- Course: MNatSc Natural Sciences
Where did you do your industrial placement?
I spent twelve months working for Diversey (now part of Sealed Air), a company which specialises in providing industry professionals (restaurants, hotels and business) with industrial-cleaning solutions. My placement was based in Utrecht, the Netherlands at the company’s largest European R&D facility.
Can you describe your job role?
Although just an intern, my role was as important as anyone else’s at the company. My main role was to develop innovative formulations for the industrial kitchen market. This job was both lab based and office based; a combination of environments which I really enjoyed. Although my main role was to develop cleaning products, I was exposed to many other areas of the business; I attended business meetings and also use my creative skills to design technologies for future projects.
What made you decide to apply for a placement abroad?
Finding a placement abroad was not my immediate intention. Diversey had advertised that any students taken on placement would be based in the Netherlands, so I didn’t really have a choice. Since most placements are based in England, I was very excited to learn that I would have the opportunity to work abroad.
Was it easy to find accommodation for your placement?
My company provided and paid for the accommodation. I cycled a total of 20K every day (in sun, rain and snow) to and from work. Although it may seem far Holland is a flat country and cyclists have their own cycle lanes so cycling was very enjoyable.
Did you have the chance to travel whilst in the Netherlands?
During the summer months I went away for long weekends with the other interns. We visited Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Hungary, and many cities in the Netherlands.
What was the best thing about the placement?
My main project was to develop an innovative formulation with an expected turnover of 150 million US dollars over the next 5 years. I succeeded in developing this product, within the time-frame given, and the formulation is currently on the global market. It is exciting to know that people all over the world are using the product that I developed.
Did you find anything particularly challenging during your year in industry?
I found it challenging at first making friends outside of the company. I went to the Netherlands without knowing anybody and without knowing the language. It would have been much easier to meet people if I was studying at a University as I would have been surrounded by other students of a similar age. I decided to join a sports club and soon joined a tennis club near my home. I have made some very close friends and I look forward to going on my next visit to the Netherlands.
How have you benefited from the placement?
The placement has benefited me in many ways: I have become a much more independent and confident woman. I have been exposed to a very fast moving industry and have met some incredibly talented scientists and engineers from which I have learnt a lot. I am more confident in my University work. I have a much more positive outlook on the future job-wise.
Has the placement given you a better idea about what sort of career you want to pursue?
I have come to realise that I work very well under pressure and that fast-moving industries are very exciting environments to work in. I have also realised that I do not want to pursue a lab-based career. I am thinking of training as a patent attorney or specialising in medical toxicology, fields which are not at all related to my industrial work, but which are related (to some extent) to my degree.
Do you have any tips or advice to give students thinking about doing it?
I think that all students should gain work experience before they have finished their undergraduate studies, no matter what subject they are studying. Work experience will help you decide what career path you want to go down and also give you the confidence you need to achieve what you want in life. I have seen that having ambition can take you a long way and my new confidence has spurred me on to be the best that I can be.