Biotechnology with Enterprise student at University of Leeds

Fridaos Abdulrauf

Fridaos chose to carry out a Year in Industry as part of his Biotechnology with Enterprise degree, working as a Category Analyst at Kantar Worldpanel. He also set up his own business with a colleague, using a SPARK scholarship.

My experience using SPARK

I set up my own business called SparTix, with a colleague of mine. The platform enables students to re-sell and purchase tickets to sold out events in a more secure and reliable way rather than through facebook. We were awarded a scholarship of £2500 from SPARK (an organisation within the careers centre that supports local businesses). This was helpful in setting up and they provided general advice.

About the University

Why did you choose the University of Leeds?

I chose Leeds due to the reputation as a Russell Group university. Additionally, only Leeds offered a course that allowed me to combine both my interests in science and business. When I went to the open day for Leeds I really got a good vibe in terms of the social element.

What have been the highlights of your time at the University of Leeds?

Being awarded Best Sports Rep across the university halls. Additionally, being involved in Leeds RAG fashion show, and starting my own business with the support of SPARK. Participating in Varsity was also great fun. I feel like I have done so and been involved in so many enjoyable things that I wouldn’t have been able to elsewhere.

Have the facilities (libraries/labs etc.) helped you get the most out of your degree?

Definitely, without a shadow of doubt. The library became my second home especially in third year. The Edge was a great facility for me to release stress and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Equally it held great sports competitions that I participated in. 

Have you joined any student societies/sports clubs at the university? If so how has this enhanced your time at the University?

I am part of FOBSOC (Faculty of Biological Sciences Society) and was part of Leeds University Investment Society (LUUTIS). I am also part of physical health and training society, PHAT Soc. Being a member of various societies has allowed me to develop my interests with likeminded people and get involved with other things outside my course. In first year, I was sports rep for central village accommodation, so got to interact with other halls reps, organised various activities and helped my fellow students have an enjoyable entry to university. It was fulfilling. I was also awarded best sports rep for that year which was good. The whole experience has made me feel part of a wider community and I am trying to do my part to the best of my ability. 

What key aspects of your experience of Leeds would you highlight to students thinking about coming do the same course?

The balance between science and business is what attracted me to the course; you get the best of both worlds. There are so many opportunities in Leeds, various things to do, you just have to put yourself out there, show interest and I promise you, you won’t regret it. The nights out and events organised by FOBSOC are an additional benefit.

What are your ambitions for the future? Do you have specific career plans? Has the Faculty (careers centre/lecturers etc.) helped you with these goals in any way?

I am looking into the investment industry. It is an area I developed particular interest in due my exposure to financial services, going to talks at the university and being part of LUUTIS society. The Faculty lectures helped from a broad perspective, but it is mainly focused on careers around scientific field which was not my interest.

About my Industrial Placement

Where did you do your placement year & what was your job role?

Kantar Worldpanel in West London

Job Role – Category Analyst

Why did you decide to do a year in industry?

I had intentions of doing a placement year right before I came to university. My understanding of the working world was that experience is key. Thus, I knew I had to develop this experience in a professional capacity which can complement experience form part time jobs and volunteering I already had. Additionally, I knew a year in industry would allow me to develop professional skills which I can transfer to a graduate role and also understand what my strengths and weaknesses are.

Could you describe a typical day on your placement?

As a category analyst, I was in a team of 5 managing a client worth £1.3million to the company. I was involved in a variety of projects, most notably one focused on a new product development.

A typical day would be:

  • I get to work for 9am, set up at any desk of my choice (open-plan office), look up my emails.
  • Have a team meeting, gauge the workload for the week and split out tasks between the individuals. 
  • I get working on my tasks for the day which can change as the day goes on, for example if the client reaches out with a more urgent task that becomes higher priority.
  • The tasks vary, I could work on a new product development so research new markets, create reports for clients, answer questions about a brief by creating a storyline which gives the client all they need. 
  • I'd converse with stakeholders involved in a particular project and brief them with response I have come up with, backed by my data. 
  • Share my recommendations. 
  • Have lunch around 12:30.
  • There could be a training on which I'd attend or a general commercial update.
  • Finish work at 5pm.

What were your key responsibilities? How did these develop as your placement progressed?

  • Creating all client reports
  • Working on briefs
  • Engaging with stakeholders at clients’ company – finding out business priorities and how my company can assist (opportunities for ad-hoc sales)

 As my placement progressed I was more involved and did not need as much guidance in how I did the work. I even had responsibility of training new starters using our software.

What was the real highlight for you?

The real highlight for me during my year in industry was the impact I had at such a high level. I took the lead in a new product development project and eventually I recommended a product to the client which they were satisfied with and launched into the market.  I received good feedback from both clients and my team.  More so, it is quite fulfilling walking around local stores and seeing the product on the shelves knowing I was involved.

What aspects of your degree were relevant to your placement?

Directly my placement isn’t necessarily relevant to course. However, the skillset I needed to be successful during placement are ones which I developed through my course. In particular, the problem-solving and analytical aspect developed mainly through the content of scientific research and business analysis.

What opportunities has your industrial placement opened up to you?

I feel I seem more employable with the addition of a professional placement year to my CV. So far, I have had a few interviews for graduate jobs and assessment centres. The application process seems a lot more free-flowing and easier say in comparison to placement application. I believe this is because of the benefits of my placement year.

How can you envisage your year in industry being relevant to your career prospects in the future?

Although, I do not see myself working within the FMCG industry which is the industry my placement year was involved in. I have developed tangible transferrable skills which would help me become successful within any career I pursue. Skills such as problem-solving and analytics, client relationship, communication and interpersonal skills - and all developed within a professional landscape.

What advice would you offer to other students considering doing a year in industry?

If you are contemplating doing a year in industry, you should definitely do it. At best you will learn more and it will change your life completely. At worst, you still learn, learn about your skillset, what you are good at, what you are not so good at, what you like, what you don’t like. In my case, I now know FMCG isn’t the one for me, which saved me time rather that getting stuck in a grad job within the industry when I do not like it.

Student support is an important part of a successful placement. How did the university support you during your year in industry?

During my year in industry, I received emails from the faculty to check on me, and my supervisor Professor Nicola Stonehouse came to visit. It was all good!

What were the most enjoyable and most challenging aspects of your placement?

Enjoyable: earning money, learning about something different, becoming good at what I was learning, speaking and presenting to senior professionals, helping my clients out with queries – most importantly I worked on a big project that impacted the business decision made by the company. They went with my recommendation and launched the product into the market on the back of my analysis and recommendation, which was quite fulfilling when walking around stores and seeing the product.

Challenging: 9 - 5:30pm isn’t necessarily enjoyable, understanding that other people rely on you to come through in various aspects of the work, learning the work quickly, finding motivation to do mundane tasks like reporting.