I did enjoy my placement. I thought the scheme was well-established and everyone in the company knew what to expect from a student. My manager also knew what was expected of me in terms of my university commitment. However, I think there was that the placement had only set out the minimal work and work to keep myself busy throughout the placement required, perhaps too much, independence and an insistence for more work. Whilst this did improve my independence, I think the placement should have periodic reviews to ensure the student is busy and involved in different projects throughout the placement.
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Whilst the work I did would have some effect in a few years, I didn’t feel like many people knew what I was doing or why I was doing it. To improve, I think more transparency is required, and perhaps getting more people involved in the project to ensure the work done would have the maximum effort. Within the department, the engineering teams were pretty unsociable, and it was hard to interact with people outside your project teams and work teams. Because of this, it was hard to feel valued when people didn’t know who you were or what you were doing.
For the most part, I did feel well-supported by my manager; they had had previous students before and understood what to expect and my university commitments. However, as many of the other placement students on site also felt, it was hard to give feedback or ensure they were developing you properly as they were your reporting manager. I think a formal quarterly review with your manager and head of the placement students would have solved this problem as problems would have been formally documented and feedback could be given to help improve the overall experience for both parties.
I think this fluctuated on the day and especially towards the end of the placement when I felt less motivated and there was no incentive to finish the work I had been doing, some days were wasted. During the beginning, I was especially busy as I was working to start projects as well as gaining an understanding of the technical aspects and the usual GSK working environment. I think one aspect that R&d lacks is deadlines, I think, especially placement students, should be given working deadlines when to complete work and to ensure that they are on task.
As expected, I needed a lot more support and guidance during the beginning of the placement and required assistance on a lot of minor projects as I didn’t understand the ways of working or have all the technical knowledge. As the placement progressed, I grew more confident and essentially became a project lead or co-lead. This helped develop my project and time management skills. However, I think as the project(s) were purely for development, I think more emphasis should’ve been given on the expected final outcome and what my work was hoping to achieve in the long run.
I don’t regret doing this placement and highly recommend any student doing a degree to do one as you learn so many skills that are not taught in university. To name a few, I have developed my project management, time management, interpersonal skills, confidence, organisational, networking, team work and leadership skills. I don’t think university can teach you many of these skills in the way that the actual working world requires. However, I think many of the skills I developed were gained independently and there was no formal process to ensure that the student was developing or gaining certain skills. Whilst this was good to be very self-motivated, I think it meant I missed out on developing skills that I was not aware of or getting involved with projects to ensure I was developing all of the skills.
In this specific engineering department, it was unsociable and people did not communicate unless you were already working with them. Whilst they were not unwelcoming, it was hard to approach new people and ask them about their work or get involved with their projects. Because of this, it was hard to get help on projects, especially as new employee, if you did not know who to contact.
The scheme was well established and almost everyone person in the company knew what a placement student was and what to expect from them. It was expected that they would have a main project to work on throughout the year and would have a direct reporting manager who would oversee their work. They were expected to be integrated into the team and added onto project teams.
As previously mentioned, I think it was expected that the student would develop throughout the year and gain certain skills. However, there was no formal process to ensure that the student was in fact developing these skills or a drive to put the student onto certain projects to ensure that they had the means to develop those skills. Apart from development half-day which consisted of presentations, there was no formal training or development talks. Though, if the student was engaged and motivated enough, they could push to ensure they were developing but it was of their own accord.
Whilst I think the placement student scheme could improve slightly, the company is very appealing to work for later in life. The company culture and drive towards the patients wouldn’t be seen in most companies, as well as this, the employees hired are all driven towards the patients- which creates a friendlier working atmosphere and a strive to ensure everything is right. The global network means that there’s opportunities to work with people from all over the world and a chance to get involved with projects off site.
Yes, I think the company did create an internal network for placement students- they placed us in group chats and ensured we had a means of contacting the other students before and during the placement. Whilst it was completely up to the student on whether they actively engaged with the other students, there was ample opportunity provided by the company to socialise with the other students.
As the placement was based near London, I would say the house prices and socialising were mediocre. In some respects, it was more expensive than student living, and it was important to budget and manage your finances- the placement salary covered the costs enough and allowed for enough of a disposable income.
The nightlife was mediocre compared to student life, however it was not a university town and most of the time, working life meant that weekends were the main time for socialising. Due to the proximity to London, it was reasonable enough to travel to London for the night life and other socialising opportunities.
As with any place, it is what you make of it and if you wanted to, I’m sure there were many activities and opportunities for other activities outside of work. I do think that your accommodation location and whether you live in the centre of town affects the available opportunities and the time you have to do them.