Student placements in their own words: Thanus at GSK

We’re excited to feature the placement story of Thanus, a Computer Science student at KCL who took part in an industrial placement. What was the work experience like – especially through virtual means? Read on to find out!

Thanus smiling
Image used with permission from Thanus


Hi everyone! I’m currently completing a four-year Computer Science degree at King’s College London, which includes a placement year in industry.  I chose a course with an Industrial Placement, as I wanted to know what working life would be like after University. For my 3rd year I had to pick my placement, and I decided to go for a clinical programming role at GSK

GSK was the place I wanted to work at, as their values was something that matched my way of seeing things. I wanted to work at a place that combined my knowledge of technology with my interest in medicine, and GSK was a perfect organisation for me to work at.


Starting the placement

At the start of the placement, I was very nervous, as I didn’t know what I would be asked to do, or if I had the skills GSK required or even how to act in a professional workplace. But all this was learnt one by one as my placement progressed. At the beginning of my placement, I was given lots of training to get me up to date with GSK processes and programming skills. Learning about how GSK processed or introduced a drug into production was very interesting, as I didn’t know how many teams and how many processes were involved from creating to getting the drug into production. Not only was I then adapting to GSK processes, but I was evolving my programming skills by using my University knowledge and applying them to learn new programming languages that such as SAS and R.

What I do daily

Currently, I’m part of a team where Clinical Programmers analyse data from clinical trials. The team I am part of is formed of many people from the UK, US and India. It’s a great way to experience how people interact and think. However not every day was the same, as I was constantly introduced to different systems and work that I could be working on in GSK.

There were many things I had to learn including how to navigate and create summary tables and listings using GSK developed systems like HARP. I was able to adapt my knowledge that I had, to the way that GSK working on certain projects. At the beginning of the assignment, the work took me a month to complete, then a week to do something similar, then less than an hour to do another similar task. That was an amazing feeling!


Insights into working life and new journeys

This Industrial Placement has given me an insight into working life, where not everything is work work work! I was able to participate in helping local communities, charity work and talks about mental health and character development. All this was something that I didn’t know you can do when working. So, learning about this made me realise that even after University, students are constantly evolving and learning.

In the placement, I was introduced to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). STEM is an organisation that promotes and makes awareness of STEM subjects and careers to students, schools and parents. I was able to become a STEM Ambassador and start my journey on becoming a Platinum Cadet, which made me get involved to indirectly help people understand the value of STEM subjects and careers.


What I got out of the placement experience

My placement was during the Coronavirus pandemic, so we didn’t get to experience the full work life schedule. However, the experience of working, networking and learning at GSK was still met at a very high standard at GSK. Having regular meetings to daily catch up with fellow students to daily work and learning new information every week was something that I got to experience. Placement at an office in GSK would’ve been great, however I am still grateful for this journey and the future journey I will be having with GSK for my placement year.

7 months into my placement, and I can truly say I have found great value and skills from this placement I have undertaken. This has given me a chance to see the potential I have in a working environment and get an insight into life after graduation.


My advice to fellow students

Finally, my advice to those who are wondering whether to take a placement year would be to take it and use it as a chance to gain valuable experiences. Not only will it develop you as a person, but it will give you an insight into the potential you have. I have found myself to be working on skills that I never thought I’d be working on. Overall, my time here at GSK has been magnificent and I will be looking forward to experiencing more at my time here at GSK!

During my placement year, I have been able to get an idea of what I want to do after University, whilst gathering key skills and experiences that I wouldn’t have been able to get if I didn’t decide to this placement. Key skills and experiences that I am referring to include: knowledge on various subjects (including programming and medicines), ideas on how to tackle both life and career hurdles, intel on career pathways, developing soft skills (i.e. confidence) and most importantly making personal and business level connections with people at GSK!