Working at the Ware Research & Development site in the Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls group supporting product development and transition to Pharma Supply Chain by providing statistical expertise and analysis on drug data. Working on non-clinical projects, typically with Respiratory and HIV medication.
My work placement at GSK has been amazing! I love their values and culture and have been offered so many opportunities related to both my work and external activities. I have loved having a routine when working, knowing that I start at 8:30am and finish at 5pm has given me structure and I have found myself to be a lot more productive. It has also been great to leave work behind at the office and enjoy my evenings and weekends for myself. It also goes without saying earning money has been a positive! The job role has provided me with so many new skills and it has been great being able to apply my University knowledge to real life applications and projects. Sometimes work can go through peaks and troughs and there have been some challenges along the way, but this has all contributed to my development over the year.
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I could not have been more welcomed into my department. Everyone is super friendly and willing to spend time supporting and helping on project work and development. I have been treated like an employee of GSK and not a placement student (in terms of respect and responsibilities) I have been trusted to take on large projects and communicate with senior members of staff. There is a great community at GSK that has left me feeling valued and confident.
My manager and I had 1:1 catch ups twice a week for 30 mins at a time which was great for checking in on workload, development, issues and achievements. At the beginning of my placement the support was more regular and I always felt I could ask for help when I needed it. My manager has provided me with some great statistical support on projects and helped develop my understanding of the company, the products and the science behind the medicine. I understand my managers time is precious, so at times the support was not immediate, but was always helpful and addressed.
Due to the nature of the job, work requests are irregular and come through at different times. For this reason my workload was varied and I found it peaked and troughed throughout my placement. Particularly busy times seemed to be at the end of the month as this tends to be when a lot of departments set their internal deadlines, but I was also very quiet work wise after Christmas at the start of 2020. In general though there was a good balance and I found if I was light on work I could email round the department to see if anyone wanted support on their projects.
To begin with I was working alongside another Statistician on a project for support, however by the end of my placement I was given my own projects to work on and complete independently with little to no help or support. This meant I was given my own client to work with and liaise about the work request, compete the analysis and report independently which was a great achievement. I also had the opportunity to get involved with external activities like the Communications and Charity team where I was given the responsibility to author, edit and check the weekly site Newsletter and help organise fundraisers.
My placement year at GSK has been invaluable for my personal and interpersonal development. Mainly, I have become a much more confident individual. This applies to my confidence walking into an office, meeting new people, entering a new environment, contributing to discussions in meetings and so much more. Communication is also such a key skill used in my role that I have been able to put into practice and develop. I have had great feedback about my technical written skills, email writing skills and presentation skills which have all developed through experience on placement. I have been able to put into practice and apply skills in the workplace that are not taught or developed at University studying my degree. I really believe the training, skills development and life experience will set me apart from other candidates for future job interviews and assist me for my final year at University, especially when writing my final year project and having a routine for study.
The office was very quiet, which was great for being productive and getting work done, but also lacked some atmosphere. The department was quite small (10 people when full - 7 in the main office and 3 in smaller separate offices), so it often felt quite quiet. This is because the whole department is split across 2 sites and a couple of people are on secondment, some people changed jobs and left and someone was on maternity leave for the majority of my placement. Most employees tend to work from home on Monday, which meant there were only a max of 4 of us in sometimes, so I would have preferred a busier office with more people to talk too. Having said this the office space next door was always full and busy (where other placement students were based) so I could always go and see them.
Overall the placement was well organised and GSK provide a lot of opportunities for placement students to get involved in. This includes but is not limits too insight days, site visits, placement swaps and socials. I was implemented with a start up plan for training and initial development and soon got started on my first work project. I would have benefitted and liked to have had a overlap with the previous placement student and the technical training I received at the beginning could have been more organised, but overall it was great. Especially with the global pandemic and having to work from home, GSK and my manager were great at providing support, getting me set up and providing health and wellbeing checked, so that was a seamless change.
I went to internal training sessions for statistical software, however these events and sessions were not paid for. We had development days organised where we had an external speaker talk about finances, interview skills and CV workshops. When the pandemic hit and we started working from home we gained access to a lot of health and wellbeing sites, but were also sent webinars and sessions on managing stress, healthy living and eating and effectiveness of sleep. When it comes to face to face development sessions I did not receive any that the company had invested in for me.
I love GSK's culture, values and the opportunities that are presented. GSK run direct entry roles that can be applied for via their careers pages by looking out for available jobs. GSK also run a grad scheme called the Future Leaders Programme which your line manager can write you a recommendation for. If you pass the recommendation screening then you get to progress straight through to an online job simulation similar to a video interview with some assessment style questions thrown in. I think the next step is then a final assessment centre at a GSK site face to face. I have currently completed my online job simulation and waiting to hear back a response, but their future employment prospects are great with a wide range of programmes available.
Yes, especially if you lived in the area near to the site you are based. I chose a Mon - Fri rent, so was not around at the weekend, however there was still plenty of social events happening after work in the evenings, like going out for meals, drinks, bowling or the cinema. GSK's industrial placement leadership team also organise a few larger social events including a winter/new years ball and boat party which are great events to meet people from other GSK sites. This includes not just placement students but apprentices and graduates too.
The cost of living in Ware is expensive. The average rent price of a house tends to be around £500 a month per person excluding bills. This is why I chose to go with a Mon - Fri rent as I paid £85 a week which included all household bills - this meant staying with a live in landlord, but she was lovely and it was never a problem and was probably the best decision I made. I do not feel like I missed out on socials (I found people were willing to put me up at their houses if I needed a place to stay). Socialising tended to be the normal prices for food and drink. Ware is full of pubs and places to eat out, as well as a very popular cocktail bar! Ware is close enough to travel into London via train easily, but obviously the cost of living and socialising is a lot more.
Ware has a lot of pubs which is great for a pub crawl! You can get the train into London for nights out and Hertford is a 5 min train stop that has a Wetherspoons and Popworld night club, which is popular amongst the placement students. Ware also has a cocktail bar which is very nice, although it is a small town so the nightlife is not extensive or amazing, but you can still have a great night out.
Endless amounts to get involved in outside of work! You could get involved in leadership teams and many teams set up around site including the Communications, Charity, Women's Leadership Initiative, Inclusion and Diversity and LGBT+. In addition to these great teams I became a STEM Ambassador - one of the best parts of my year! - to help inspire and motivate the younger generation in STEM careers. These included science shows, GCSE and A-level work experience weeks, The Big Bang Fair at Birmingham NEC and virtual sessions hosted by The Engineering Development Trust. I completed my Industrial Cadets Platinum Leaders Award and gained my badge and certificate. There is also the opportunity to use your Orange Day (volunteering day) and one option for this is an Over the Wall camp. In addition to all of these amazing opportunities there are insight days, site swaps and placement swaps available to get involved in.