to the working world.
3. Good communication
Communication and confidence are fundamental in most sectors, and Science & Technology is no different. Excellent communication, but written and oral, is vital for giving presentations, writing reports and proposing ideas to a team or client. Candidates should give evidence of their skills throughout the application process, and highlight any experience with presentations and reports they gained at university.
4. Further qualifications
Many specific areas in the Science sector require further study, such as Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering or Research and Development, and a candidate wishing to pursue any of these fields should consider their options. Some graduate schemes are willing to accept a candidate with a BSc and offer on-the-job training and qualifications.
5. Problem solving and analytical skills
The ability to solve problems and think analytically is vital in Science & Technology. Candidates should make sure to include any evidence they have of these skills outside of university on their applications.
6. Commercial awareness
Commercial awareness is a key skill which can make a candidate stand out in the Technology sector. A graduate applying to work at a research and development company, or as a technology specialist, should be able to combine technical brilliance with evidence of commercial understanding. This awareness can come from university projects and an in-depth understanding of the technology market and current trends and advancements.
The Technology side of this sector often looks for applicants with a flair for creativity and the technical understanding to back it up. Candidates applying to companies like Atos or CGI should prepare examples of tech they think would benefit the company. This shows an understanding of the company's position in the market and the products they produce, as well as the creative edge to help move the company further in the desired direction.
8. Computer skills
Some Technical positions will require graduates to have proficient computer skills, possibly in programming languages such as Java, C++ and HTML. Any evidence candidates can provide of previous programme building or web design will give them an edge over other applicants.
Science & technology Case Studies
It doesn't need to be straight As or a 1st, but needs to be a consistent performance. We look at GCSES, A Levels and degrees to show some consistency in academics
The Employer - Alex Sinton (Head of Student Recruitment - CGI)
Name: Alexandra Sinton
Job Title: Head of Student Recruitment - CGI
University: Durham University
What competencies do you like to see in candidates?
Academically, we are looking for a commitment to excellence. It doesn't need to be straight As or a 1st, but needs to be a consistent performance. We look at GCSES, A levels and degrees to show some consistency in academics. In terms of personal characteristics we want someone who is up for a challenge, sets themselves goals and shows resilience. Maybe every goal has not been met and everything hasn't been won, but we look for people who can learn from their experiences and develop themselves for the future.
Why do you think graduates choose to begin their careers with CGI?
As an IT services and Consultancy firm, we offer a lot of scope for project based works. A graduate may join us in the Oracle or SAP practice specialising in those products, but as time goes on they could find themselves in business consulting, bid management depending on how their careers develop and what their interests are. At CGI you are really able to shape your own career. Probably more than anywhere else, because you have the flexibility to take part in different projects, different roles even if you start in specialist areas.
What is your initial screening process when making a shortlist of applicants?
Our first screening process is to make sure the candidates meet our minimum criteria. This ensures we are assessing all candidates on a level playing field. They include academics and any job specific requirements including knowledge and application of technical languages if it's an application for a technical role. For example if you're applying for the technology partner's practice, where our Java programmers sit, the applicant must have Java skills. If it's a bid management position, the applicant must have the ability to write clearly and concisely, so we are looking at Arts, Humanities, Marketing and Strategy type degrees.
Then we look for a really good reason as to why you want to join CGI. It needs to be specific to CGI and the role that is being applied for. It needs to give a compelling reason as to why CGI is attractive and demonstrate research into the company role and some indication as to why the candidate is perfect for us. At this point copy and paste becomes the enemy, don't at that point call us a different company's name or refer to us as an accounting firm or creative design agency!
What basis do most candidates get rejected?
The most popular reasons for rejections are poor spelling and grammar and missing out questions on the application. If we've asked 'Why do you want to work for CGI? It's because we really want to know! It's worth noting that in these text based answers are our screen for the ability to communicate clearly and concisely in written form, if the answers are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors we cannot justify progressing an application to the next stage. Frustratingly it always seems to be very basic errors that mar an application form and the majority of rejections happen for mistakes that could be easily rectified.
What do you offer to successful applicants in terms of either support or professional encouragement?
All graduates that join us are given a staff manager and a project manager. A staff manager is someone who will stay with you long term. They help shape career progression, personal development plans and they also look to put you on any possible training. Your project managers will do the same with professional courses. Also there is a strong internal network between the graduates, who offer informal peer support and mentoring.
Do your technical graduate employees have quite a lot of scope with what they are doing?
CGI is built on innovation full stop. All of our employees whether they're apprentices, graduates, or experienced hires are encouraged to come up with the next big thing. They can invent something, come up with a new bit of intellectual property that we can patent and roll out to all our clients. That's what our whole business survives and relies on. If a graduate comes in with a great idea for a new process or technology, then everything is done to support that idea and make it a reality.
Does the technical side of the company need to have business awareness, while the business side need to be quite technically savvy?
Our technical graduates need to be very technical but have the ability to communicate and the ability to work in a team. A little bit of commercial awareness goes a long way, being aware of what our competitors are doing and what's going on in the marketplace. Equally our Business graduates need to be aware of what's going on in the technical side. It always helps if they have some ability or experience of programming languages or development. Both sides can then work together and find common language in between.
What difficulties do you find when training graduates for the role?
I still think that there is a big disconnect between what university preparation and real world work is actually like. While we want all our graduates to be the next big thing there are times when work can be repetitive and significant amounts of time are spent doing the basics. This can be frustrating sometimes but very necessary in giving all our new recruits firm foundations upon which to base a successful and long term career.
The Employee - Classified (Cyber Security Analyst - CGI)
Job Title: Cyber Security Analyst - CGI
University: University of Glamorgan
Course: Computer Forensics
Graduation Year: 2012
Note: The interviewee's identity has been withheld as he/she is working on matters of National Security
How did you find your graduate job in Technology?
I started applying during the Christmas break during my final year of university. Due to my degree in Computer Forensics my main aim, as was most students in the field, was for a career in the National Security sector. This meant working for government agencies and contractors such as CGI.
The application process for CGI was very simple; I completed a telephone interview and a recruitment day that consisted of technical/non-technical interviews, group exercises and inductive reasoning tests. From the recruitment day CGI decided my best place in the company would be working in Gloucester, where the national security sector is based. To work in the national security sector I had to show I was keen during my interviews and make sure my specialist abilities were displayed.
Why do you think you were successful at CGI?
CGI has a large focus on client facing abilities; this means not only do employees need technical skills, but they also need to be capable of explaining technical areas to non-technical savvy people in layman's terms. I was successful because my degree and side projects gave me abilities in a range of technical areas, but once joining CGI I was given opportunities to explain complex problems to a varying demographic, in many different scenarios.
What do you actually do?
On my first day at CGI's Gloucester office I was assigned to the Mobile Cyber Theme. (MCT). MCT's aim is to develop graduate skills and get them ready for client facing projects. The theme works in an agile manner in which you pick a cyber related project and work on it for a couple of weeks at a time, presenting your work. My first project was to analyze a Motorola Watch and see what I could do with it; the device had the Android Operating System built into it allowing me to program software for the device. By the end of the week I was presenting my success to managers and showing that I was able to track the GPS, record voice, and control the watch remotely. The first week was very fast paced and every week since has been just as interesting, completing tasks that I didn't know a few days before and learning new technologies by using them.
During my time on the MCT I build multiple innovative products with other members that are now a sellable product used by CGI. Together we have created an automated Android and iOS application analyzer, which checks for security issues inside of mobile applications and applies threat levels to each app. We also build a Mobile Intrusion Detection System that is a normal app running on a users phone but relays all activity (Phone calls, movement, text's, email's etc.) on the device back to a server for analysis.
What skills do you need?
Every graduate I have talked to about what skills they have brought from University to CGI have agreed that there are multiple technical and non-technical skills required to succeed. Being able to talk to people and present in front of a group is key, also having good written skills is important.
Anyone wanting to join the national security sector at CGI will need a wide range of technical skills as work is varied from day to day. However a grounding of network and computer security, computer forensics, penetration testing and software engineering is key. A specific programming language is a good skill to have however it is also important that you can apply those underlying software engineering principles to any language as it is possible you could be learning multiple bespoke languages.
What is the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is working on projects that are at the cutting edge of the computing industry. I work with technologies that are brand new, either testing them for vulnerabilities or creating unique systems that have never been build before. I really enjoy being able to go to work and be challenged by new things and that is what happens every day in the national security sector at CGI.
And what is the worst thing about your job?
Working in the national security sector can be a double-edged sword, as the best parts of my job such as working in a highly secure and cutting edge sector means that it effects my life outside of work. I have to make sure my online presence is closely guarded and I don't post things such as my job on Facebook, or talk about what I do outside of work. This means that it does have a small effect on my personal life; however the benefits of working on projects you wouldn't be able to see in any other industry out weighs the negatives.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
CGI have a clear model for career progression, there are six career levels and when joining as I graduate I was at career level one. After joining you are given a practice team leader who you sit with at least twice a year to organize a personal development plan for the year coming, this can be to move up to the next career level or develop your skills to get to the upper stages of your current level. In ten years I aim to be at a similar career level as my bosses, where I will have more control over the running of the businesses cyber initiative and have a close relationship with our clients.
What advice would you give to graduates applying to CGI?
When applying for the role during the interviews it is important that you are capable of talking about future technologies and areas that you are interested in. This shows that you have a keen interest in cutting edge technologies and also allows the recruiters to understand where you want your career to move and therefore what sector you should work in. For example I make sure I keep up to date on cutting edge technologies, new hacking exploits, and malicious attacks on the web, as this is my area of interest. Showing that you are keen, have a passion for the industry and you can convey that well is very important.
If you want to find out more about graduate jobs with CGI, please take a look at their minisite.