How did you go about searching for placements? When did you start doing this?
I started looking for placements in October of second year after completing the year in industry bootcamp. Due to COVID and various other reasons I took a break in looking, as I was unsure of my plans for the following year. I started searching for and applying to placements again in February, did interviews in May and accepted a placement in June. I was slightly worried I was too late to get a placement as I knew other students who had accepted placements from Christmas, but there were still many advertised in semester two. I used Indeed and Linked-in to look locally for placements, and applied directly to bigger companies through their websites.
Could you tell us a little bit about the organisation you worked for while on placement?
Woodside Logistics Group, based in Ballynure Co. Antrim, Ireland is a logistics company that transports goods of all descriptions throughout the UK and Ireland. It is made up of 5 internal companies; Woodside Distribution, Haulage, Tankfreight, Motorfreight and Global. Woodside provides everything from full and pallet load distribution, car transportation and storage, bulk transport of powders, liquids and gases, BRC AA grade warehousing and international air and sea freight forwarding.
There are many different departments that organise jobs, calculate costs, organise repairs and coordinate drivers both locally and overseas. I personally work in the main accounts office, made up of twenty-two colleagues across purchase ledger, sales ledger, payroll, credit control and accounting.
Why is mathematical work important to the host organisation?
Accurate and thorough mathematic work is particularly important within Woodsides as it is a continuously expanding business that experienced rapid growth and change due to both Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic in rapid succession. With the volume of transport jobs and staff increasing, costs and efficiency must be managed with high scrutiny, to make sure the company is able to continue to generate profit and maintain steady growth. Efficiency modelling plays a big part in the analytics department, and basic mathematic skills can be found in all roles within the company. For example; pricing jobs (especially global for overseas), reconciling accounts and maintaining good financial reports.
What were some of the main projects/tasks you were involved with while on placement?
During my year in industry, I was involved with closing off for the financial year end, where I had to reconcile statements and create a clear record for the upcoming audit. I also coordinated with the previous audit for 2021, providing requested documents and providing explanations for any queries, to support our financial reports and declarations.
I undertook investigative projects for financial controller; where I was gathering masses of information to provide insight to account discrepancies, priced transport jobs, invoiced customers, uploaded invoices, reconciled statements, and dealt with customer queries. I also took part in a promotional video for future placement students, which was a very unexpected experience, but ended up being a great team-building icebreaker for me and the other placement students.
What were some of the main differences between studying at University and working on placement?
For me personally, the main difference was the constant volume of work in comparison to university, where busier times come and go, like exam season. I was used to putting in more hours around projects of exams but in the workplace there are deadlines every day. Working in an office environment is vastly different from any experience I have had as a student, as it can be remarkably busy, and full of people of all ages and personalities who must work together and around each other constantly. I think being a student who had a lot of freedom – especially during the pandemic where most of the teaching was remote – the strict structure of working everyday 9-5 in an office surrounded by people was a big adjustment.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while on placement and how did you overcome this?
There were many things I thought would be challenging in placement, but what I struggled with the most was timekeeping and staying organised. Due to the fact I had less free time during the week, I had to start planning more, such as meal prepping and setting what I needed out the night before to save time in the mornings. I wanted to still maintain a work life balance and do things with my friends who were still students, without effecting my performance at work, so I felt this was worth the effort.
Has the placement made you think differently about your degree subject?
Working in a company like Woodsides has opened my eyes to how different degrees, skills and alternative pathways can lead to unexpected places. Actuary is a definite degree with a set career path if I chose to follow it, but the skills and knowledge gained from a mathematical degree are invaluable in the workplace and will afford me many opportunities further afield if I ever want to explore other options and job positions.
Has the placement made you think differently about your future?
This placement year has given me a lot more confidence in myself and my aspirations for the future. It has allowed me to evaluate what is important to me in my career and I will have more insight into what I am looking for from graduate opportunities next year. I am less apprehensive about entering the working world, as a lot of students are, as I have had a great experience with Woodsides and have grown a lot as a person.
In your opinion, what were the main benefits of taking a Year in Industry placement?
Personally, I think there are a lot of benefits in taking a year in industry. It is a perfect opportunity to investigate various positions and job areas to see if they suit you, and if you would like to pursue them after university. In a placement year, you gain valuable experience in different practical and technical skills, for example training on specific industry software. I have gained a lot of confidence which I will carry forward into university and future job interviews, as well as gaining professional contacts that will stand to my character as a young professional.
Do you have any tips or advice for Maths students who are interested in a Year in Industry?
My main advice would be to not get too stressed about placement year. The application process can sound daunting, but once you get started it is not as bad as it seems. I started to treat applications and interview prep like homework, as it does take time, and this made the process a lot easier. Once you start a placement everyone knows you are learning most things for the first time and are ready to support and help, especially as you are only there for a year, so be ready to ask questions - as it is what you are there for!