I worked in the Parts Division function, in the following departments :
1. Material Control and Parts Distribution (5 months)
2. Management, Processes and Animation (3 months)
3. Engineering and Systems (2 months)
4. Quality (2 months)
I have thoroughly enjoyed my year with PSA Peugeot Citroen. One of the main advantages of the placement scheme was the opportunity to work in different departments within the Parts Logistics function. I had the chance to work both in a team, and on my own, managing a number of projects with direct impact on the warehouse operations. I feel I was given real responsibility and relatively high independence, which enabled me develop both personally and professionally. My knowledge of how warehouse operations are being managed has increased considerably, and most important of all, I was given valuable insight into how structural and cultural changes impact on an organisation and on its people.
During the first few weeks, when I was learning skills required in my daily role, my manager and my colleagues made me feel really welcomed, and they were keen to teach me what they knew. After the first month, I was able to cover for those who were on annual leave; I received the same amount of work as the rest of the team, joining all the meetings or presentations with the rest of the department. I truly felt like a team member whose work had a real impact and whose opinions were valued.
My line manager gave me a lot of support when I began the first placement, through on-the-job training and regular one-to-ones, when she monitored my progress. Knowing that I wanted to improve my French, my manager gave me many opportunities to practice; I participated in audio conferences with her French counterparts, we often chatted in French and she even gave me the responsibility of managing a French supplier. She encouraged me to participate in company workshops and online training, proving she was truly interested in my personal growth. When I joined other departments, however, I received projects that I was managing on my own, and the support I received was much lower. All of my other managers gave me high independence, and assisted me only if I needed their help. With little supervision, however, I learned to better manage my tasks, I gained more confidence in approaching people and seeking for help and I became more entrepreneurial in my approach. Luckily, as most of my projects had to be done in consultancy with warehouse supervisors or managers, I still received a lot of help and support from them, and learnt more about the warehouse operations.
The workload varied; there were times when I was under pressure because of an approaching deadline, but I also had more relaxed periods. Generally, I received enough work to keep me busy, without feeling overwhelmed or stressed. The times when I worked overtime were very few, and there was never an expectation for me to do it. When I felt that the work wasn’t challenging or it wasn’t enough, I always voiced my concerns with my managers/HR advisors, and actions were taken. I think that placement students generally receive enough work that is interesting and that makes a real contribution on the company. IPs are encouraged to be pro-active though – after all, it’s in our interest to work hard and impress, and increase the likelihood of being offered a grad job at the end of the placement.
As I’ve said, PSA only places IPs where there is a need for them; therefore, departments only request an IP if they have meaningful work for them to do. With this in mind, the IPs are expected to make a significant contribution through their year. For instance, I had the task of managing the Online Dealer Satisfaction survey, where I had to collect feedback from over 450 Peugeot/Citroen dealers around the UK in only 2 weeks; this survey was the basis for the formulation of next year’s action plan, so receiving as much quality feedback as possible was critical. Other projects I managed were: re-launching the Employee Suggestion Scheme; reviewing the internal auditing process and creating a new database to record the audit results; formulating and delivering workshops aimed to increase people’s awareness of quality.
I think that the soft skills I acquired during my day-to-day job are going to help me enormously when I will apply for a grad job next year. I became more confident, I developed my time-management, problem solving and communication skills, and I have a more customer-oriented approach. Furthermore, the better understanding of warehouse operations and the insight into corporate change management are also invaluable learnings I will use when writing my final year dissertation.
The atmosphere at the office was one of the best aspects of my placement. From my first day, people proved to be very friendly and welcoming. Everyone, from the shop floor, to office staff and managers are all approachable and supportive.
PSA has a long tradition of taking on IPs, so the placement scheme is well-structured in my opinion. All of the IPs attend a pre-induction day before starting the placement to meet the other interns and sort out things like accommodation. Then, during the training week (in the first week of the placement), we found out more about the company, our roles, training dates etc. Before starting each placement, I received a clear list of my objectives for the next period. At the end of each placement, each intern has an appraisal interview with their manager, where they are given feedback on their performance. At the end of the placement year, all IPs attend an exit interview when they find out if the company will offer them a grad job offer. Throughout the year, we also had one-to-ones with our HR advisors, who make sure that we receive enough support and made the most out of our experience – I personally found these sessions very useful.
An excellent external trainer delivered 3 training courses throughout the year – I found these sessions extremely useful. Apart from these 1-day training sessions, the company didn’t really invest much more in developing the interns – which I was quite disappointed about. For example I expected to receive support with pursuing some French courses – PSA is after all a French company, but I didn’t. I personally think that the company could do more in terms of training its interns, because at the moment it’s up to the individual managers how much they train their IPs.
PSA generally decides to take on IPs in graduate roles rather than recruit new people, because of the knowledge the interns already have of the company, and also because of the time and resources invested in them. With this in mind, the chances of returning to PSA as a graduate are relatively high – most of the managers I’ve spoken to have started their careers as an intern for PSA!
The social scene was very good – there is a large group of IPs, graduates and French interns working at PSA, and there is always something going on, from nights out, meals out, mini-golf, Laser Quest, daytrips, concerts, even city breaks. Besides, I lived in a shared house with 6 other IPs, so we always tried to plan something at weekends.
I expected Coventry to be slightly cheaper than Birmingham; however, it was relatively the same. My monthly rent with bills included was £415; a one-term student bus pass was £108, a night out in Coventry would be around £20-30.
Coventry nightlife is okay; JJ’s and Kasbah are the most popular nightclubs amongst the student population, or Scholars is another option. I’d recommend Leamington Spa as an alternative, it’s slightly more expensive but it’s a much nicer night out.. Birmingham is another option, and it’s relatively close - 20 minutes in a train.
There are a few things you can get involved in, from meals out with the team, Pop Quiz, Christmas Ball, to charity events (like cycling from Paris to Coventry PSA Headquarters, skydiving, hiking) or concerts. I felt there was always something going on.