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Vol.26 No.4

Vol.26 No.4


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Optima welcomes James Heslip

James Heslip

James Heslip

Optima[2] is pleased to announce yet another apprentice has been taken on. This brings our total now to five. We thought we would let him introduce himself in his own words.

Formative Years

My first real introduction to programming was during my GCSE years at school. They were introducing a new course, computing, being an alternative to the current course, I.T. I was recommended by my teacher as a suitable candidate to give it a try. I liked computers, and had already planned on doing I.T. but I thought that this sounded like fun and couldn’t hurt to try.

I didn’t really know what to expect for my first lesson. We worked with Visual Studio, and for starters just messed around with Windows Form designs, and changing object properties. This then progressed into event handling and writing functions that would actually do something useful. It became quickly apparent to me just how powerful computing could be. Finally, towards the end of the course we followed a specification and made a game.

Work Experience at Optima Systems

I first stumbled across Optima Systems[2] during Work Experience week. I wanted to get a placement which I would enjoy, and that might help me narrow down what I wanted to do for a future career. I also enjoyed maths and the sciences so I was pretty uncertain on what I would end up doing for a job. During my placement I was shown all of the departments of Optima and did a variety of tasks over the course of my placement, ranging from basic APL programming to running the cables for the phones, and fixing a laptop which wouldn’t boot.

Later School Years

I realised that I enjoyed this so much that I decided to do Computing A–level too. Things were a little bit more complex then, and a larger portion of the course was theory based. I much preferred writing code, but the studies became a lot less about that. I took things into my own hands and started writing code from at home for fun. I stumbled upon Project Euler[1] and solved the first ten or so problems from their archive. These got very difficult very fast, and with my limited programming knowledge I was more or less forced to put these to one side.

I also studied Mathematics and Further Mathematics for A-Level. Maths was always my best subject grades wise, and I liked the kind of analytical thinking that was required to solve problems. These problem solving skills carried over when programming, and expertise in mathematics has often allowed me to find ways of reaching the same answer as others but in a more efficient way.

Life After School; Decision Time.

Most of my friends left Sixth Form and progressed on to university, or skipped A Levels completely and went straight on to a job. I applied to university, and got accepted for that matter, but never ended up going. I got thinking about whether I actually wanted to go, or if I was just doing it because it was the next logical step. It turned out to be more about the latter. I didn’t particularly want to be £50,000 in debt before I turned 25!

Remembering my work experience, I enquired to see if Optima[2] were still doing apprenticeships. As it turns out, they were. I’m now working/studying as an Apprentice APL Developer, and enjoying learning APL and gaining experience of programming in an industry environment. I know now that this is what I would like to do for a career, and look forward to progressing and expanding my knowledge of computers and what they can do for me. Later this month I will be attending a week-long residential APL programming course. Then in June my formal apprenticeship starts which includes one day a week at our local college.




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