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Tom Foulkes

Dynamic. Tom Foulkes.

Tom Foulkes

24 January 2022

Being a placement student at Dynamic

As part of my studies at the University of Leeds, I’m working at Dynamic for a 14-month placement which started in July 2021. I’ve already worked on such a wide variety of projects and been a part of a diverse range of activities both in the workplace and socially!

Coming to Dynamic was never part of my original plan, but I’m so thankful for the experiences I’ve already had, and even more excited for what’s left to come.

My arrival

I feel it’s only right to talk about how I came to be on placement with Dynamic. Doing a sandwich year was always the plan, but I had a difficult time choosing between a year studying abroad, or a year working in the industry. I had actually gained an offer to study for a year in Canada and I was planning on going. However, as for many students, this became impossible due to changing COVID guidelines and restrictions, leaving me with what seemed like no choice but to progress straight into my final year. That was until I was given the email address of a project manager at Dynamic. I sent him my portfolio and, after two very exciting interviews, I was given the chance to come and work here.

I hate to be cheesy by saying, “things happen for a reason” but after the six months I’ve had working here it’s hard not to believe it. Working for Dynamic truly does feel like being part of a family. They’ve supported me as I start my career, and the friendly team are behind me 100% of the way.

Projects and work

Right from day one of my placement, I’ve been learning new skills and getting hands on with new and exciting software. The first of which I want to talk about is Articulate Storyline, an authoring tool which we use to build the majority of our elearning courses. Obviously, this was a tool I’d never used or even heard of before, so getting to grips with it has been a long, but fun, journey. I’ve now used Storyline to build more than 25 modules for various clients and on a wide variety of topics. I’ve worked for fashion brands, medical providers, plumbers’ merchants, supermarkets, leisure companies, fitness providers and even built modules for our own catalogue of off-the-shelf elearning.

One of the biggest projects I’ve worked on so far is the Spring 2022 Market Launch suite of elearning for PVH, the parent company of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. This launch alone had over 44 modules, which all needed to follow similar styles to give the collection a unified feel. This project pushed me to improve my Storyline skills and to get better at producing consistently high-quality modules.  

I’m still learning how to get better and more comfortable using the software, but with the support of my team, I have learnt so much about how to utilise every tool which it affords you, such as animations, variables, triggers and much, much more.

Prior to beginning my placement, one of my own personal development goals in terms of technical ability, was getting more comfortable using the whole of the Adobe Creative Suite. In general, I’ve been given the opportunity to get much more experienced with a number of these programs, including Photoshop, After Effects and Audition.

Tom

Photoshop was actually listed as an essential requirement on the placement job description, and given I’d relatively little experience (or confidence) in using it, I was concerned that this would hold me back. Looking back, it’s funny to reflect on that, as I now use it every single day. Primarily, I use it regularly to resize and smarten up images needed for modules. Furthermore, I’ve used Photoshop to design new modules, and now feel comfortable creating documents which are easy to use when any of my fellow developers pick them up. I definitely feel much more confident with the software, and have no doubt these skills will help me throughout the rest of my career.

Another of the Adobe Suite which I had little to no prior experience with is After Effects, a program I now have no reservations using. The work I’ve done at Dynamic has allowed me to go from never using it, to producing high-quality motion graphics. One project I particularly enjoyed was animating a short descriptive video about influenza, which was included in elearning for a major healthcare provider. When building it, I found myself actually going back and improving my earlier work as I discovered better ways of doing things! Another side to After Effects which I have learnt is the keying process, used when working with green screen footage. As part of a module for a healthcare charity, I had to key and edit the footage of one of our project managers delivering several pieces to camera. At first, I found it very frustrating to get a good cut out of him, but with perseverance, I was very happy with the result.

Finally, I’ve had the chance to clean up audio narrations using Audition. I’ve always wanted to work with audio, and I’ve really enjoyed learning how to take a recording and turn it into a high-quality, clear narration.

Completely separate to my experience with design and development work, I’ve had the opportunity to get involved in some scoping and scriptwriting on a number of projects. This involves finding appropriate content to be included in the module, often on subjects I’ve no idea about (like medical or legal), and then writing it into a user-friendly format. This is to ensure that a learner can take it in and actually learn something! Whilst I‘ve found it challenging to adapt my writing style, I’m getting better at it every time I do it. I think the most rewarding part of scripting is when I’ve had the chance to write, design and develop a module all the way to completion. It feels great to have built something from nothing, and you really feel like you’re learning and growing when you can step back and look at your work in this way.

I wouldn’t have been able to achieve half as much as I have without the support of my colleagues. Working closely with them, especially my mentor, Nathan and my line manager, Louisa, has helped me to improve the quality of my work and build my skills in areas I’d never worked in before.

Social Media Team

I’ve also had the chance to work as part of the Social Media Team, taking part in the weekly meeting and helping to think of and design new content to post online. This has allowed me to do things I never thought I would, like organising Christmas Jumper Day 2021 and taking photos of everyone in their jumpers to post online! I’ve had a great time as part of the team, and can’t wait to see what exciting content we think up next.

Work-life balance

I’m keen to mention the social side of working at Dynamic. I know for many students, leaving behind the ‘student’ way of life can seem daunting. I know I was scared to jump into work and worried about whether it would be as much fun as being a student in Leeds. All I can say is that this is no longer a concern, and as excited as I am to be a student again in my final year, the social life that comes with working at Dynamic is incredible. 

On my first day, I was invited to the box that we have at Leeds Rhinos! This involved eating a three-course meal, a cheeseboard and the biggest pork pie I’ve ever seen, as well as watching a brilliant game of rugby. It only got better from there. I’ve been to lots of matches, partied at a Halloween quiz night and had a brilliant Christmas party. Essentially, I really feel that you get as much as you give at Dynamic, and your hard work is rewarded with an amazing time. I wouldn’t swap it for the world.

Overall, the work which I’ve done so far at Dynamic has pushed me to learn new skills and try new ways of working. I hoped that this experience would allow me to learn and develop, but I could have never imagined that it would touch my life in the way it has. So, to all of the people at Dynamic, who I now call not only my colleagues, but my friends, I want to say thank you for all you’ve given me so far and let you know how excited I am for what’s left to come.

I’m so grateful to have found a family in the most unexpected of times, and would say to anyone who’s thinking about joining Dynamic, whether as a placement or full time, that they should absolutely do it… it’s been the best choice of my life so far.

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