Meet Vijay Gill: Winner of Best Placement Student 2019

In March 2019, the National Undergraduate Employability Awards celebrated the spectacular achievements of employers, universities and students across the country.

Vijay Gill was crowned Best Placement Student 2019 in recognition of his industrial placement year at pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

We caught up with Vijay to find out more about his placement with GSK, how it has helped his career prospects and why he thinks failing only makes you a stronger candidate…

Hello Vijay, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m currently in my final year studying Computer Science at Queen Mary University of London. I grew up a little over an hour away in a small town in Kent called Belvedere, which is named after the Italian phrase “beautiful view” due to its views of the River Thames.

Outside of studying, my interests are a little more creative; I enjoy sketching, painting, photography and video gaming. I’m a huge fan of all things ‘70s and ‘80s, so I enjoy watching lots of vintage films and listening to awesome “oldies” music! I’m also a documentary enthusiast with a particular fascination for ancient history.

Why did you choose to do a placement as part of your degree?

I realised early on in my degree that a placement would greatly improve my future career prospects. I knew that both the technical knowledge and professional skills I could develop would prove invaluable in my final year of university and beyond. And earning a salary would be a nice bonus!

Why did you choose GSK's placement scheme?

Whilst I was well aware of GSK’s reputation as one of the largest pharmaceutical and healthcare companies in the world, the main reason I chose GSK was because I wanted to make a difference to the lives of others.

In the words of GSK, I wanted to help them “do more, feel better, live longer”. Their work in improving people’s lives is something that very much aligns with my personal values. 

How did you find applying for your placement?

The application process with GSK was pretty standard: an online application, aptitude tests and an assessment centre. The support system around me was amazing; particularly from the team at GSK, who guided me through the entire process and helped me feel at ease. 

Do you have any application tips?

#1 Start with research, research and more research!

There are countless companies that offer placements - both big and small - but focus on finding the right one for you.

Feel free to watch videos online, read student feedback on sites like RateMyPlacement and reach out to any industry contacts you have. This will help you figure out if the company is the right fit, and will also strengthen your application should you apply.

Always find a reason why you are genuinely passionate about the company - I can’t encourage this enough. 

#2 Don’t be disheartened by the journey

You will do countless application forms, online tests, interviews and assessment centre days, but don’t be discouraged!

If you can show employers what makes you stand out from the crowd and why you are passionate about working for their company, they should want to hire you.

Enjoy the journey and watch yourself grow in confidence, determination and resilience.

#3 My personal philosophy…

… is rather than looking at where you went wrong, look at what you can learn from any challenge you face. Then it won’t be a “failure” but a necessary step in getting you closer to bigger and better things!

Tell us about your experience at the NUE Awards...

The NUE Awards were amazing! I particularly enjoyed listening to Kelly Holmes’ incredible speech about her career. It was such a wonderful and inspiring night of celebrations.

My best moment had to be winning the award for Best Placement Student. It was the perfect ending to one of the most exhilarating years of my life: my placement year.

I have to give an enormous thank you to the entire team who hosted this amazing event. I could see the level of dedication they put in, and I can’t thank you all enough. 

How do you think your placement year and award will affect your career? 

Throughout my placement I learnt a lot about my skills, abilities and interests - both in and out of work - and this experience has really helped me in deciding which career path I want to take.

Whilst winning Best Placement Student might help me stand out against other candidates in the future, more than anything, I hope it will be a testament to my strong work ethic and passion.