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Sales and Events Assistant
About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

I decided to do a placement because I knew I didn't want to go into scientific research, so it was highly likely I would find myself in the commercial environment. I wanted to get a broad range of experiences from my placement to best inform me of where I wanted to work after completing my degree.

How did you find your placement/internship?

Career Connect

Application process

To apply for the position I submitted a cover letter and CV, then when I was invited for interview I had to prepare a 5 minute presentation on 'the importance of replacing animals in research'. There was also 10 minutes of questions in the interview.

Main responsibilities

My responsibilities have been varied and have changed throughout the year. From August to May my responsibilities included organising events including coffee clubs in nearby cities, and our annual conference, 'Advances in Cell and Tissue Culture' (ACTC). I was also responsible for creating scientific posters to take to conferences and assisting my manager at customer meetings.

Since May it has shifted to include composing our monthly mailer which goes out to all of our customers; keeping the website and our customer database up to date; and supervising the summer placement students.

Throughout the year I have represented Kirkstall at a number of conferences across the UK, and supported the team with their individual roles.

Typical day

A typical day would start by arriving at work at about 8.15 am. I start work at approximately 8.30 am and I begin with checking my emails. I might then be organising a training workshop, which involves liaising with the host University about catering and requirements for the workshop, including cell culture hood, cells, and other reagents.

At 12 noon I work whilst eating my lunch and usually read through any new webpages that have been uploaded, checking the links are loading to the correct pages and checking the spelling and grammar.

In the afternoon I might spend some time in the workshop, either cleaning some kit that has been used at a demo or training workshop, or trialling a proposed solution when a customer wants to try something new with the system.

At 2.30 pm I take a half hour break to walk round the nature reserve, which is less than 5 minutes walk from the office. Our office is a warehouse unit so has no windows, so I like to get out for half an hour each day.

After my break I might be using university websites to research potential customers we are meeting in the near future or spend some time doing budget preparation for ACTC 2018. I finish work at approximately 4.30 pm.

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

I really enjoyed being part of the Kirkstall team and making a contribution to the company. It's always exciting to see my webpages on the website and see myself in the background of our introductory video.

I have enjoyed the variety of my placement, every month I have started a new task or experienced something new, and these have covered all departments, from R&D, marketing, database management, IT, and finance.

I was fortunate to support a colleague on a 5 day trip to Germany and Luxembourg, which was definitely one of the highlights from my placement.

Challenging aspects

The more challenging aspects of my placement were the customer visits, particularly when I was still new to the company because to hold a conversation with an academic researcher requires a high level of knowledge of both Quasi Vivo and an understanding of research. Towards the end of my placement this was much easier, and I was able to lead some of the meetings with new customers.

Did you use any skills learned from your course?

Finding scientific papers using Quasi Vivo and then reading them and copying them into layman's terms used my scientific understanding of research and technical terms.

Plus the more obvious things, including time management, prioritising different tasks, self motivation, and organisation.

Has your time on placement influenced your future career choice?

From organising our annual conference I spent a considerable amount of time with the finance department at Kirkstall. From this I am now investigating options in a finance role, including accountancy training.

Having spent time in a small company, I am now keen to explore the work environment of a bigger company. This is something I am keen to experience soon after graduating.

Advice to students

My piece of advice to students

I have two pieces of advice, the first being that placements are very competitive so you will need to apply for as many as you can over several months (I didn't get an offer until May) and it is highly likely you will be rejected from nearly all of them (try not to take it too personally, just keep going).

My second piece of advice is to really prepare for the interview -find out what the company is aiming to achieve in the next 1-3 years, have a good question prepared for the end of the interview, and if there are any tasks during the interview (like a presentation) prepare for them fully.

Form completed: 26 Jul 2017

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