Sadie Nicholas

Sadie Nicholas

What were your roles and responsibilities on your Year in Industry?

During my year at Unilever I worked as a Global Procurement Assistant, a cross category role, purchasing Injection Moulds (high value machines that make plastic caps). As my role was global I worked on projects for products that would be deployed across the world. 

My role required me to tender projects with suppliers, analyse their quotations and take part in the subsequent negotiations, provide inputs to business case analysis, and give recommendations on the number of machines to purchase. I worked in a function that had an annual spend of over €50m per annum, I spent €13m myself as I was solely responsible for creating Purchase Orders in SAP for Europe, a large responsibility. I had to help our team work towards ambitious cost avoidance targets through out the year, which we exceeded. I built relationships with suppliers and was the interface between them and the Supply Chain. 

What were your biggest achievements during the placement?

Seeing products on the shelves of shops knowing that I purchased some of the vital equipment that was needed to create the packaging for the product was extremely satisfying. I managed the procurement of Injection Mould machinery for two very large multimillion pound projects that will be launching in the next two years. I lead the whole recruitment and selection process for my replacement and trained them within a four-week handover, during the training I was able to reflect upon how my skills had progressed and how much I had learnt. I received I fantastic appraisal at the end of my 12 months from my Manager and an offer to extend my Placement until the end of summer.

What skills did you develop on placement?

I have to start with confidence, I was thrown in to the deep end from day one, purchasing highly technical machinery that was worth hundreds of thousands of euros within my first week.  Over the year it was evident that as my technical knowledge improved, as I gained experience and more and more responsibility, my confidence increased significantly.

My interpersonal skills, in particular communication developed over the 12 months, as I was required to interact with internal and external stakeholders globally on a daily basis. I frequently organised and chaired meetings and teleconferences.

I learnt the importance of team working, I worked in cross regional, portfolio and cross category teams during various projects throughout the year for new innovations and creating new packaging for existing products. 

My adaptability improved significantly, the environment I worked in was extremely fast passed, required a great deal of prioritising, ways of working were continually changing at short notice and problems were required to be resolved to prevent Supply Chain issues. No day was ever the same for me, and I always felt challenged which I loved.

What support did you receive from the Business School / University before and during your placement?

The support I received before my placement was extremely helpful. Leeds University Business School has a dedicated Employability Officer who I was able to visit for advice prior to my assessment center at Unilever.

In my second year I choose a Module called ‘From Study to Work’, which I found very beneficial as it provided me with helpful information about the recruitment process, as well, employers would present in lectures during the module and give seminars which provided good networking opportunities. The Business School and LUBS society has excellent links with employers, and there’s always opportunities to attend events and network regularly. 

During my placement I was allocated a Placement Tutor who came to visit me and my Manager at Port Sunlight to see how I was progressing. I spoke to him throughout the year and updated him with the compulsory logs that were required to write each month, to demonstrate how my skills were improving. Overall I was very pleased with support I received from the business school throughout my placement.

Is there any prospect of returning to your placement employer after you graduate?

Unilever offers a highly competitive Graduate scheme, that provides you with the opportunity to become a manager after just two years. As a result of my placement I am able to be fast tracked during the recruitment process.

How has the year in industry influenced your career aspirations?

Prior to my placement I was unsure of the career path I wanted to follow, having now spent twelve months working for a multinational corporation I now know that I would love to work for a large company in the future, as there are excellent opportunities for career advancement. My placement gave me great scope, providing me with the opportunity to work in various project teams and gave me exposure into many business functions which I really enjoyed. I looked forward to going to work every day to work in a fast paced dynamic environment. I would now definitely consider a career in Procurement. 

Would you recommend taking a year in industry?

I could not recommend a year in industry enough, the experience I gained from my placement year was invaluable, I was challenged and given such vast responsibilities, as result, I have gained so many transferable skills. I got a real taster of working life, I had the opportunity to work with and learn from some great people and made many friendships.  Going into the world of work after Graduation is no longer a daunting prospect, I now can’t wait to begin a career. 

Why did you choose to study Management at Leeds?

I would say that it was the open day that I attended really swayed my decision, the University impressed me the most out of the many I had visited. The Business School had a fantastic reputation, located in vibrant city and the course seemed to be intellectually stimulating. I knew of many people that had gone to Leeds and they always said what a great place it was and I got the same vibe when I visited, I knew it had to be my first choice.

I choose Management as I have always had a passion for business and knew from my GCSE and A-level Business Studies that I enjoyed so much that I wanted to study it in higher education. I did not want to specialise in a particular function in business, as I wanted to keep my options open and felt that Management would be best as it gives a broad overview of many different business areas.  Another key driver was the year in industry which was available.

I have enjoyed many of the varied modules in my course, including Organisational Behaviour, Marketing and Corporate Responsibility. Often the modules involve elements of presenting and group work, which is great preparation to help improve some of the key skills needed to improve your employability.