Maddie Davies graduated from the University of Exeter, Streatham Campus, with BA English in 2018. She’s currently Content Beauty Writer for online beauty retailer Feelunique.
Upon graduating from Exeter I went on to travel around Sri Lanka for a month and returned home to begin job hunting. In August and September, I started an internship with London Evening Standard supporting the fashion and beauty team in the run-up and duration of London Fashion Week. During this fulfilling (unpaid) experience, I began applying for jobs that centralised around writing in the beauty industry, which is now one of the biggest industries in the UK. One day I applied for the role as a Beauty Writer for Feelunique; the next day, I was being asked to attend an interview the following week. A month later, I started my first job as a graduate at Feelunique based in Covent Garden.
“My part-time job throughout University was working as a make-up artist for brands such as Benefit Cosmetics and MAC. As an English student, it made sense to combine my love for beauty and my enthusiasm for writing.”
My part-time job throughout university was working as a make-up artist for brands such as Benefit Cosmetics and MAC. As an English student, it made sense to combine my love for beauty and my enthusiasm for writing. I love that I am working for one of the largest industries in the UK, an industry that is creative and constantly evolving. It’s the first major industry to take a positive step forward in animal cruelty and the reduction of plastic. It’s also an industry that welcomes all ages and genders. We are also capturing a new generation – one that is actually interested in what goes into their products, what it does for their skin and how it impacts the wider environment. I am constantly learning in this industry and I am forever excited by what’s to come.
I loved the campus – it felt like a little student bubble plonked right on top of the hill that couldn’t be burst. I loved that I could do my work somewhere different every day and not get bored of it (even if 60% of my dissertation was written in Queen’s Cafe drinking flat whites and eating pastries).
I choose to study at Exeter because of its tremendous reputation for teaching, particularly for English. The syllabus excited me from the moment I saw it on the first open day in June 2016 – I just knew that I was going to study there. With my home being South Wales, the hills and greenery of Exeter didn’t feel too far away from what I was used to. So, I think the idea of a home-away-from-home had a bit of a part to play in my decision making, too.
I’ve learned how to interact with PRs and how that industry works so well with the world of beauty. I’ve had the experience of interviewing major leaders in this field, such as Charlotte Tilbury, Huda Kattan and Trinny Woodall. Throughout my time as an intern I was fortunate enough to be published in Cosmopolitan, Red Magazine, and London Evening Standard Online.
“Email as many people as you can for work experience – for some of my internships I emailed every address I could find (a total of 48) and only one got back to me. From there it snowballed, so don’t be afraid to do the same.”
Get as much experience on your CV as possible; this industry seeks grafters, if they see you’ve been working unpaid, that shows them how much you want to succeed. I hope to go on to be a senior beauty writer and from there I’d be excited to see where the industry takes me.
Email as many people as you can for work experience – for some of my internships I emailed every address I could find (a total of 48) and only one got back to me. From there it snowballed, so don’t be afraid to do the same. Appreciate that you will have to do the rubbish jobs. Mine included picking up dry-cleaning, making tea and cleaning fruit. It doesn’t mean that they don’t like you, some like to see how much you’re willing to do – others are simply too busy to do it themselves. Make sure you’re on the pulse of newness in this field. Something new and exciting is always happening here and to show that you know that is a huge bonus.
Jennifer Fox graduated from the University of Exeter in 2017 with BA Modern Languages. She’s currently a GBP working for the University helping with the transition to a blended learning environment.
I completed my Bachelor’s degree in French and Italian at the University of Exeter; a four-year course with an Erasmus year studying in Italy, and a fantastic experience. In my final year, I felt like I wasn’t yet finished with studying and decided to enrol on a Master’s course in Linguistics at Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. The first year of my Master’s was spent in Belgium and the second in southeast France, where I completed one semester as an Erasmus student and one as an intern at Université Grenoble-Alpes. By the time I’d finished my dissertation and graduated in September 2019, I felt ready to return to the UK, and to transition from student life to the world of work (plus I was tired of being poor!).
Why I applied for a GBP role
As a University of Exeter graduate, I received emails from the Career Zone about graduate opportunities and while I was abroad, I subscribed to the GBP Bulletin to keep up to date with the kind of positions that were being advertised. A Graduate Business Partnership (GBP) role enables you to make that first step into the job market without entering a graduate scheme or needing vast amounts of professional experience to apply for a job. I was attracted to the HE sector and although at the time I hadn’t completely made up my mind that this was the sector I wanted to pursue a career in, I knew that I could use the skills and experience I’d acquired as a student and could apply what I learned in a GBP role to future positions elsewhere.
“A GBP role is a developmental one, which means it is flexible and allows you to take control of what you want to learn.”
How my current role started and how it has developed
I started in my role as a Student Experience Support Officer in January this year. When it began, my primary responsibility was to provide administrative support for Exeter Law School with their Academic Personal Tutoring system. I scheduled and coordinated academic personal tutor meetings by liaising with academics and students. I monitored progress, collated feedback from both staff and students and presented a report to senior staff members. In addition, I assisted in Academic Personal Tutor training and helped run Senior Tutor forums, working alongside colleagues to enhance the academic personal tutoring framework in place at the University.
When all University staff were instructed to work remotely and all face-to-face interactions with students were ceased a week before lockdown, I knew that my work and responsibilities were about to change dramatically. Many of the projects I was working on could not continue and events I was organising would no longer be able to take place because students were returning home. I took the initiative to speak to my line manager and the line manager of the Technology Enhanced Learning team, who were based in the office opposite mine and with whom I’d worked on some previous tasks and I transferred to their team.
The work I do now is completely different. I assist with transitioning teaching and assessments online; producing support materials and advising academics, and professional services staff on a range of software and technologies. This required a lot of self-training, as I had to familiarise myself very quickly with software I had never used before, from Microsoft Teams and SharePoint to screencasting and video applications like Panopto, because I needed to teach other members of staff how to use them. I have also been teaching myself how to navigate the University’s virtual learning environment, ELE, as an administrative user and have built online courses and exams. In the coming months, I will be closely involved with Project Enhance and Enhance Internships, where my team and I will be providing advice, support and training for the SCP Digital Learning Assistants and GBP Graduate Digital Learning Developers, which are really exciting opportunities to assist with blended learning.
“I would highly recommend a GBP role to start a career. Not only does it help you to identify your professional ambitions but it also lays the foundations to achieve them.”
My greatest success and how a GBP will help me progress in my career
I would say my greatest success has been learning to take initiative and adapt in times of uncertainty. I was nominated for an Above & Beyond recognition for overcoming challenges in a new team during the high-pressure Covid-19 situation. Moving to the TEL team was the best decision I could have made; it has given more security and value to my work and strengthened my self-belief – I would never have thought I would be able to do a technology-based role, let alone succeed in one!
A GBP role is a developmental one, which means it is flexible and allows you to take control of what you want to learn. When I first started, my line manager asked me what skills I wanted to acquire and improve to bolster my CV and we tailored my tasks and projects to achieve this. I have used the role to familiarise myself with working in an office environment within a large organisation and across different teams, often meeting and collaborating with different types of people. I have improved my confidence in communicating with senior stakeholders and learned skills in team working, problem solving and resilience, all of which will be indispensable for the next steps in my career.
I would highly recommend a GBP role to start a career. Not only does it help you to identify your professional ambitions but it also lays the foundations to achieve them. It has allowed me to work alongside a range of different people, with different outlooks and knowledge, to hone my transferable skills and to build valuable professional relationships.
To mark the launch of the ENHANCE internships Jonnie Critchley shares how his career has progressed since beginning as a GBP intern at the University of Exeter.
As Business Manager to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), I’m fortunate to work closely alongside senior educational leaders across the University, and with the Officers and Student Representatives of the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union. I have played a role in developing the University’s new Education Strategy, as well as other important projects such as a recent review of Wellbeing. Now, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and the challenges and pressures it brings, it’s a privilege to work with so many inspiring colleagues, all focused on doing the very best by the students of Exeter. It’s also exciting to see the number of Graduate Business Partnership (GBP) and Student Campus Partnership (SCP) opportunities available to get involved in this work – a perfect example of the kind of impact ambitious graduates and students can have in such roles.
“…the GBP opportunity stood out to me…in providing a solution to that frequent problem of ‘need experience to get a job, need a job to get experience’”
I’ve progressed through a series of roles within the University, but my first was as a GBP Administration and Projects Assistant working in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences (CEMPS), in 2014. I’m not an Exeter graduate; I had just finished a Master’s Degree at Warwick, was looking for my first job, and was particularly attracted to a career in Higher Education. HE, by and large, isn’t a sector that you enter via graduate schemes like Finance or Law, so the GBP opportunity stood out to me. It was also perfect, in providing a solution to that frequent problem of ‘need experience to get a job, need a job to get experience’ by offering a graduate-level role structured around specific projects and training opportunities.
In my GBP role I took on a range of administrative duties as well as specific projects such as organising two academic conferences and a series of public lectures. I used the role to learn the basics of working in an office environment, to benefit from as many training opportunities as I could, and to start to build my understanding of how a University worked and to build relationships with academic and professional services colleagues within CEMPS which I’ve maintained since. The networking events and workshops organised as part of the GBP programme itself were also beneficial, for learning team working, problem solving and leadership skills. I should also say that I met my now wife at a GBP training event!
“I spent just under 8 months as a GBP, and it provided a fantastic foundation for my career since. The experience gained could have been translated into any number of careers; I was able to progress within the University into roles which have always had students and education at their heart.”
I spent just under 8 months as a GBP, and it provided a fantastic foundation for my career since. The experience gained could have been translated into any number of careers; I was able to progress within the University into roles which have always had students and education at their heart. I worked in Student Recruitment, and then in industrial engagement roles where I was fortunate to be closely involved in the launch of Exeter’s first Degree Apprenticeship programmes. All along I was building skills and knowledge that have helped me to where I now find myself, including leading high-level discussions with senior management and external stakeholders. I was also really fortunate to have the opportunity to represent the University externally, including building a successful relationship with employers such as IBM and BT, and working at an international Mining Industry conference in Toronto, Canada.
“I’m still early in my career journey, and believe that the success and opportunities I’ve enjoyed to date have all stemmed, in various ways, from the start which the GBP scheme gave me.”
I began my current role working with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) in August 2018 after spending some time as Student Recruitment Manager in CEMPS. I’m still early in my career journey, and believe that the success and opportunities I’ve enjoyed to date have all stemmed, in various ways, from the start which the GBP scheme gave me. In particular, when I look back, it was the respect with which I was treated as a GBP, often by senior colleagues in the College that made a big difference; as a GBP and in roles since I always felt I had a contribution to make. That couldn’t be more true of the GBPs and SCPs who’ll get involved in enhancing education for Exeter students in response to Covid-19, through the Enhance Internships.
Martin Corck is Director of Athletes Inspire, a small-scale business operating in the sports consultancy sector.
This post offers an employer’s perspective, and gives our valued new potential workforce (you, the student) some insight into what’s happening right now. As a potential Graduate taking your first steps towards a new career, doing nothing is not an option for you! I urge you to take action, review your professional job search plan, research carefully, and build intelligence and insight so that you can make well-informed decisions.
As we all experience a phased exit from lockdown, we’re entering uncharted territory. As the owner of Athletes Inspire, a small sports consultancy business supporting the Government’s ambition to create a more active nation, I will have to think and plot my way ahead, for a new look world of business. New thoughts, new values, new systems.
From the perspective of a student preparing to enter the world of industry and meaningful employment, it is recognised that this will be a confusing and testing time for you. Well-rehearsed and long planned strategies for job searching will need to be reconsidered, career choices will need reviewing in terms of the viability and coming back on stream of each sector. Working environments that are being offered to you will require careful reconsideration. You will need to think about whether you need the stimulus of shared team working and an office environment, or whether you are equipped to work from home, saving you commuting cost and potential risk to your health.
“All business will have been impacted by the pandemic, and for many it is a simple matter of survival or closure. For all it has become necessary to re-strategize, reset, and renew our thinking, our policies and our actions.”
All business will have been impacted by the pandemic, and for many it is a simple matter of survival or closure. For all it has become necessary to re-strategize, reset, and renew our thinking, our policies and our actions. The impact on my business has to date been controllable, albeit challenging as we are a remote based organisation, so I spoke to my Brother in Law who is busy heading up the HR function in a global company operating in the highly volatile petro-chemical sector. Interestingly, no matter the size or scale of the business, the challenges and principles moving forward are very similar.
Like all good planning the key to sustainable success for a business is to look forward and to plan back. Intelligent businesses are rehearsing what the new order might look like, how their sector might be impacted, and how long it will take to recover, and are they already well advanced for a return to life in the post Corona era. Office life as we have known it may look different with reduced investment into office space, split on-site teams, phased returns, managed social distancing and a real shift towards home-based working.
There will certainly be a higher investment in technology which serves to strongly underpin any business with an intent to succeed. Increasing VPN bandwidth capacity and new internet-based protocols are most likely in many firms. The use of Zoom for example by so many businesses to deal with multi- person team and client meetings has become the acceptable norm.
“As business owners we have a duty of care to our employees both within the workspace, and whilst engaged in business activity on our behalf, so clear guidance and personal responsibility are vital to the future.”
A return to dedicated desk space to avoid the potential for contamination through hot desking is likely, stronger protocols in terms of personal interaction, and a whole new style of management is likely to be needed. As business owners we have a duty of care to our employees both within the workspace, and whilst engaged in business activity on our behalf, so clear guidance and personal responsibility are vital to the future.
Many will have learned during this destabilising period that we don’t need to be face to face with each other to be effective managers, but that empathy, more collaboration in our approach and innovative ways of working will help us to become hallmarks of us becoming better business leaders. The sense of ‘community’ extends beyond our Thursday night neighbourhood applause of the key workers. Finding effective ways to work effectively from home in a controlled environment will require creative solutions. Health and safety and staff welfare checks will be needed to ensure suitable working environments as part of good team welfare for any business that is rebalancing its office/home based working arrangements. As a potential employee, it is important for you to clearly articulate what you need and want to feel safe and productive.
Most businesses will need to rethink staff/team engagement and the underlying culture that is so vital to making any business successfully tick. There are likely to be reviews of home working policy, relaxing or stiffening of dress codes (home based pyjama days are but a temporary indulgence), and the investment into professional interaction through digital platforms to create a successful and motivated workforce. We are already seeing flexible and innovative ways to operate, with my Brother in Law introducing into an established multinational organisation ‘bring your pet to the virtual meeting’ sessions, a weekly engagement opportunity for all employees with the CEO, a tripling of regular internal communications to keep colleagues engaged and motivated, the introduction of fun based activity such as virtual quizzes, post work virtual social networking and success ‘shout outs’ which name and fame particular achievements. All of these are measures beyond the normal practice. These have all been utilised so that employees feel blended and bonded as a team, not as an isolated end of the line call worker. Full staff meetings have become more common rather than the usual segmented or departmental approach adopted by his, and so many organisations.
“Key to much of this will for businesses to reset the mix of metrics by which personal and team performance results are measured… As the team are working in a more isolated way, I am listening for signs of anxiety or frustration. The mental wellbeing of my team is my absolute priority.”
Key to much of this will for businesses to reset the mix of metrics by which personal and team performance results are measured. Whist results are key to any operation, balanced, motivated, and committed teams and individuals will be vital in a new era of trust based working relationships. I find myself spending more time taking a keen interest in how my colleagues are coping with lockdown on a personal level, and I have strengthened my listening skills. As the team are working in a more isolated way, I am listening for signs of anxiety or frustration. The mental wellbeing of my team is my absolute priority.
So that does this mean for you, as you ponder how to approach your next step in your job search? As I have already suggested, start again with mapping out your options, research the viability of your preferred sector and targeted companies, be clear on your personal preferences to office or home based working, be honest about your capacity and discipline to work remotely in a structured and disciplined manner. Perhaps most importantly is for you to have a clear sense of the underlying culture, support and professional development offered by your potential new employer. Investment in people still sits way above any other quality you should seek as a new entrant. You will offer enthusiasm, fresh creativity, and a new way of thinking to your employer. In return you will need nurturing, valuing as a colleague and coaching as you become business hardened. The new interview style will be more a two-way process than ever before – you need to make sure you are buying into good practice, not simply good promises.
“You will offer enthusiasm, fresh creativity, and a new way of thinking to your employer. In return you will need nurturing, valuing as a colleague and coaching as you become business hardened.”
Ensure that you review your set of transferable skills, and most of all, use the internet and personal networks to gain the intelligence you will need to make informed career choices. There is a plethora of free to access podcasts, webinars, and masterclasses for you to tap into out there.
Yes, the world is changing. Risk management and personal responsibility in decision making has made us all more accountable for our own futures and destiny. To make a better world we must start with creating a better self.
As employers we want our new entrants to survive and to thrive. We are here to welcome you in, irrespective of the challenges that we currently face.
Phoebe Chubb is a current BSc Politics and International Relations with EEA at the University of Exeter.
(This blog post was written before the COVID-19 pandemic.)
In my second year at University, I went to the autumn term Year Abroad meeting for students studying Social Science. I had always considered doing a study abroad year but wasn’t sure I wanted to be saddled with more debt by signing up to another year of studying. An opportunity arose when I was told about a more financially viable alternative the University offered: working abroad.
One year later, I am working for a start-up in the vibrant capital city of Germany, Berlin. I have been here for three months; I have sampled the food, moved flats three times, joined a netball club and met a number of interesting people from all around the world. To alleviate some of the qualms you may have about undertaking a year abroad, I thought I would share my initial reflections of this unique and wonderful experience the University supports.
“On reflection, the challenges I have faced have moulded me into a more resilient individual who is better prepared to deal with complications that arise, complications, which I have no doubt I will inevitably face in my later working life.”
I managed to procure a digital marketing internship for nine months with Labforward, a company that sells software solutions for scientists: an Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) and a Lab Execution System. Now, if you had asked me prior to this internship what both of these were I would not have had a clue. I didn’t study science at A Level, and I do a Politics and International Relations (BSc) degree at University, so I wouldn’t say that I am well-versed in laboratory software. Yet, as a digital marketer, I have found that a large amount of my time is devoted to writing about new technological advancements which revolutionise the way we work, disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Automation and Internet of Things, a job which I thoroughly enjoy. This in itself demonstrates the breadth of internship opportunities that are available with this scheme, don’t limit yourself to one sector, try new things, and make the most of the opportunities working abroad facilitates.
“In this role, I have been encouraged to try new things and develop my skills further, and as a result, I have progressed as an individual both in skillset and in character.”
Unfortunately, my move to Berlin has not been without complications. When I first arrived I had a housing issue as the room I had booked was not as pictured. As a result, I had to move rooms three times and deal with frustrating admin tasks to try and solve the problems which I had no control over. Whilst this initially made me miss the simplicity of University life, on reflection, the challenges I have faced have moulded me into a more resilient individual who is better prepared to deal with complications that arise, complications, which I have no doubt I will inevitably face in my later working life.
I realise that I have been incredibly lucky with my internship. In the workplace, I am surrounded by a driven, talented team of individuals who have alleviated all my prior concerns about working abroad. Working for Labforward has made me realise what type of company I want to work at in the future, after all, working for a company where you are content is incredibly important. In this role, I have been encouraged to try new things and develop my skills further, and as a result, I have progressed as an individual both in skillset and in character.
As for those who worry about being away from friends in the year abroad, it is a consideration, yet should not dissuade you from going abroad. Whilst I miss my friends from university a lot, I’ve found that many people in my year have chosen to do a year abroad, choosing either to study or work. I have a friend who is currently somewhere in Japan, one who is in Brussels and another is in Spain. Plus if you make the effort you get to know people where you’re working, since being in Berlin I have joined a friendly netball club which has allowed me to meet people from all over the world.
“This internship hasn’t just helped me transfer academic skills into the working environment, it has been a journey which has gifted me a number of experiences one can only receive by living and working in a different country.”
My work abroad year has invigorated me with a drive to look into new areas of politics that I had not considered before. Writing about technological advancements has made me question what political and social impacts digitalisation will incur, a subject area I am keen to write my dissertation on. Already I have gained valuable experience that I can use to bolster my CV to acquire post-graduation employment. This internship hasn’t just helped me transfer academic skills into the working environment, it has been a journey which has gifted me a number of experiences one can only receive by living and working in a different country.
Georgia Humbert is a 2nd Year Business and Management with Industrial Experience (at Warner Bros).
I’m on my 7th month of an internship with http://spoton.net a web design company with whom I started in October 2019. I found the marketing internship through My Career Zone, and the experience has been amazing for developing my workplace skills, and has shown me where my strengths and weaknesses lie. I would really recommend everyone to consider doing one! I have the aim of working in either the fashion or the entertainment industry, so wanted to explore if marketing would suit me as a potential long-term career. My time with http://itseeze.com/ (subsidiary company of Spoton.net) has been really valuable for this and, as a result, have just secured a third year placement in marketing. Furthermore, it has provided me with clarity that creativity is one of my strengths and something I enjoy applying to my work, so I intend to pursue creative roles moving forward. Prior to the internship I had started a hand painted wall art business
and have subsequently found my own ways of marketing it, so it’s been great to push myself to go about things slightly differently, and I have learnt skills I will carry over to my personal work.
For everyone doing a term time internship, we all know that juggling lectures, assignments, societies, as well as this regular commitment can have its challenges. But now, working from home due to the Covid-19 lockdown is a new one to overcome. As I started the internship a while before lockdown, I have had to change from working in an office once a week to homeworking, a change that seemed a bit daunting. I have a desk at home which I work from and I structure my day as I would if I was going to the office. Despite the big adjustment I would say it’s nice to skip the long commute to Torquay! This means I wake up with time to get ready so I can start at 9am and take a lunch break as I would normally. I find that I tend to take more breaks in the day at home because my family is there, so I usually make up for it by working a bit later into the early evening. I find this actually helps my productivity because breaks help me to stay motivated and alert.
Luckily for me, the team at http://itseeze.com/ are really supportive and as a web-based company, pretty much all my work can be done remotely. The marketing team is very small with just three of us so it’s easy to stay in contact, mostly through email or Trello. Because of the nature of my work, which is often content creation or routine tasks, plus how we use online task managers, we didn’t often have meetings in the office so this hasn’t been a problem since lockdown measures.
The original plan was for me to work in the office for a whole week in April, after which I would finish my internship, but since lock down we have decided it would be more useful for the company if I stuck to working one day per week. It will be strange to finish the internship remotely after working in the office for a few months, but the change has been another learning experience in terms of being adaptive and organised to work independently.
If you are currently doing a term-time internship from home, here are some things I’ve learned from the transition which might help you:
Make sure you have all the resources you need
One of the main things to consider if you’re used to working in an office is transferring all the files, passwords you’ll need etc. It’s probably a good idea to ask your manager to do the transfer of essential data to you; for me that was email passwords and social media logins. I had a bit of a struggle to set up my work email from home but once it was managed it has been a lot easier to stay in contact with the rest of the company (Thunderbird is a great desktop app for this).
You might need to change how you are allocated tasks
Since I started at http://itseeze.com/ we have used Trello as a tool for my managers to give me tasks online, allowing us to all see my progress. If you are used to chatting to your supervisor about being given jobs to do, suggesting this could be a good idea as it is really clear and easy to use plus you can add attachments and messages. It will probably be useful to your manager at this time in particular, if you can get on with your tasks without having to constantly communicate, and this is a great way to do that.
Get used to working independently
As said before, every working environment is different, but if you run out of jobs to do it’s a good idea to have a list of other things to be getting along with without needing to be asked. For example, I have set up a Pinterest account for http://itseeze.com/ so I can spend time managing that. If you’re stuck for ideas, competitor research and new marketing ideas never go amiss! We have a routine of procedure for my colleagues to give me feedback, via either email or Trello, the week after I send it; this way we all know what time frames to expect and I can access all the feedback online.
Don’t worry too much and keep in contact
Checking in with your supervisor regularly with any questions or concerns is great for everyone, so they know how best to support you and can get a heads-up if things aren’t going to plan. It is understandable that the transition can take a bit of time to get used to, but the more you work independently the easier it becomes!
Our brand new edition of In the Zone, your essential careers magazine, launches today.
We’re taking Tokyo 2020 as our theme and looking at how to make your career journey a success. Hear from current students, recent graduates and the Careers team on everything from scoring a 10/10 at interviews, winning the postgraduate relay, standing out on the podium with LinkedIn, and sprinting across the finish line to land your dream graduate job.
In an extract from In the Zone, Katie Bennett, current BA Spanish and Management with UK Work Experience tells us how she hit the mark to succeed at a Deloitte assessment centre.
The Career Zone were extremely helpful when applying for my industrial placement. I booked onto the Deloitte Autumn Careers Evening through My Career Zone, which was instrumental in inspiring me to apply to their scheme. I subsequently attended a talk about how to prepare for psychometric tests, explored an array of online practice tests, and borrowed numerical reasoning books to refresh my maths skills and explain how to answer typical psychometric questions. Using the Industry Reports on My Career Zone Digital gave me a better insight into the Consulting sector, and what key skills are required. I also sought advice from the Business School Career Zone team, and attended their Careers Café to refine my CV, and get some last-minute advice for my assessment centre.
Do your research
The ‘Assessment Centre Tool’ on My Career Zone Digital was helpful in giving me an insight into what format the assessment centre could take, as well as information on how to best-perform in a group exercise, e-tray exercise, and interview. I researched the placement role, the company, and the industry by reading the company website, as well as forums, blogs and news articles, and by listening to podcasts. Doing so gave me a good foundation of knowledge which I could draw upon during interview. I looked at practice interview questions online, and planned out possible answers and practised answering them out loud. I re-read my CV and thought about where I had developed or demonstrated particular skills, linking these to the espoused values of the company.
On the day
For the presentation, I drew on my academic knowledge and online research, using company reports and reputable websites to form the basis of my ideas. Practising your presentation to a trusted friend/family member is helpful for making sure you can articulate your ideas fluently and keep to the time limit. Like my friends, I was most nervous about the group exercise. A useful tip would be to speak up as early as possible – you don’t have to be the first one to speak, or take on the role of primary leader, but try to say something early on so that you can find your voice and not get lost amongst everyone else’s ideas. This also stops the experience from becoming too overwhelming and enables you to become a confident and active member of the group. Remember that nominating yourself to be the timekeeper, and bringing quiet members of the group into the conversation, or showing your agreement with your teammates’ ideas, are effective ways of showing leadership and teamwork.
What’s it really like?
The assessment centre is a chance for you to perform to the best of your ability. Everyone is in the same boat as you, and will be a lot more collaborative and friendly than some of the forums suggest! I would advise you to bring along snacks to give you that boost of energy you might need throughout the day! Thorough preparation is key to building your confidence, but you should also have confidence in your abilities and who you are – the company sees potential in you and wants to get to know you better, so have some self-belief and do the best you can.
I’m pleased to say that my hard work paid off and I was delighted to accept an offer from Deloitte for an industrial placement. I’m really glad that I put a lot of time and effort into my application and the assessment centre, and I’m excited to start my placement next year.
Graham White graduated from the University of Exeter in BSc (Hons) Computer Science and Management Science in 2000, and has been working for IBM for 20 years since joining their graduate programme.
I work for IBM in the world-renowned IBM Research division. My focus is applied research within the Emerging Technologies group. In this role, I generally take new technology to our clients as part of a first-of-kind project which is always hugely interesting and very exciting. It is extremely varied as I can be talking to a client about a particular solution in the morning and in the afternoon I might be working on some fundamental research with my university partners. Hence, people in my job are typically very broadly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about technology but also have at least one area of deep technical skill.
It’s hard to pick just a few, but I wanted to share 3 projects I’ve been involved with in recent years:
I was involved with creating a system to automatically translate spoken English into British Sign Language. The project was created by IBM interns under the Extreme Blue programme (for which I would encourage everyone reading this to consider signing up to) that hooks up experienced technical people from IBM to mentor students during a summer project. Rather than describe it in detail, take a look at this 15 second clip to get a rough idea or listen to Helen explain it. Helen has since gone on to become one of the managers in my department. This is still one of the project we get asked about on a regular basis.
During 2018 I worked on a system to enhance rail travel codenamed Stepping Stone for people with disabilities and older people. This group of passengers find it harder to travel by train, and can often be extremely anxious while travelling. My solution was to create a mobile application that walks the passenger through their journey but does so by continuously linking them with a member of staff. So they can ask questions, get help, meet up with passenger service assistants and anything else they want at any point during their journey. It’s a bit like a WhatsApp type of interface where people can chat to station staff and staff on the train. It detects when they arrive at a station and contains a lot of features resulting from accessibility research so it can be used by people with visual or hearing difficulties, people with physical disabilities, learning difficulties, or older people.
A more commercial example of something very creative I’ve done is through our partnership with the Knorr food company. They approached us for help with a marketing campaign and through a period of consulting with them we came up with the idea of profiling flavours. The idea and tech we needed to implement involved working out the flavour profile in two respects: how people experience flavour and which ones they prefer; and which flavours different foods contain. In a broad sense, this allowed us to come up with a mapping between preferred flavour and different foods. It allowed Knorr to recommend certain products to particular individuals based entirely on the science behind which flavours they are most likely to enjoy.
To give a little more background to my career, starting from when I graduated with a Computer Science and Management Science degree, I still wasn’t entirely sure what career I wanted. I had narrowed my options to management consulting or computer programming. I applied for a few roles but was really attracted to IBM as it fitted my preference of a more technical job. After a 1 day interview in London and 2 day assessment centre in Winchester I was offered a place on the graduate scheme and started work at the rather lovely IBM Hursley on 4 September 2000. The site has a similar stately home history and campus feel to it as the Streatham Campus.
I formed the first Linux support team when the company invested $1 billion in transforming the IBM product line to work on Linux. My job was to provide support to the 3000 people working on site and consisted of being away from my desk a lot, either in a huge machine room working on servers or at people’s desks helping them more directly with one-to-one support. Since then, I have worked in a number of different roles that have taken me around the world. I have set up and worked on some of the world’s fastest super computers (they all run Linux); helped scientists crack some particularly hard problems such as mapping the human genome, weather prediction, seismic surveying and nuclear simulation; worked on teaching computers how to understand human speech, something we now fashionably call machine learning or artificial intelligence.
In celebration of International Women’s Day we’re profiling Liz Sherratt, who graduated from the University of Exeter in Mechanical Engineering 2009. She is currently Lifing Development Manager for Rolls-Royce.
What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?
Following graduation I joined the Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace graduate scheme. The scheme places graduates around different parts of the Civil Aerospace business so they understand the various functions and how they work together to deliver engines to market and service those engines.
During these placements I worked within Development Engineering which I particularly enjoyed and so I returned to this area upon completion of the scheme. Development Engineering define and deliver the testing required to demonstrate new engines are suitable for entry into service and that changes to existing engines are acceptable. During my time in Development I worked on engine tests, both in the UK and abroad, and completed flight test campaigns to make changes to the engine mounted hydraulic system. After a couple of years in this role I took on a team lead position where I lead a small team delivering changes to the compressors of the Trent 900 as part of an improved efficiency package. Within these roles I got hands on experience of gas turbine engine hardware, build procedures as well as gaining an understanding of the airworthiness regulations and how to demonstrate compliance.
“I choose this career because of Rolls-Royce’s reputation as a leader within the aerospace industry and the complex and innovative nature of the products they produce. Almost 10 years later I still enjoy the varied nature of the work and the fact that I am constantly learning.”
Looking to increase my breadth of knowledge I moved into the Engineering for Services function taking on the role of Trent 900 Lifecycle Engineering (LCE) Team Lead. In this role I lead a team understanding and resolving issues encountered by the Trent 900 airline customers in service, from simple questions about how to interpret maintenance instructions to understanding why an in-service event has happened. I was involved in leading root cause investigations and working directly with airline powerplant teams, as well as with the aircraft manufacturer and the airworthiness authorities. This role evolved into leading the LCE team responsible for ensuring a new version of the Trent 900 engine would be mature at the point it entered service and thus free from reliability issues throughout its life.
Currently I am the Lifing Development Manager within Engineering for Services. This role is about managing any in service issues with engine critical parts and delivering new methods for predicting component life in service. This role sits across the different engine projects with an overview on how we best use the data we get from our engines to accurately predict when those engines need to be removed from wing thus improving operational reliability and getting the most life from our parts.
Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?
I choose this career because of Rolls-Royce’s reputation as a leader within the aerospace industry and the complex and innovative nature of the products they produce. Almost 10 years later I still enjoy the varied nature of the work and the fact that I am constantly learning. Working in such a large company allows for lots of different opportunities and Rolls-Royce are very supportive of people moving into new areas. We also have many people who have chosen to focus on one area for a long time and are experts in their field, and they are always happy to share their knowledge.
Were you a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?
I was a member of the University climbing club throughout my time at Exeter and was club captain in my final year. This gave me lots of useful skills outside of my degree and was a brilliant source of examples for competency based interviews.
What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?
I very much enjoyed the various group projects like the pelton wheel in the first year and the buggy project in the second year. Overall my biggest highlight was the individual project in the penultimate year as I found getting really stuck into something novel where I was completely responsible for the direction really engaging.
What did you enjoy most about studying here?
In terms of the university as a whole I think the location was a real highlight, near the sea and Dartmoor and with a lovely campus environment. In terms of my degree I always found the staff very supportive and enjoyed the range of different modules.
“Do everything you can to keep your options open. This includes taking and making all the opportunities you can in terms of work experience, year in industry, summer placements and applying as early as possible for graduate jobs. If you have a really strong desire to end up in a particular place keep trying; I have been involved in interviewing for Rolls-Royce and we would always encourage someone to seek feedback if they are unsuccessful and to try again the next year. Also go and speak with the university careers office, they offer good advice for applications and interviews.”
Why did you choose to study at Exeter?
I was initially not sure about the type of Engineering I wanted to go into so the general first year allowing me to keep my options open until I had an improved understanding of the various disciplines is what particularly appealed to me about Exeter. Additionally I attended an ‘Insight into Engineering’ course at Exeter during my A-Levels and found the University and department very welcoming, this definitely influenced my decision.
What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?
I think you pick up a lot of the specific knowledge you need for your role when you start, however university really prepared me for teaching myself and being able to learn efficiently. Things like learning how to read research papers, write clear, concise reports and present well have all stood me in good stead at work. Also the group work that you do throughout your degree prepares you for the teamwork required in most Engineering roles.
What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?
Do everything you can to keep your options open. This includes taking and making all the opportunities you can in terms of work experience, year in industry, summer placements and applying as early as possible for graduate jobs. If you have a really strong desire to end up in a particular place keep trying; I have been involved in interviewing for Rolls-Royce and we would always encourage someone to seek feedback if they are unsuccessful and to try again the next year. Also go and speak with the university careers office, they offer good advice for applications and interviews.
What are your plans for the future?
Given the range of opportunities at Rolls-Royce I don’t currently have any plans to move on. So far I have taken roles based on the learning available, thinking I would enjoy them and that I could add value to the team and I plan to continue in this way. There are a few specific jobs I have my eye on but like to keep my options open.
Do you have any tips or advice for beginning a career or working in your industry/sector?
For starters apply early; applications are reviewed on a first come, first served basis so the earlier you apply the better chance you have – start looking in the summer before your final year and apply early in the first term. The same goes for summer and 12 month internships. Beyond this I would follow what you enjoy as I think people perform best doing jobs they enjoy.
Joshua Peters is a second year Politics and International Relations undergraduate at the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus.
Last year I made the decision to apply for various first year schemes on offer by many companies. I applied to companies in Law and in Banking but being a Politics student, and someone whose family has had a history in the Civil Service, I also made the conscious decision to apply to the Early Diversity Internship Programme (EDIP). Fast forward 6 months, an application process and a telephone interview – I found myself at The Oval cricket ground in South London attending the opening ceremony of the EDIP scheme.
On the train journey to The Oval I had no idea what to expect from the opening ceremony. I felt nervous, excited, anxious and curious all at the same time! When I finally arrived, I was greeted so warmly by the staff that I quickly lost all the anxiety and nervousness that I came there with, and instead I felt eager to hear and see what the opening ceremony had to offer. A quick scan of the room and it was almost impossible not to notice the diversity that existed. This certainly helped me feel more at ease. Everyone on the scheme had been allocated places to sit at a table. It was great talking to the other people partaking in the scheme. Speaking to the other interns showed me diversity in terms of degrees being studied. One person studied PPE, another was studying Law and someone was studying Finance and Mathematics! This showed me that anyone from any background can have an interest in a career in the Civil Service. The opening ceremony itself was really illuminating. We heard from a number of motivational speakers who detailed to us the trials and tribulations they had gone through and how they had overcame them to be where they are today.
“On the train journey to The Oval I had no idea what to expect from the opening ceremony… When I finally arrived, I was greeted so warmly by the staff that I quickly lost all the anxiety and nervousness that I came there with, and instead I felt eager to hear and see what the opening ceremony had to offer. A quick scan of the room and it was almost impossible not to notice the diversity that existed.”
When you gain a place on the EDIP scheme you are allocated a government department. I was assigned to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Within this department I, along with another EDIP intern, was assigned to a civil servant, Mel, who worked in the food section of the department and even more specifically, the ‘food labelling’ sub-group (I didn’t know this was a thing either!). Shadowing Mel for the week was great and extremely insightful because I was able to see first-hand what working in the Civil Service actually looked like. I attended every meeting that she attended and saw most tasks that her and her sub-group were working on. I felt as though I came at a bad time as quite literally all work in the department was related to Brexit and creating contingencies if we left the EU with no deal. However, seeing how the Civil Service dealt with an issue such as Brexit was very interesting. Also, during the week, we were given a talk by Fast Streamers on different streams. The Fast Stream is the graduate scheme within the Civil Service, which offers many different streams, including a diplomatic stream, and an economic stream. I’d recommend paying a visit to the Fast Stream website to find out more about this.
I would highly encourage first years to apply for the EDIP scheme. The scheme allows for a first taste of networking at the opening and closing ceremonies and also a unique insight into a workplace as varied as the Civil Service. If you’re having trouble deciding on whether you’d be more suited to corporate employment or public sector employment, EDIP can certainly be a great starting point in helping to figure this out!