Nik Rahmel (BSc Information Technology Management for Business, 2015)
Volunteer in the spotlight – Nik Rahmel (BSc Information Technology Management for Business, 2015)
BBC iPlayer software engineer Nik Rahmel (BSc IT Management for Business, 2015) helped XTV with their coverage of the 2017 UK general election and has talked about his experience at Exeter with prospective students at Open Days and Offer Holder Days. He tells us more about his career and why he volunteers to help current Exeter students.
What do you do and where do you work?
I’m a software engineer at BBC iPlayer. We are quite a small team of 5 engineers, working on the business layer of the whole thing. That means we create and provide the data that powers the website, the mobile app, and all the TV apps.
Right now we have a big focus on personalised content - now that everyone has to sign into iPlayer, it enables us to make what we show on the homepage more relevant to our users. To give a simple example, don’t recommend Top of the Lake at the top of the page when they have already watched it. But there’s a lot of scope to do more advanced data science, and it’s a very interesting time in a ‘disrupted industry’ at the moment!
And, because we’re the BBC, and have a certain duty to our audience, that comes with unique challenges to ‘escape the bubble’ that our competitors may be building around users to increase viewership.
How did you get into working in your field?
First of all, I studied IT Management for Business, which was essentially 50% Computer Science modules. This helped to lay the foundations for a career in the field. But during my time at Exeter I also got heavily involved with the Guild, and especially Student Media/Student TV. I was technical manager at XTV and later Station Manager, and was also on the committee of Exeposé and Exeposé Online. As part of this I got opportunities to work in TV production - the Guild and XTV worked with Kudos on Broadchurch and got students involved there.
After all of this the BBC seemed like a pretty good fit for me, so I applied and was offered a graduate role on their Software Engineering Graduate Scheme on which I started straight after graduating. I spent rotations in Journalism Production Systems, the iPlayer homepage team and BBC News before I ended up in my current role in the iPlayer Business Layer as a mid-tier Software Engineer after 18 months on the scheme.
What is it like working in your role?
We are quite a small and autonomous team of engineers. We don’t have a dedicated project manager or product owner, and liaise with our stakeholders (mostly the iPlayer Homepage team, the mobile App, and the TV apps) directly as engineers. Obviously the focus of the role is in software engineering, hands-on coding and operations, but I do enjoy the added variety of managing and being involved in deciding what we do, how we do it, and when we do it. There is scope to bring in our own ideas - we have 10% of our time dedicated to individual explorative work away from the roadmap or set tasks where we can just play around with an interesting concept or idea, and demonstrate potential impact to the rest of the team.
We each take on responsibilities we feel comfortable with, and there’s a lot of support from each other towards our individual and team objectives with a lot of openness about what they are and where we stand on those.
What are your top tips for getting into working in your field?
It probably depends on what interests someone most, but demonstrating in multiple aspects of the industry is probably key. Not being contemptuous of the hard computer science skills, but on the Grad Scheme we had plenty of people who focused on other subjects during their studies, such as acoustics or maths, which gives them something special to contribute to the teams they’ve ended up in (those two are now working in Radio/Music team and the Personalised Recommendations team which is more algorithm-heavy). A healthy interest in the media and the landscape of the market is always a bonus.
And finally, what inspires you to volunteer your time to help Exeter students?
During my time at Exeter, I always found it great when we had help from alumni or could organise talks/workshops from former students who are now in the industry to see how things are done. Whilst ’software engineering’ doesn’t quite give the same opportunity for hands-on workshops as a years-long career in TV production, I still hope I can be of help to others by offering to volunteer.
Date: 12 March 2018