Collaborate, Communicate and Conserve

Todd Burlington is a current Physics student at the University of Exeter. He talked to us about his internship at the Met Office, collaborative projects and #TechnoRhino

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Todd and #TechnoRhino in the Career Zone

With the help of the Career Zone I spent this summer on an internship at the Met Office’s Informatics Lab. I took advantage of the Access 2 Internships (A2I) scheme offered by the Career Zone. This scheme helped me with travel costs, which allowed me to easily get to work, and in addition to this the application reviews, interview practice and career planning no doubt helped a lot in securing my internship.

‘The Informatics Lab employs scientists, designers and technologists, all of which leads to a very interesting working environment where collaboration is at the very heart, blurring the lines between technology, design, and science.’

The Informatics Lab is a new and very different team. The lab has eight full-time staff and operates as a rapid prototyping R&D centre. The idea behind the lab is to quickly trial new technologies for the Met Office, and produce prototypes of how they could be used. To achieve this, the lab has everything it needs in-house. It employs scientists, designers and technologists, all of which leads to a very interesting working environment where collaboration is at the very heart. These are the people blurring the lines between technology, design, and science.

You’ve probably seen some rhino sculptures around Exeter; they’re part of Paignton Zoo’s Great Big Rhinos Project. This involves placing rhinos around the South West in a mass public art event. IMG_1210

#TechnoRhino was developed as a collaboration between the Met Office Informatics Lab and Paignton Zoo. The collaboration was born out of the idea that the lines between technology and design are becoming increasingly blurred. With this in mind, what could the Met Office achieve if presented with a rhino? The Met Office is one of the biggest technology companies in the South West, and what goes on here far outstrips just predicting the weather for the TV. This surprised me when I arrived: the scope of their work is much larger than I ever thought.

It makes sense that the Informatics Lab would be the right people to push the edge of what is possible in a public art event. The way they thought they would do this is by using LEDs. My involvement in this project extended from the very start to finish, developing the software to power the LEDs as well as constructing the hardware required to operate them, all in addition to organising visit days with external organisations for #TechnoRhino’s tour. I then oversaw these days, interacting with the public in places such as the RAMM and Exeter Library.

Visiting these different locations allows #TechnoRhino to showcase the Great Big Rhino Project. Hopefully, due to how different the Met Office’s rhino is to what has been produced before, a lot of interest would be generated for the Great Big Rhinos Project. The project aims to raise awareness of the endangered species of the Javan and Sumatran rhinos, of which there are only 60 left in the wild. With this in mind, any way to generate interest is very welcome.

‘The Access to Internship (A2I) scheme is a wonderful opportunity which you should wholeheartedly take advantage of.’

Not only was this a cool project to work on, but it was for a very important cause. Hopefully, whilst #TechnoRhino has been on tour, a more people have gotten interested and donated to an excellent cause.

Working here has fundamentally changed my outlook on my future career plans. It has made me more eager than ever to dive into the world of work, but it has also changed my outlook on where I see myself ending up. I now expect more from my future career than I did before. I cannot see myself working somewhere with a ‘traditional’ working culture – I just loved the freedom and learning that came from a place like the Informatics Lab.

Luckily, our University has enabled me to really benefit from the experiences that come from working at such a world leading organisation. The Access to Internship (A2I) scheme is a wonderful opportunity which you should wholeheartedly take advantage of.

Making an Instant Impact

Danielle and colleague Rishi
Danielle and colleague Rishi

My name’s Danielle and I’m a Third Year Business Economics with Spanish student at Exeter. I’m currently in Madrid for my Erasmus year, but this summer I joined Instant Impact a graduate recruitment agency specialising in placing graduate talent into Start-ups and Scale-ups, as a Resourcer.

Who are ‘Instant Impact’ and what made me approach them?

Instant Impact stood out to me as a company, and in particular a graduate recruitment agency, because of its focus on fast-growth Start-ups, Scale-ups & SMEs. They’re dedicated to showing graduates that there’s more out there than the corporate grad schemes, and this really fitted in with my own entrepreneurial aspirations.

Since coming to university, I became quite involved in small businesses and projects that I believed would make a real difference to the student community. I’m still in the process of making Exeter receipt free which will hopefully come into play during the 2016/17 academic year – watch this space.

‘I’ve always been very entrepreneurial; as a child I would charge my sister interest on loans and even make her pay for hand-me-downs to the dismay of my Mum!’

I’ve always been very entrepreneurial; as a child I would charge my sister interest on loans and even make her pay for hand-me-downs to the dismay of my Mum! However, now that I’ve realised it’s best not to exploit family, I’ve co-founded a technology company alongside my studies with a couple of friends from Exeter.

The technology company I set up was taking a pause over the summer so the team could decide the direction we wanted to take it. I decided to branch out and investigate internships in other SMEs. I came across Instant Impact and was attracted by the companies they work with; the likes of Deliveroo, GoodLord and ProperCorn, who are all pushing the boundaries of the latest tech and challenging how consumers interact with traditional organisations. I signed up online and Ted (my now colleague) rang me up whilst on the Uni surf trip in France. I was mid wetsuit putting-on (not an ideal situation when talking to your potential employer), but within a week I had returned home, packed my bags and moved to London to work at Instant Impact as a summer Resourcer.

What does a day in the role of Resourcer look like?

I was immediately made to feel a part of the team, training took a couple of days and from the beginning I was given responsibility. Straight away I had vacancies to source candidates for and the opportunity to interview them myself. Previously I’d worked for an IT reseller; I loved my time there but the position was largely based on hard sales like cold calling. Here I have the opportunity to build more of a relationship and rapport with the graduates I speak to; I can relate to them and it’s genuinely great fun matching them to positions.

‘On a day to day basis the role is varied. One day I might be on a promotional trip to Graduation Week at universities around the country, or I could be having a chat on the phone with someone I immediately want to place in “the coolest start-up”, knowing they’d be just perfect for it.’

On a day to day basis the role is varied. One day I might be on a promotional trip to Graduation Week at universities around the country, or I could be having a chat on the phone with someone I immediately want to place in “the coolest start-up”, knowing they’d be just perfect for it. I loved my time at Instant Impact; they have iBeers every Friday afternoon to go through everyone’s highlights of the week and we even went to a dance class one evening as an office social. It’s this kind of start-up culture that makes work so enjoyable.

What’s coming next?

I’m in Madrid for my Erasmus year so I’m getting stuck in to studies and life in the sun. I’ll be back in Exeter for my final year in 2017, so who knows what the future holds.

Engineering a Brighter Future

Harry Chaplin
Harry Chaplin

Harry Chaplin graduated from Exeter in 2015 with a MEng Civil and Environmental Engineering. He’s currently a Project Manager at SEED Madagascar, working to bring clean, safe water to rural communities.

It all began in 2011, the summer before I started at Exeter, when I spent 4 weeks volunteering on a conservation programme in a rural village in southeast Madagascar. I was working with a charity called SEED Madagascar (formerly Azafady UK), scouring the biodiversity-rich rainforests for weird, wonderful and most importantly, rare flora and fauna found nowhere else on the planet. For me, that fleeting time spent in the Malagasy bush – learning the culture, meeting the incredible people and appreciating life for what it is – changed everything. Camp life was basic relative to the norms and luxuries we take for granted, as we had neither running water nor electricity. I was pretty content with the well water we were washing in until one night of heavy rain half-filled my bucket and I then realised what potential was being wasted every time it rained.

Making changes to the village school to collect rainwater
Making changes to the village school to collect rainwater

Once back home I got obsessively interested in how to improve the water supply, eventually writing a feasibility study on the subject in my Second Year. I continued pursuing ideas and designed the system and background project for a rainwater harvesting scheme based on the school roof in the village for my Third Year dissertation. After a two-month research trip between Third and Fourth Year, I presented to a board of trustees of a UK based donor charity and they agreed to fund the project.

“Embracing all the opportunities that have come my way has allowed me to do something I love and value.”

The project is a year-long pilot scheme aimed at providing the 143 primary school children with clean drinking water whilst demonstrating to the community a simple, affordable and replicable technique of clean drinking water provision. The system has been kept as simple as possible to reduce the risk of failure of small parts and the need for lots of skilled maintenance, but the challenging aspect is making it sustainable within the community. As Project Manager the learning curve over the last 5 months has been, and still is, very steep. The skills I’m learning in all areas of the job, be it people management or project development, budget supervision or working in a foreign country with a vastly different but amazing culture, is incredible experience for my professional development and I’m loving it!

Working with the community partners
Working with the community partners

The fascinating people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve shared and bush parties I’ve danced during my times out here with SEED have set me up brilliantly for a career in this sector. During a lot of my time at Exeter I hadn’t the faintest idea of where I wanted to be in 5 years’ time, but embracing all the opportunities that have come my way has allowed me to do something I love and value. If you want to find out more about how you can get involved or more about the project, visit www.madagascar.co.uk

Building a Beautiful Career

Kat Crapper, Fourth Year Year BA Management with Marketing (With Industrial Experience), talks to us about her 12 month International Brand Communications Internship with The Body Shop, getting photographed for Elle, and networking with vloggers.

Kat (third from left) and Body Shop colleagues
Kat (third from left) and Body Shop colleagues

What motivated you to take a year in industry?

Having taken 2 years out before coming to Exeter, I’d experience working already so knew I enjoyed working in a business environment, and understood the importance of building a strong CV to enhance my employability. One of the reasons I chose Exeter was because of the opportunity to do a placement year as part of my course and the support that the Business School and Career Zone offered in securing one.

How did you get your placement organised, and what was the application process like?

I remember finding the job through the Career Zone vacancies page, then around a week later I met the recruiters at the Careers Fair, which was really useful as they gave me advice on what they were looking for in a CV and cover letter. I was then invited to have a telephone interview, assessment centre, then a final Skype interview with my future line manager before being offered the job just before Christmas. The stages were challenging, and there was tough competition with over 500 other applicants for just the one position. I had to do a lot of background research into the company, industry and role, but it proved worth it in the end.

“The interview stages were challenging and there was tough competition with over 500 other applicants for just the one position. I had to do a lot of background research into the company, industry and role, but it proved worth it in the end.”

What kind of work did you do at The Body Shop?

My team was really supportive and trusted me with a lot more of responsibility than I was expecting. The nature of the role meant I was able to work with teams across lots of areas of the business, both in the London office and with those in Asia, America, Canada and Europe. My role was to assist the International Brand Communications team in the creation and delivery of all PR assets for new product launches. This ranged from assisting the production of international press releases, brainstorming creative ideas for press events, collating top magazine coverage from around the world, going to photo shoots, to helping organise international PR events for journalists. I also was lucky enough to be involved in building relationships and creative content with influential bloggers and YouTube vloggers – I identified a vlogger called Amena who was taken on board to promote The Body Shop’s Eid gifts and new skincare range on her channel, which was an exciting project to have been a part of.

Kat (centre left) in Elle Mexico
Kat (centre left) in Elle Mexico

Was working there like you thought it would be? Any surprises?

One day quite early on in the year, I was unexpectedly asked to model for a PR photo shoot with the brand’s skincare expert. Not wanting to turn down an opportunity to do something different, I agreed… and a few months later my photo ended up in Elle magazine in Mexico and an online magazine in France.

What was it like coming back to academic study after being away?

Throughout the year, we had to complete a number of academic assessments, so I didn’t feel too out of practice getting back into studying. While a lot of my friends had graduated, I did have other friends returning from their year abroad/in industry, and it’s easy enough to meet new people through my course in group projects and seminars.

What impact did your year in business have on your studies? Did it help with any modules?

My year out has definitely helped with my studies this year – particularly for modules such as Integrated Marketing Communications and Digital Marketing, as I’ve been able to apply a lot of what I learnt to my assessments which has improved my marks. It’s also given me more confidence in presenting and pitching ideas.

Has your year in industry changed the way you think about your career plans?

I really enjoyed working in Brand Communications so I would like to pursue a career in this field. I realised that living in London wasn’t for me, so next year I’m planning to take some time out to travel, then work abroad in Canada to gain some more international experience and see where that takes me.

Would you recommend taking a year in industry, and if so why?

100% – not only has it helped me work out what I do and don’t want to do, it was a great opportunity to network with some really ambitious and inspiring people, and make some really good friends.

Impress and Progress

Looking for graduate jobs after your studies can feel like a daunting experience, and with potentially thousands of applications streaming through their email inbox every day, you need to have a plan of attack to stand out from the crowd.

Matt Arnerich (left)  and Arthur Ashman, Head of Talent Development InspiringInterns
Matt Arnerich (left) and Arthur Ashman, Head of Talent Development at InspiringInterns

Matt Arnerich talked to Arthur Ashman, Head of Talent Development at graduate recruitment agency InspiringInterns, about his top tips for keeping your recruiter on side.

  • Have a Balanced Approach

If you get the chance to meet your recruiter in person or over the phone, it’s important to keep a balance between enthusiasm and politeness. ‘When we interview candidates we love them to have enthusiasm and a genuine passion’ Arthur says, ‘but it’s important this doesn’t spill into arrogance’.

According to Arthur, it’s important you remain humble, while coming across as confident and professional. ‘At the end of the day, we have to know that you’ll shine when we put you forward in front of our clients, and if you can impress us, we know that you’ll impress them’ explains Arthur.

  • Honesty Really is the Best Policy

When you’re first entering the job market, it’s tempting to exaggerate your work experience or grades. While you might think you’re bypassing certain filters, it will always damage you long-term.

‘We do thorough research on all the graduates we decide to put forward for roles, and the chances are we will find out if you’ve been misleading on your CV’ says Arthur. It can be damaging for their reputation to pass on candidates to clients who then find their interviewee has been misleading.

‘If we find out you’ve not been truthful, it’ll damage your chances far more than if you’d been honest to begin with, as we can’t take the risk of putting you forward to the clients,’ explains Arthur.

‘When we interview candidates we love them to have enthusiasm and a genuine passion.’

  • It’s Not All About You

This is an important tip, not just for how to keep your recruiter on side, but how to impress potential employers looking to hire a graduate. It’s easy to focus on the skills and experience that you have, but really, your focus should be squarely on how those skills will benefit your employer.

‘If you have a huge range of diverse skills, but can’t equate them to how they’ll aid the company, then employers are unlikely to be interested’ says Arthur, ‘in essence, we’re a sort of gatekeeper to our clients, we only want to let the best through, but if we think you’re good enough we have a lot of authority as we have a direct line to interested companies’.

  • Email Etiquette is Important

When you move into the graduate jobs world, you’ll inevitably be faced with daily email duties, whether internally or getting in touch with prospective and established clients. ‘You need to make sure you’re professional in your email exchanges with us’ Arthur is quick to point out, ‘please don’t be over-friendly, as it just comes across as insincere’.

Arthur suggests using the recruiter’s name wherever possible, and avoiding ‘mate’, ‘pal’ or other colloquial references. ‘Finish off with Regards or, Kind Regards instead of Cheers’ he explains, ‘and please double check your spelling and grammar before you hit the send button!’.

  • Never No Show

‘We don’t mind if you’ve got another opportunity’ says Arthur ‘but please let us know as soon as possible’. Simply not turning up reflects incredibly badly back on them, Arthur says, and therefore increases the chance they won’t want to work with you anymore.

Even though it’s tempting to jump at the chance of a more attractive opportunity, don’t schedule it at the same time as an existing commitment unless you have to. ‘Companies will normally have no problem provided you explain that there’s a scheduling conflict’ according to Arthur, ‘in fact, you’re likely to come across as a stronger candidate if they know they’re not the only one interested in you.’

Internships; Get Proactive, Get the Job

Maxine Johnson is in her Fourth Year at Exeter, studying BA Politics, German and Chinese. She talked to us about her internship with global law firm Baker & McKenzie in Hong Kong, and the impact it had on finding a graduate job.

Maxine (centre) and intern colleagues at Baker & McKenzie, Hong Kong
Maxine (centre) and intern colleagues at Baker & McKenzie, Hong Kong

So how did you find your internship?

I found it through my Career Mentor, Susan Kendall, who I networked extensively with through my First and Second years at Exeter. We Skyped regularly, obviously she’s based in Hong Kong, and I got put in touch with the graduate recruitment team who then enabled me to apply to their summer internship programme.

What was the application process like?

It was actually quite standard; I had to send a CV and covering letter to recruitment, but my mentor already knew I had a strong interest in commercial law from Skyping her. Graduate recruitment rang me and asked a couple of questions, and then we had quite a few phone calls regarding visas and that sort of thing.

What kind of work did you do for them?

I turned up on my first day as a non-law student at a law firm expecting to be given just general making tea and coffee tasks; it was definitely not like that at all. I went straight in and sat-in on client phone calls and meetings, and attended court sessions with the solicitors. I was shown the Law Library with no explanation of how to use it; they said ‘Maxine go and find this area of particular insurance law and come back with the exact legal wording of the definition. To which I said ‘ok, that’s fine I’ll do that’. And I did. It was all commercial law based, but I was in the dispute resolution team, so that covered a wide variety of areas such as fraud, insurance, and employment law.

“I could get what I wanted from the internship; if I wanted to stay longer hours and do more work, which I did because I loved it, then I could.”

So it wasn’t quite like you expected?

Not at all. I genuinely wasn’t sure how much I’d be able to help them, never having studied law. Although I did do a 3 week law course here at Exeter before I went which taught me some basic legal knowledge that was incredibly useful. I could get what I wanted from it; if I wanted to stay longer hours and do more work, which I did because I loved it, then I could do, but there was no obligation to do that. I was working on real-life cases, often for big-name firms, but at the same time you had to be proactive, you did have to go and say ‘I haven’t got any work to do right now, can you give me something to do?’ And if they say no, then you go and ask someone else.

Do you think your internship helped you get your graduate job?

Absolutely, I 100% believe that. I’ve got a Training Contract offer with Clifford Chance who find the fact that I got the internship almost as impressive as the work I did while I was there. Being able to talk about my experiences not only helped with the application form, video interview, and 3-day assessment process, but also proved I had a real understanding of and interest in the work.