In a virtual world the sky is no longer the limit
Kayleigh Oliver began her career as one of just six women in a room full of more than 100 computing students. Just over 10 years later she now works as QA and Release Manager at Immerse, a virtual reality training software company, while also running her own app development business in her spare time. We spoke to Kayleigh about the exciting real-world opportunities opening up in the virtual environment.
The new BSc in Computer Science, launched by the University of London and member institution Goldsmiths, has been developed to meet demand for talent in the most advanced technologies, including virtual reality.
Virtual reality is a really exciting field because there is so much potential. With VR, people can access training wherever they’re based around the world – with our platform all they need is a headset and a link to the scenario.
When Facebook spent $2 billion in 2014 to acquire Oculus VR, a small start-up specialising in VR headsets, confidence and interest in virtual reality soared. Now, with the global market predicted to be worth $49.7 billion by 2023, companies across a diverse range of industries are investing in the trend, eager to capitalise on the potential applications of both virtual reality and augmented reality.
One such application is in training - virtual reality software company, Immerse, works with a range of clients, from Shell to EY, designing bespoke training programmes in VR. Kayleigh Oliver has worked for Immerse for more than two years, managing a team of QA engineers.
“It’s my role to ensure that every product we release is high quality and that the underlying infrastructure running the VR technology works correctly, however and wherever it’s being accessed. I’m good at it because I've got a good attention to detail – everything has to feel exactly right. It’s a highly technical job but you also need to be able to communicate clearly and accurately, writing precise reproduction steps to fix any bugs you identify. And being virtual reality, it’s also a really physical role to fully test the functionality – no need to hit the gym after work!”
Industry estimates suggest more than a billion people will regularly access virtual reality and augmented reality content by 2020. Kayleigh believes more companies should consider the benefits of VR technology for their business.
“Virtual reality is a really exciting field because there is so much potential. One of the clients we have worked with is a leader in mobile satcomms and uses satellites worth around £80 million. They needed to be able to train their staff to use that equipment without risking wear and tear – and without having to pay to bring everyone to the desert to practice on the real satellites. With VR, people can access the training wherever they’re based around the world – all they need is a headset and a link to the scenario.”
Kayleigh studied her degree in software engineering more than a decade ago. However, as she explained, while the technology surrounding VR continues to advance at pace, the skills and qualities needed for a successful career remain the same.
My degree taught me how to learn programming languages. If you learn the core elements – data structures, loops, algorithms – you can apply that to any language that is developed in the future.
“Hardly any of the programming languages I learned back then are still being used. But my degree taught me how to learn languages – how to pick things up quickly, test them and work out what I liked. If you learn the core elements of a language – data structures, loops, algorithms – you can apply that to any language that is developed in the future.
“Beyond the technical understanding you gain, studying a degree teaches you essential soft skills you’ll need in any job. Things like how to work in a team of people, all of whom have different priorities; and how to communicate technical information to non-technical people. Tech is always evolving and new software is constantly being launched – that’s one of the exciting things about it – but those soft skills will be useful throughout your career.”
Beyond the technical understanding you gain, studying a degree teaches you essential soft skills you’ll need in any job.
In addition to her VR role, Kayleigh has also set up her own app development business, Junction 5. Her advice to budding entrepreneurs is simple – don’t be afraid to fail, just learn quickly from your experiences.
“To run your own business you have to be very determined and motivated to stay ahead of the curve. Make sure you’re keeping up with what’s going on in the industry and don’t be afraid to experiment with new devices and software. You might fail, just make sure you fail fast, learn from it and move on. Working in tech is so rewarding because everyone loves what they do. If you love technology then it’s not just a job – it’s a passion.”