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From pulling pints to cracking code

Paddy McCall and Vice-Chancellor, Peter Horrocks

A father of two young children, Paddy McCall, 37 from Dungannon, decided to start studying for a degree in Computing and IT with The Open University  during 2015, with the goal of transitioning from working in retail to a career in software development.  

He says: “I had no clear plan as to how to achieve this transition and I had no experience of the IT industry.”

Many Open University students come from a diverse range of occupational backgrounds including hospitality, retail, customer service and administration and most have no previous experience of working within the industry they aspire to work in. 

The Open University understands the benefits of supporting students in gaining relevant industry experience alongside their studies and links actively with local employers to create work placement opportunities.

Paddy continues: “I realised that completing a placement year would give me an advantage in the job market once I graduate, so I applied for some of the internships advertised by The Open University and received lots of support from Nicola Joyce in the Belfast office throughout the application process.”

Paddy, who most recently worked as a Bar Manager, was successful in securing a one year Software Engineering Placement with SpotX based in the company's Belfast office and which he started in November 2017.  SpotX a video advertising and monetisation platform for media owners has its headquarters in Denver and offices in cities including New York, San Francisco, Sydney, Singapore, London, Amsterdam and Belfast.

“I have no doubt that I would not have been offered a placement role without all the help and support the OU gave me.  Transitioning from working in retail and hospitality to the IT industry will greatly improve my ability to secure full-time employment in the IT industry.  Working with technologies that complement my OU studies will help improve my performance on the modules I currently study.”

The Open University also organises a range of site visits and networking evenings in Northern Ireland to support students in developing employability related skills. Through attending these events Paddy was able to gain a valuable insight into the software development industry.

“I got the chance to meet with employees with a range of experience from interns and graduates to senior developers and company directors.  The industry insights I gained from speaking to these people have been invaluable, and have given me a realistic view of roles available within the industry.  Talking to people during the networking evenings gave me confidence in my own ability to achieve my goals of working within the industry.”

Paddy currently juggles a busy family life with a full time placement along with studying for his degree in Computing and IT.  Paddy is thoroughly enjoying his placement where he actively contributes to live projects, including recently delivering a presentation to the wider team, in addition to developing his knowledge of new technologies and learning from experienced Software Engineers. 

“The placement has helped me to gain a renewed confidence and motivation to complete my studies and achieve my career goals.  I would encourage anyone with no or limited industry experience to consider a placement to help them understand not just the roles available to them but to give them the opportunity to be better prepared to take on those roles once they complete their OU degree.”

For more information contact Nicola Joyce, Employability and External Engagement Manager at

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