DFC is used to solving challenges for our clients – but we recently had a challenge of our own. How to provide the best experience to Tom Buxton, our Summer Placement, during these challenging times?
In mid-March of this year the entire DFC team left our vibrant offices and relocated to our kitchen tables, loft spaces and newly purchased IKEA desks, due to the lockdown measures implemented to protect us from COVID-19. How long it was going to last, no one knew. That didn’t stop us being hopeful that our chocolates in our desks wouldn’t be stale by the time we returned.
We had two Summer Placements due to start, although given our entire team were just finding our feet with the working from home set up, we weren’t sure whether our Summer Placements would gain adequate experience and support with the same set up. So we had to decide whether to go ahead, to postpone or to cancel.
DFC was at its busiest yet, so in true DFC style, the directors asked the employees what they wanted to do. The employees decided that DFC could at least have one Summer Placement given the time we had left of the summer and their impending return to university, if they were happy to work from home. Given this was new ground for us, we made the hard decision to defer our second Summer Placement for the time being, so that both students could have the best experience possible.
Tom started with us in July. IT equipment was couriered and discussions were had regarding how we could all make our Summer Placement Tom feel like he was really part of the team. This included an induction with regular production reviews, CPDs, project reviews, design team meetings and our company wide weekly social call (known to some as Beer O’Clock), all via Microsoft Teams, and a socially distanced site visit and office visit.
Now we can conclude that it was a great six weeks having Tom as part of the team. It was a bit of a risk, and we have gained some learnings along the way, but without taking risks and adapting we run the risk of becoming obsolete. Instead, DFC will continue to adapt to change and the new ways of working whilst expanding our team and maintaining our values.
Some words from our working from home Summer Placement Tom:
As I draw towards the end of my 6 week internship, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Design Fire Consultants. Due to the ongoing situation I have been mostly working from home and I was initially sceptical as to how I would communicate and keep up to date with the team. In addition to this, my bright orange bedroom walls and occasional barking dog were never going to provide the most professional background to my calls. However, with DFC’s friendly, supportive and organised approach to work, I have had a valuable insight into fire safety engineering.
The combination of video calls and screen sharing meant my induction sessions and project discussions could be carried out clearly and concisely. This ease of communication allowed me instant help and advice when needed. I have been involved in a wide variety of exciting projects: an arena, student accommodation and a multi-storey car park, to name a few. Not only were the projects varied, the tasks were equally diverse. I particularly enjoyed the analysis of potential fires, involving problem solving and use of engineering judgement.
I have always felt the tasks given to me are engaging and challenging and I can explicitly see how my work has added to a project. It has been interesting to see how topics learnt at university apply to real life working situations and this will give me better understanding in my future studies.
Virtual coffee breaks and catchups enabled me to hear which projects people were working on, but more importantly some friendly banter. A site visit allowed me to witness fire-stopping (which I had previously researched) first-hand and introduced me to the complexities of completing a large project to a deadline. Working in the London office gave me an idea of what a typical day may have been like and another chance to meet members of the team in person.
Overall, I have learnt a huge amount from the knowledgeable, experienced team at DFC and have developed an eagerness to continue learning. I am extremely grateful to DFC for ensuring this internship went ahead given the circumstances.
DFC really enjoyed having Tom as part of the team and we are delighted Tom found the experience rewarding.
We wish Tom all the best in his penultimate year at Edinburgh University.
- Posted by Matthew Eyre
- On 4th September 2020