1. To what extent did you enjoy your work placement or internship?
I thoroughly enjoyed my placement at Toyota GB. Every moment from submitting my application up until handing my car back on my last day has been superb. The company possesses a very friendly and welcoming culture where you just grow and learn a bit more each day all whilst performing a valuable job with implications that reach far beyond the 250+ dealerships in the dealer network.
2. To what extent did you feel valued by your colleagues?
The colleagues I had were one of the reasons why working in Toyota GB was so special. From the very first minute, they valued me as an employee and never was I seen as just the student. In fact, the way I was treated showed to me that my skills and knowledge were appreciated from the offset. The managers and the rest of the team were very clear from day 1 that I was there because I was needed and this really did show.
3. To what extent were you given support and guidance by management/your supervisor(s)?
Toyota GB has a very unique culture in which conversation and communication holds a lot of value and while this doesn't mean communication was perfect all the time, the management was always available for when I needed support.
My expectations and responsibilities were always clear from the offset and there was never a time where I felt confused as to what I should be doing.
Regular 1 to 1 conversations with your direct manager are very common, some departments have the rule to have it once per week, however, my department spread this out more (once per month). I felt that this was better in my circumstance because it gave me more freedom to structure myself in my own way without being micromanaged, knowing that if I ever needed to consult my manager or anyone else they would always be willing to listen to me.
4. How busy were you on a daily basis?
My manager was very wary from the start about the workload I possessed and he made his best efforts to never give me more work than I could get through whilst also ensuring I had enough to be in my best productive form.
I was given the freedom to manage my time and how I performed tasks, I believe this helped bring out the best in me. If there was a day I was not feeling up to it I could always lessen my workload and when I was really motivated I could up it and go the extra mile. The management placed a lot of trust in me allowing me to do things this way but in the end, it created a wonderful work-life balance that not only got the best out of me in terms of productivity it also ensured my mind was never cluttered.
5. How much responsibility were you given during your placement?
I was given a lot of responsibility from the offset, whilst I believe this was in part due to being in a very specialized department, the management shaped me to have a very unique take on problem-solving while also allowing me to innovate and create solutions. I led projects that involved our 250+ dealer network, our European parent company, our suppliers, customers and the team itself.
6. To what extent did/will the skills you developed, and training you received, assist you in your degree studies and beyond?
I was very lucky to have been under management which had a very unique take on problem-solving. I learnt and worked with so many different thinking toolkits that will definitely assist me not only in my studies but in the way I behave and go around problems in my personal life. I managed to learn and take out so much more than I could have ever expected.
7. What was the general atmosphere in your office?
The atmosphere was brilliant in my department, there was always a lot of banter going on (all light-hearted) and at the same time, there was also the common understanding of how each other worked and no one ever got in my nerves. I never felt any politics or personal animosity between anyone in my department and despite there being an age difference others would have relied on you as you relied on them.
It's very interesting that at Toyota GB each department has it's very own and distinctive work culture so I can only talk for my specific department.
8. How well organised was the overall work placement or internship set up?
The application process, psychometric testing, interview and everything until joining the company was organised perfectly, however, the same can't be said about the organisation after beginning the placement.
There was a structure which all students follow and despite the differences in departments and roles, this bought all the group together ensuring a parity and fairness. In theory, this is a very good model but in practice, it just didn't work out. Communication about student events, requirements, activities and tasks weren't great and there was a heavy reliance on word of mouth.
9. In terms of personal training and development, to what extent did the company or firm invest in you?
My experience with training & development was very mixed, on one hand, my department and my manager allowed me to take part in whichever activity I fancied regardless of it being directly related to my role description or not. This was great because it allowed me to see the side of the business through so many different viewpoints and the knowledge acquired doing so had a direct benefit with subsequent projects and the way I operated inside this very specialised industry. On the other hand, I don't think I benefitted much from the planned training activities - mainly because of the organisation of them, as stated above communication wasn't great and our involvement in them was more from a bystander role.
10. What were the perks on your work placement?
Sports and Social Club
Staff Sales/Staff Shop
Working from home
11. How appealing are future employment prospects within the organisation?
I would definitely love to grow my career in Toyota GB if the opportunity presented itself, it is a brilliant company in a marketplace that moves rapidly, the culture and facilities are fantastic and most importantly you add value as an employee. Spending a year with them really turned my head and made me seriously want to commit in building a career in this company or this sector in particular.
12. Was there a good social scene amongst any fellow placement students/colleagues?
At the start, everyone got along perfectly well and it was a very communal environment however as time passed subgroups started forming between the students and whilst there wasn't any animosity and everyone still got along perfectly well, you found yourself interacting less and less each time. We had very few activities together and nothing really kickstarted our friendships. Saying that I know from other cohorts that this varies vastly each year and while my year was quite split there have been occasions where the opposite is the norm.
13. What was the cost of living and socialising in the area you worked in?
The head office is located in Epsom, Surrey. While it's a lovely place to live and work the cost of living is terribly high. I doubt I was able to have any considerable savings after the year finished. Going out for food, shopping, transport, etc was very expensive and unsustainable.
You can reach central London in around 30 min by trains and that is a very positive thing, especially when you notice that you're not living in the most expensive place in the country because Central London prices are just a tad higher.
14. What was the Nightlife like in the area you worked?
Epsom itself surprisingly has 2 clubs, however only one of them attracts a student crowd (despite being a small crowd). The closest place to properly go out is Kingston, however, the Uber that takes you back home will be in excess of £30...
London can be a fantastic place to go out, that is if you forget that you'll struggle to find transport back home after a night out and that your bank balance will go down drastically.
15. Were there many opportunities to get involved in activities outside of work?
The company is very open to volunteering and the CSR arm works very well. There is a partnership with Guide Dogs for The Blind and they provide us with endless opportunities to help in some way or another. There's a Sports and Social club that despite not doing any activities when they do so it's wonderfully priced and very engaging.