Nicola Astley (BSc International Business 2015)

Nicola Astley

Where did you spend your year in industry?

Microsoft – London Victoria

What were your roles and responsibilities?

My role as an intern at Microsoft was within the Advertising and Online division in the central London office, working specifically within the Xbox Advertising team as the EMEA Trade Marketing Manager.

Working at a regional level meant my role varied greatly, each day presenting something new, exciting, and challenging. I worked across multiple teams throughout Europe, and gained exposure into different fields, predominantly sales and marketing.

Essentially, my responsibilities focused around 5 main commitments over the course of the year. I was responsible for creating and localizing a range of sales enablement tools across EMEA markets; I optimized Xbox presence in both our internal and external communications channels; supported and evangelized Xbox in agency/client and industry events; and managed our EMEA marketing budget and inventory. Ultimately, my goal was to drive interest from media agencies and clients, positioning Xbox as a platform that provides a comprehensive advertising solution.

What were your biggest achievements during the placement?

The achievement I am most proud of was within the first two months of my internship. I was given the opportunity to represent Xbox Advertising alongside Microsoft at an industry leading exposition and conference held in Cologne, Germany, with attendance of more than 26,000 visitors. My role was to manage this project from and EMEA Xbox Marketing perspective, actively supporting pre, during and post event, with the objective to create innovative engagement opportunities for both existing and potential new clients, bringing to life our advertising proposition in an inspiring and exciting way.

This was a fantastic experience from which I learned many new skills that helped me throughout the rest of the year. It was a challenge which really threw me into the deep end, but the outcome was extremely rewarding, and as a result, I was given the opportunity to support a further 3 international industry events in London and Cannes, France. 

What skills did you develop?

On top of developing existing skills, I learned a wide range of new skills throughout the year. The area in which I saw most noticeable improvement was in project management. I developed the ability to manage multiple complex projects simultaneously, producing thorough project plans, work back schedules, and project calendars in order to manage my time effectively.

Having been involved in many new initiatives and pilot programs throughout the year, that required a great level of perseverance, attention to detail, and flexibility in responding to change, I have developed the skills necessary to quickly adapt and develop as a result of key learnings. Additionally, I developed strong communication skills and the ability to work with and co-ordinate multi-tier, multi-market stakeholders, a vital element of my role. I developed the ability to quickly navigate a fast paced organization, and learned the clear and concise communication style required to achieve a desired outcome.

Above all, I learned how to build and maintain strong working relationships.

From my experience, exposure and knowledge I have gained in various fields, I have been able to identify the industry and function that I am passionate about.

What support did you receive from the Business School in securing a placement?

In my second year I took a module called From Study to Work and this gave me a valuable insight into the application process for placements, as well as helping me gain feedback on my CV, application questions and manage my time effectively by developing an application timeline with key dates.

I also benefitted from the various careers fairs and company visits/presentations organised by the Business School. These helped me identify the companies I was interested in applying for, and allowed me to tailor my applications from a more in depth understanding of the specific company values and qualities they look for in an applicant. Having the opportunity to network with previous placement students as well as prospective employers helped me get a feel for different company cultures beyond what was portrayed through their company website and social media sites. Keeping a record of who I met definitely helped, as did having a LinkedIn account, through which I have been able to build up a solid network of relationships over the past two years.

The careers centre furthermore provided a huge amount of support during the application process. Before submitting online applications, I often took in a draft for review and gained great feedback. I then used their website sources and books to help me prepare for online tests, interviews and assessment days.

What support did you receive from the Business School and your employer during your placement?

During my placement, I received a great amount of support from my placement tutor, Joanne Dickinson, Employability Officer at the Leeds University Business School. She was fantastic in motivating me to keep on track with my monthly blogs for my end portfolio, and consistently provided detailed feedback on my progress. Half way through my placement, she visited me at my workplace, speaking to my manager and I to find out how I was getting on, and find out if I had any concerns. During this time, we noticed that confidentiality issues could arise through the work I was involved in, and Joanne provided helpful advice in how to overcome these issues.

Above all, I learned how to build and maintain strong working relationships

Is there any prospect of you returning to the employer after graduation?

There are many routes back into Microsoft after graduation, through their renowned graduate scheme, contractor roles, and even overseas roles. Although I had a great placement year, I am currently pursuing alternative opportunities after graduation, but will no doubt keep in touch with my team and work colleagues in the future.

How has your year in industry influenced your career aspirations?

Prior to my year at Microsoft, I was undecided as to which industry I wanted to go into and had no clear career aspirations. From my experience, exposure and knowledge I have gained in various fields, I have been able to identify the industry and function that I am passionate about.

The international travel aspect of my role has influenced me to consider opportunities abroad, and the exposure I gained from being involved in the following year’s intern hiring process allowed to understand the application process from an employer’s point of view, which will no doubt prove beneficial in future job applications. 

Would you recommend taking a year in industry?

I would definitely recommend taking a year in industry no matter what course you are doing at University. The experience is invaluable, not only in preparing you for a job after graduation, but also in terms of personal development. Alongside the many new skills that I developed, the year proved complimentary to the skills and experience I have gained from university by allowing me to apply theory into practice, which additionally gave me a platform of experience to draw upon in my final year.

Sum up your experience in one sentence

My year in industry was an eye-opening experience that gave me an invaluable insight into the real life business environment of an industry that I am passionate about.