Back from work experience of a lifetime in America


Last year, SecEd and Lightspeed Systems offered a lucky student and teacher the chance to visit California to spend a week at the firm's HQ. The winning duo, from St Ciaran's College in Northern Ireland, describe their experience.

Winning the prize of a trip to Lightspeed Systems’ Californian HQ was an exciting opportunity, not only for A level student Maria McSorley but also for her teacher Anna St George.

Maria, an A level ICT student, would gain a week’s work experience with an international network security and web-filtering company, while ICT co-ordinator Anna would get an insight into the latest technologies being used in schools.

Lightspeed has bases in America and the UK and develops network security and management solutions for schools, including network security, internet filtering, monitoring and management. The company’s software is used in more than 2,000 school districts in the US, UK and Australia. The trip took place this summer when the duo, from St Ciaran’s College in Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland, jetted off to Bakersfield, California, where Lightspeed Systems’ US headquarters are based.

Maria McSorley

“Once we arrived and settled in, we started the work experience as quickly as we could. I learned things that I would never have got the opportunity to learn at home. What struck me first was the homely and nurturing atmosphere Lightspeed provides for its employees. They are treated with the highest degree of respect and are all a huge part of the company.

Lightspeed deals with web filter, collaboration, security and network management for schools and during my experience I got to witness all of the main areas of operation.

We were shown the servers that Lightspeed uses and how the company works and is maintained. We spoke with people from every area, from marketing to design, social media to HTML coding, and video to business. We were not just told what they did, but we often got a first-hand view. As someone who is not completely sure about which area of ICT they want to go into, the trip allowed me to experience a range of options.

We were let loose on My Big Campus, Lightspeed’s online learning environment that combines use of Web 2.0 with a monitored platform providing network and student safety. We tried making “bundles” – a way to combine text, photos, videos and school work and link them together. After being shown by Gwen and Allison, we could easily make the bundles due to the social-media-like feel of the learning environment.

My Big Campus seems to be the way to go for children nowadays because they are consuming technology much more than they are using textbooks. 

I enjoyed learning about the design aspect and the marketing and promotion. We were shown a wide range of posters and videos that Lightspeed has created. They explained to me how they made them, providing expert and professional tips.

I did not know nearly enough about servers, HTML and what is “behind” the screens and programmes, so working alongside professionals in this area has helped me see and learn how to do it. Since coming home, I have been working on this area of ICT a lot.

Elsewhere, I was able to see the marketing team in action and this is another area I’m now considering for my own future. My experience was amazing and I cannot thank Lightspeed Systems enough for their help, patience and time. I have learned so much about myself and what I would like to do at university.”

Anna St George

“The trip to Lightspeed was an exciting opportunity as it enabled me to gain an insight into how organisations that cater for educational software and web-filtering work. Lightspeed’s slogan is ‘Empowering IT–Transforming Education’ and having spent a week watching them at work, they definitely demonstrate this.

I spent much of my time learning about the My Big Campus learning environment. What struck me most was that it looked and felt like a social networking site, therefore students are more encouraged to use it. Lightspeed uses “those in the know” to enhance how their products work. Some of their staff used to be teachers others have recently left school, and they also receive feedback from those who use their services.

I feel honoured to have spent a week with Lightspeed. Everyone we met there was friendly, inquisitive, enthusiastic about their job (which is very infectious), as well as being slightly “enamoured” by our accents!

  • Anna St George is ICT co-ordinator and Moria McSorley an ICT student from St Ciaran’s College in Ballygawley, Co. Tyrone.

Further information
CAPTION: American adventure: The Lightspeed offices in Bakersfield, California (top) and a montage of images from the trip (above)



Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Claim Free Subscription