Category Archives: Pathways to International Trade (PTIT)

Employer Case Study- Vapormatt

Image preview“The project our intern worked on could help influence the development of systems like the Tiger+ surface finishing system”

“Professional Pathways was a great way to get the information we needed for future product development”

Line Manager Name: Miles Pluckwell

Job Title: Marketing Manager

How did hosting an intern via the Professional Pathways programme benefit you and your organisation?

We target a number of industries globally. Knowing the current and projected future size of these of these industries, along with other key information, is critical our decision making process. Our Professional Pathways intern found and presented this information.

How was your experience of hosting a Pathways intern?

Making use of Microsoft Teams we were able to host our intern remotely, which worked very well for us. Having provided a detailed project brief we were able to let the intern work when and where they wanted to. We set up weekly Teams meetings to ensure the project was on track and to help with any difficult elements to the project.
Given the Professional Pathways internship is 35 hours in total, how would you recommend ensuring both you and your intern(s) gain as much as possible from the experience?
We provided a detailed brief with details on where to possibly look for the information needed to complete the project. We went through the brief and covered any questions in a kick off Teams meeting as well as explaining who we are and what we do.
Why would you recommend Professional Pathways to other employers?
For us it was a great way to get the information we needed for future product development, marketing campaigns, etc., without spending any of our limited marketing budget.
What advice would you give to a student considering applying for Professional Pathways?
Try to make sure you pick a project that you are enthusiastic about and once underway make sure you ask questions whenever you need to and alert the employer immediately if there’s a part of the project you think is going to be impossible for you to complete. Completing a good high quality project is a win win for employer and intern.

Employer Case Study- Martec International Ltd

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“Professional Pathways is a great way to get real world experience to complement an academic education”

Line Manager Name: Brian Hume

Job Title: Managing Director

How did hosting an intern via the Professional Pathways programme benefit you and your organisation?

We sell e-learning education to retailers, consumer goods companies and their suppliers all over the world. We have waited a long time to have the capacity to develop a detailed analysis of our pricing strategy and pricing levels verses key competition in our main markets – the US, Middle east and India. The intern project gave us the opportunity to get a significant piece of it done and we were fortunate to get Freya.

There were several key findings:
1. Competitors who offer thousands of classes including some retail ones, generally offer training products written by individuals rather than training companies. They have processes to follow their technical needs but do not have quality control processes for the content in the classes. We do. We need to bring this out appropriately in our marketing.
2. Prices were not very different from ours when the competitors were not on sale. However, some of them are on sale more than 50% of the time and the discounts are very deep. Hence our base prices are not an issue, but we do have to have a better promotional response.
3. We asked our Freya to review some sample competitor courses and her results caused us to do a few more. We now understand that we can charge a premium over competitors’ prices because of our quality, but our current premium may be too high when competitors are on sale.
4. We learned that our big competitors can offer individual classes, but they can’t offer an organised curriculum, for those who want to study a complete and structurally sound learning path over time, to help them in their career development. This is now a major focus area on our soon to be released new web site.
5. Freya examined the way our competitors do their pricing and made some very good suggestions for improving our approach, that we had not previously considered.

How was your experience of hosting a Pathways intern?

Our intern worked remotely, as we all do in Martec. We no longer have an office. This worked well on the project because:
– we invited Freya to a meet the team meeting online using Microsoft Teams a couple of weeks before the project started. We also gave her a short briefing so she knew what the detailed project would be and her role in it.
– we had regular meetings every day or two, again using teams to discuss issues and findings
– and we made it clear to Freya that she could ask us any questions at any time, either by email, phone or by suggesting a Teams meeting whenever necessary. The end result of this is that we had a high level of person-to-person communication.
– I think it is fair to say that we all had a good, relaxed working relationship.
Given the Professional Pathways internship is 35 hours in total, how would you recommend ensuring both you and your intern(s) gain as much as possible from the experience?

The first thing is to define a scope of work and plan, where it is realistic to have a valuable deliverable or two within the time available. Then you need to brief the intern and assure them that you have realistic expectations of what they can accomplish in the time they have. As part of the briefing, give them a draft work plan and the freedom to change it as they learn some things you don’t currently know. You can measure early progress against the original plan and then change it based on feedback as you progress.

We asked Freya to email us summaries of key steps which we could read and review as a group and then give more or updated direction. We reviewed the feedback as Freya produced it, so she could clarify anything or do a bit more on researching specific queries.

In making the plan, it is important not to give them tasks that require too much administrative work, such as producing nice slides, as this detracts from a big percentage of the 35 hours. We assigned a colleague to take on admin that our intern could avoid. As the company, you gain most by maximizing the use of the intern’s brainpower.

Why would you recommend Professional Pathways to other employers?

Yes I would. You need to pick a project that is important to you, so your staff take it seriously and are keen for the intern to succeed. You need to plan it in advance and make sure the scope is realistic. I prefer to have the work spread over two weeks as your intern can sleep on things and wake up with other thoughts that are important. Also, they don’t know your business like you do, so they ask questions your staff might not ask, so you do get fresh thinking, which is surprisingly helpful and happens when you were not expecting it. You do have to dedicate some senior person’s time on the project, to make sure that the intern is not delayed by colleagues who have other goals to achieve. Colleagues don’t do this on purpose, but they are not counting down the 35 hours, so it can happen unconsciously.

To be blunt, if you have the right project, can scope it appropriately and provide the right support, you would be dumb not to take advantage of it.

What advice would you give to a student considering applying for Professional Pathways?
This is a great way to get real world experience to complement an academic education. If you can get a project working with a senior executive, you can get exposure to the real-world decision-making challenges that you face later in your career. Then you can see how other executives respond to the challenges. Look for companies that will value your feedback and integrate you into their team for the time you are engaged with them. Go for those that provide administrative backup, so you spend more time on the “brainwork”. Keep asking meaningful questions. Even if they don’t know the answers, they will respect people that probe. If they don’t, you know not to apply to them for a job.

 

Student Blog Post – Distributor Manager

“It was amazing for me to be able to see the tangible impact of my work.”

Please briefly outline the project/tasks/responsibilities you worked on during your Professional Pathways internship.

During my Pathways internship, I worked as a Distributor Manager for Martec International. My role involved reaching out to potential overseas clients and starting a dialogue with regards to a partnership in selling Martec online learning products. I was able to reach out to individuals from a number of companies and my initial conversation with one individual has led to a growing partnership with Future Sharp, a subsidiary of one of the largest retail companies in India.

What achievement(s) were you particularly proud of during your Pathways internship?

Initially, I contacted potential clients via email, and this yielded little response. I then had the initiative to try contacting people through LinkedIn, which resulted in much higher engagement and lead to the creation of Martec International’s partnership with Future Sharp, a subsidiary of one of the largest retail companies in India. It was amazing for me to be able to see the tangible impact of my work whilst working for Martec International.

Given the Professional Pathways internship is 35 hours in total, what advice would you give to other students to ensure they gain as much as possible from the experience?

It is really important to work with your manager to make the most of your limited time with the company. In my case, I decided to work part-time in order to have more time for clients to respond to my requests. This worked so well that Martec International kept me on for another 3 weeks to see the project through to a desirable endpoint. Ultimately it is important to try and provide as much value as you can to your company using the skills you have developed both in your degree and your pathways training. This will allow you to have the biggest impact and also help you to get the most out of the work you are doing.

Employer Case Study – Health Care Innovations (HCI)

“We would strongly recommend Professional Pathways to other employers.”

How did hosting an intern via the Professional Pathways programme benefit you and your organisation?

We had two interns that both had different skills and interests. Despite this, they both brought strong research and analysis capabilities and willingly engaged with the project and the research we needed to complete. They undertook it with enthusiasm and identified both some immediate opportunities, but also built an approach and methodology that we can use in the long term.

Given the Professional Pathways internship is 35 hours in total, how would you recommend ensuring both you and your intern(s) gain as much as possible from the experience?

We invested time beforehand in clearly identifying the scope and objectives for the project and in discussing these with the interns. We followed this through with debrief sessions every other day so that we could flex and shape the project based on what they had identified and the lessons we were learning as the project progressed. We were also keen to give the interns the freedom to explore and find their own ways of operating. Together, these various approaches brought about an incredibly strong result for which we are very grateful.

Why would you recommend Professional Pathways to other employers?

We would strongly recommend Professional Pathways to other employers. Not only do you get a resource that can help you with a project, but you also get different perspectives, intelligent input and insight and enthusiastic people. Keep in mind the reality that it’s only 35 hours but it’s amazing what you can achieve in that time.

Employer Case Study – Martec International Ltd

“We were particularly impressed by the intelligence, diligence, proactivity, and ability of our intern to hit the ground running.”

How did hosting an intern via the Professional Pathways programme benefit you and your organisation?

We were able to start a project that we have not had the capacity to resource before.  We have a successful distributor of our products in America.  We want to recruit more of them in other countries and cover other market segments.  We jointly developed a list of potential “suspects” as distributors and designed an email campaign to market the idea to them.  Our intern did some list research helped by colleagues and contributed to the email messaging.  Unfortunately, the email did not work well at all, so we re-planned the campaign using LinkedIn.  Our intern helped in drafting a series of initial messages to potential executives and then sent the messages in my name.  This approach really surprised us at how well it worked.  Lots of CEOs and SVPs in target firms connected with me and got engaged in dialogue.  In fact, we have a meeting today in which we may succeed in moving one company in India to agreeing to a pilot project.  Our intern was able to participate in the initial face to face (via Teams) meeting with the CEO and COO of the company concerned.  We now have electronic dialogues in progress with another 6 or so companies, albeit at earlier stages in the cycle.

Successful completion of this project will benefit my local team because it will help faster recovery from the pandemic shockwave, it will strengthen the resilience of the business and protect jobs.  It will increase the staffing levels we will need locally as volume builds up. We also learned a valuable lesson in how to reach senior executives that email does not reach and when they pass us on to their executives to work the detail, we have the means to communicate with them periodically to provide progress updates or to unblock something because we are connected. One of the reasons we made such good progress is that our intern did such a good job in the first two weeks that we kept him on for another three weeks on our payroll, to help continue the momentum that he had started.

How was your experience of hosting a remote working intern?

It worked very well because we are a virtual business anyway and everyone is remote to everyone else, so we have the processes and IT systems to manage it.  We have a Wednesday morning Teams meeting with everyone and [our intern] joined those meetings to see everyone else in action and to build a relationship with colleagues.  We also did specific project meetings via Teams regularly, so there was a high level of dialogue with myself and colleagues.  [Our intern] is very personable, so he built relationships quickly.  Immediately before the project started we had a meeting with everyone involved and reviewed the project plan, so we all knew where to start immediately on day 1.  We updated the plan regularly as events unfolded.  We spoke most days during his time with us.

Given the Professional Pathways internship is 35 hours in total, how would you recommend ensuring both you and your intern(s) gain as much as possible from the experience?

Have a clear project with steps that are realistic to achieve in the time available.  We opted for the time to be spread over two weeks to allow downtime while waiting for responses from activities like emailing and sending LinkedIn messages.  We made good progress in the first two weeks, but it was always going to be a month-long project for us, so our initial plan was constructed so that [our intern] could achieve some real deliverables, so he had a sense of achievement. We planned admin support from colleagues so that he did not spend time on administrative or clerical tasks that others could do unless it was really necessary.  It was important to us to use his brain and education to benefit us, rather than contribute clerical hours that we could resource anyway.   In the event, he made sufficient promising progress that we arranged to keep him on for another three weeks to move the project on to more valuable deliverables and hopefully, much greater job satisfaction for him. When it works for the intern, it frequently works for us too!

Why would you recommend Professional Pathways to other employers?

Professional Pathways allows a student with an interest in the field to offer their time and skills and it helps stretched teams to achieve greater impact.  We were particularly impressed by the intelligence, diligence, proactivity, and ability of our intern to hit the ground running and complete a wide variety of tasks autonomously.  Our donors were delighted by the thoughtful communications.