Biological Sciences industrial placement student at University of Leeds

Caitriona Snell

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

I worked in the marketing department at IBM, based in Portsmouth. My role was extensive but essentially supported the analysis division of the department – I worked regularly on spreadsheets analysing the budget spent on each IBM initiative in a quarter. In addition, I supported my manager in meetings, managed event databases, aided social media campaigns, managed internal websites... My biggest project of the year was organising a series of “road show” events based around what IBM does at Wimbledon.

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

Initially I worked solely with my line manager and a few members of his team, including some I was with physically in Portsmouth. As I worked there for longer I became known for certain things – I was often able to solve excel problems, for example, so had lots of queries about that! In addition, once I’d built my reputation as someone who works hard and on time, I would get given more tasks and responsibilities. As I mentioned, this culminated in the Wimbledon project at the end of my time.

What aspects of your degree were relevant to your placement?

My degree is Biological Sciences so obviously moving into marketing in the technology industry is quite a jump! However, I definitely realised I was well-equipped with relevant skills when I arrived. A large part of marketing is analytics – looking at where campaigns have been successful and why. As a scientist, my propensity in working with numbers in the lab translated across really well. For anyone looking to do a similar jump, I would definitely recommend thinking in terms of skills and what you can offer a role, that people with a more relevant degree cannot. In addition to analytical skills, team work, presentation, working quickly and efficiently and being organised all came into play.

What opportunities has your industrial placement opened up to you?

My contract with IBM was 12 months – June 2013 to June 2014 – but I was fortunate enough to be offered a 2 month extension, so finished in August, in order to wrap up the Wimbledon project. Since then I worked as a marketing consultant with a small engineering firm on building up their marketing strategy – that was really interesting as it was in a much smaller business and also an entirely different industry. Since returning to university I undertook an internship organising an event celebrating student engagement at Leeds – another really exciting project, the first of its kind, and the chance to network extensively. Finally, I am now working with a student start-up on marketing and promotion within the Leeds student sphere and beyond.

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

From my year in industry I learned what I love – organising and working in a team. Working in an international company also highlighted for me the relevance of international relations and business, which I find very interesting, and I hope to apply this in my professional experience in the future. Hopefully all of these will come together soon, but as of yet I have no solid plans for the next year.