Research into e-liquids and e-cigarettes.
I really enjoyed my placement with British American Tobacco. I was given projects which were interesting and business relevant, so the work was fulfilling and felt worthwhile. I feel like I've gained a lot from this year, in terms of practical chemistry experience as well as business skills. I couldn't wish much more from a placement!
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Everybody I came across at BAT was supportive and encouraging. They didn't treat me like a student but like a normal employee. I interacted with many colleagues, from other students to management level, but never felt small. The placement scheme at BAT is well-known across the company and we as students were given opportunities throughout the year to network and to present the work we had been doing, and people seemed genuinely interested.
I had weekly catch-ups with my line manager throughout placement, which was really helpful in order to keep on top of my project work. He was supportive and patient, particularly at the beginning when I was getting used to the working environment. I did sometimes find it difficult to know how I was getting on - he wasn't always forthcoming with praise, but I know that his advice and feedback has helped me improve and develop throughout the year.
Most of the time I had a good level of work. It was a bit of a slow start to begin with, but I think this was just while I was learning about the background to my project and learning about the business. There were short periods of time throughout the year which were very busy, but they only tended to last a couple of days or a week at a time so it didn't get too much.
I was given more responsibility than I expected for a placement student! I was put in charge of my own project from the first day I was at BAT. It was a fast learning curve to have to plan my own work and experiments, but very rewarding. I was also given opportunities to present my work several times during the year.
I have learned a lot this year, and I believe these skills will be useful in whatever I go on to do this year. They will help me in my degree as I learned how to plan experiments and studies, and how to write reports. I also gained interpersonal skills and had training in presentations and interview skills which will be helpful wherever I go in the future.
I really loved the atmosphere in the office. It was always well balanced, with the focus on work but always friendly and sociable at the same time. I always felt at ease and people were happy to answer my questions (and I had a lot of them for some people!).
The placement scheme at BAT is very well organised. They have a placement team who do a great job of organising events and training throughout the year, which I feel I really benefited from. The placement team changed part way through the year due to a retirement but the transition was easy and well arranged.
Most of my training came from the placement team - they arranged training in CV and interview skills, presentation skills, how to write a scientific poster, as well as inductions at the beginning of the year. They also helped us arrange a networking session for us to meet some more senior managers, which may give us connections in the years to come.
Many past placement students now work at BAT so I know that the company is keen on employing ex-students. An assessment centre has already been organised for this year's students, to give us an opportunity to get a job with them after graduation.
An induction day was organised for us before we started placement, where we met all of the students from the previous year and the year coming up. This was really helpful, and enabled us to find houses for the year to come. Most of the students were sociable, and we had a few nights out and dinners together, as well as with some of our other colleagues. Lots of opportunities to interact outside of work!
I'm used to living in pretty expensive areas, so Southampton was very cheap in comparison with that! I shared a house with some of the other placement students, and rent was very affordable. There are plenty of places to go out for drinks or meals so it was easy enough to find somewhere to accommodate a student budget.
Southampton has two universities so there are plenty of students around during term time to keep places lively. Loads of options for places to go out so there should be somewhere to suit everyone.
There are subsidised events organised through work - for example half price theatre tickets and subsidised local festival tickets. The work Christmas party is also a great event, and a Christmas quiz too. There's a football league which plenty of people joined in with and other sports such as badminton too.