I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Toyota GB. I have had opportunities that I never expected to be given on a placement; attending product launches, experiencing the products and representing the brands at multiple events. The student culture at Toyota is a big part of the overall experience, having so many students across the business means that you always have a way in to talk to people across departments and I got stuck in to as many sports and social activities as possible along with the other students that allows you to meet new people and have fun away from the office. There are also multiple away days and special days in the office that keep it exciting, and the office itself is a very enjoyable place to work.
Working at Toyota means that you have a high-level of responsibility, and my role in PR meant that I was trusted to represent the company on many occasions in front of external media and customers. Through these events and the multiple projects I was involved in, I was able to add genuine value to the team and make changes in the department that are appreciated. The PDCA project that each Toyota student produces and presents to managers across the business is a prime example of this, and allows you to leave a legacy and be responsible for improving an area of operations. Managers trust you to analyse and improve processes when you feel things could be done better, and you are reminded of your value as a fresh face to change things in the business.
My manager was very supportive providing regular catch-up meetings and support to clarify any confusion early on. She was very personable and approachable and ensured that I had a steady stream of work that was manageable. She always made it clear to the team when she felt I had too much work and also ensured that any good work I did was shared to the department. On a personal level, my manager was very quick to build my confidence through setting objectives and introduced me to people around the business that allowed me to make the most of my placement.
My workload fluctuated weekly, with busy periods usually coming at the start of each month when new reports need to be created and shared. Periods before and after launches were also very busy, although this was the part of my role that I enjoyed most so it didn't feel particularly tough. There were never periods where I felt that I had nothing to do as there are always smaller admin tasks that needed doing. My manager also ensured that she made the team aware when I had a lot going on so that work would not be passed on to me during those times.
I was given a much greater level of responsibility than I anticipated having on a placement. I was responsible for the majority of our press release distribution to a large database of journalists which needed to be done accurately and timely. I also had to send out internal communications to most of the business on a twice weekly basis, as well as sending out monthly reports that needed to be explained to managers in the department to lead future team strategy. Furthermore, being trusted to represent Toyota and Lexus at events in front of media was daunting but incredibly rewarding, and shows how much trust Toyota have in their students.
My degree is in Management and Marketing, and working in the Press & PR department has allowed me to understand the decision-making in brand positioning and the variations between Toyota and Lexus to generate positive public perception in different markets. From a management perspectives, understanding the importance of 'continuous improvement' of processes is something at the forefront of Toyota's principles, and many projects I was involved in revolved around streamlining processes to maximise efficiency. On a personal level, speaking in front of senior managers has built my confidence enormously, and developing skills in website maintenance, Excel and Powerpoint will be useful for the remainder of my studies and in the workplace.
The office at Toyota is one of its biggest attractions, with very modern facilities and lots of outdoor space and wildlife. The atmosphere can be quiet but I quite like this as there are less distractions. My department have daily meetings that keep everyone up-to-date and ensure that everyone feels listened to, and begin with a joke to lighten the mood! I personally lunched with the students everyday which was a fun way to break up the day, and the canteen lends itself to sitting with large groups who are always friendly. There was also many special events in the office such as Best Companies Day and the Christmas and Summer Fair's which featured lots of free food, drink and entertainment - these were always something to always look forward to.
The placement is very well organised, and it is clear that Toyota has a strong student culture that has been improved over many years. The PDCA project that each students leads and presents allows you to leave a legacy, whilst also fulfilling the criteria for the majority of university work that you are asked to do. There is a clear review process tailored to students, with regular HR communication and training to ensure you are given everything you need to feel comfortable. The handover process is an example of this, with lots of work going in to introducing you to the role and the business.
There were multiple training sessions that covered skills in Excel, email, A3 reporting, safety, mental health and presenting. These were adapted to students and had different levels that you could sign up to in some cases if you felt you were more or less familiar than others in that area. One student also asked for extra training in presentation skills, and this was sourced and provided by Toyota for all students at short notice. The development procedure was also well developed, and the online portal allowed for regular feedback and objective setting.
Sports and Social Club
Staff Sales/Staff Shop
Working from home
Future employment prospects at Toyota are very appealing, and there are many examples across the business of placement students having climbed the ladder and reached senior management positions. The graduate scheme is very competitive but is closely linked to the placement scheme and they are keen for all students to apply. This would allow you to experience areas across the business and therefore understand where you would best fit in the company. Employees also evidently stay at Toyota for a long time with a clear path up the business across to Europe.
The social scene among students was one of the best things about my placement year. I was able to live with three other students, and I made a large group of friends that I went on holidays with and regularly met up with outside of work. Many of us played football, tennis and cricket for work teams and held barbeques and gatherings regularly to watch sport on weekends and after work. We also spent the majority of lunchtimes together, with the students all going for walks around the areas. I plan to stay in touch with as many as possible and visit them at university.
Living is expensive due to the office's location in Surrey, and the one night-out I had in London proved to be way too expensive for me! Rent was fairly affordable although I chose the smallest room in our house share. Rent was roughly £525 a month for somewhere nice, although it was tough to find a 4 bed house as we did and most students lived on their own in a house share. Socialising was quite cheap as long as you found student deals, with our local cinema being cheap enough for us to visit every couple of weeks.
Although the night-life in the immediate area of the office was not great, travelling half an hour into Clapham or Kingston was good fun and was more targeted to students. I went to a few gigs in Kingston with some of the other students as well as to the O2. One negative was how strict the bouncers can be on dress code which caught us out a few times! If you are more interested in pubs, there a lots to choose from although can be quite expensive.
The sports and social club provided opportunities to get involved in a large number of teams such as football, cricket and tennis, as well as giving discounts on events at the nearby Epsom racecourse and theatre tickets for example. Toyota also allow for two volunteer days; I was able to get involved in a Pine tree conservation project along with most of the students as well planning to do a marathon walk before its cancellation due to Covid-19.
Placement Year (10 Months+)
30th June 2020