After graduating in the summer of 2019, Jola is currently nine months into a graduate scheme at RB, the makers of international healthcare and hygiene brands. We caught up with Jola virtually to discuss her university experience and how her graduate scheme is coming along.
Tell us a bit about yourself…
I graduated from WBS in July 2019, following four years studying BSc Management. I am currently nine months into my two and a half year-long graduate scheme at RB, the makers of international healthcare and hygiene brands including Dettol, Durex and Nurofen. I was born in a small village outside of Cambridgeshire, where I spent my whole childhood. Warwick Campus was in fact the first place I had ever moved to, so it was an exciting but also slightly nerve-wracking experience. I enrolled on the BSc Management course, but always intended to extend it to 4 years to include a placement year – the ability to incorporate a year of work during my studies was one of the things that was at the forefront of mind when looking around at different degree programmes across universities.
Why did you decide to study at WBS?
My decision to study at WBS was hugely influenced by my work experience at school, which I undertook at Tesco’s head office in Welwyn Garden City in 2012. During these two weeks I met several successful women across the business, all of whom had coincidentally studied BSc Management at WBS. Not knowing exactly which career path to take, but being confident that I wanted to enter the business world, this seemed like a good first step – so that’s when I started researching into the University of Warwick, hoping that one day I could be as successful in my career as these inspirational women.
What are your best memories from studying here?
It was really refreshing to be amongst likeminded, hard-working and such a diverse group of people; something that I hadn’t experienced so much in secondary education. Studying at WBS widened my horizons to a more international outlook – both through international modules and the friendships that I made.
Were you involved in any societies during your time at Warwick?
Warwick Congress was a student-led conference which I was involved in over my first two years at Warwick and is where I made so many incredible memories. Founded by a close friend of mine who also studied at WBS, we embarked in organising Warwick’s largest student-led conference – a first for many of us. Despite feeling out of my depth on many occasions, the huge success of the conference in February 2017 proved to me that being a student shouldn’t be seen as a limitation to what you can achieve; of course, real-world employment experience can help you, but hard-work and ambition goes a long way! The whole team went on a trip Madrid shortly afterwards to celebrate WarCon’s success, which was one of the most memorable weekends of my time at Warwick.
You mentioned extending your degree to four years to complete a placement year, how was your placement year?
Doing a placement year at L’Oréal was undoubtedly the best decision and one of the most enriching experiences that I have had. Although trying to balance full-time study with applying for placement opportunities, most of which were extremely rigorous, was challenging, it was worth every ounce of effort spent.
Spending a year at a large FMCG taught me so much – the complexities of supply chains, the incredibly vast project coordinator-like role of a marketer (it’s not just about creating the pretty ad campaigns!) and the realities of working in a fast-paced consumer-focused environment. I was so lucky to have a manager who mentored me and who made it her mission to help me get the most out of my year by giving me real responsibilities – four months in I was given the brand’s sunscreen portfolio to manage on my own. I remember so often feeling out of my depth and ‘unqualified’ to do this, but in hindsight being thrown into the deep end was the best learning experience I could have hoped for. My presentation skills came on leaps and bounds, and I started to pick up email and meeting etiquette - all of which have made it so easy to jump into my grad job as well as confirm the direction to take my career in.
Did you receive any support from the WBS CareersPlus Team during your time at WBS?
The CareersPlus team played a huge role in supporting me in both my applications for placements and graduate jobs. I reached out to them for help with a number of my applications, across many stages, from the initial application through to final-stage interview practice. In particular, I found having somebody to practice my interview questions with, in a mock ‘real-life interview’ situation, so beneficial and this really helped me to prepare for the real thing!
Could you tell us a bit about your career path since graduating?
Having thrived in my marketing role at L’Oréal, I was certain that I wanted to find a grad job at a similar company. What was made really clear is the proximity and interconnectedness of marketing and sales functions, and that gaining experience in both areas would be more beneficial in the long-term as a marketer. This is why I applied for the Commercial Graduate Scheme at RB. A two and a half year programme which exposes you to four areas of sales and marketing within the business.
I spent my first three months in the Digital studio team, where I quickly delved into the world of SEO, PPC and CRM and supported the team in optimising the company’s brand sites, testing online campaigns and developing new functionalities on websites such as Nurofen.co.uk.
At the start of 2020, I moved into National Field Sales, taking on the role as Territory Manager for Berkshire, West London and Surrey. This involved visiting six to seven independent pharmacies daily. Unlike other roles, this wasn’t office-based so it was really refreshing to have the independence and flexibility to plan your day out how as you see fit. Initially I was worried that I would miss the interaction with colleagues but in fact after a whole day of interacting with customers, I was thankful to be able to give my voice a rest and have a bit of ‘me time’ during the drive back home.
I think a lot of graduates find the prospect of a field sales rotation quite intimidating (I know I did), and although it is different, I think that getting out on the front line and visiting customers is so important.
We spotted that you had a recently moved into a new role as a National Account Executive, how has this role differed from the other departments you have worked in previously?
At the start of May 2020, I moved into my third role in 7 months as a National Account Executive (NAE) for Boots. Although delayed by a month by the Coronavirus pandemic, I’ll be in this role for almost a year which, unlike previous roles, means I can get really stuck in and see the impact I can make to the business. In my role as an NAE, I mainly look after Nurofen (and other smaller brands); my role now will include negotiating on securing the best product placement in store, calculating the return on investment for promotions, briefing store displays, forecasting monthly sales, and more.
Coming into a new role at a time where there is so much change in the market and in consumers’ shopping patterns has meant that I’ve had to quickly pick up projects and understand the intricacies of the Boots business. Whilst this has been hard to do at a time where everybody is working from home, my team has been so supportive and helpful (thank goodness for Microsoft Teams!).
What tips would you give to prospective undergraduates who are looking to study at WBS?
Don’t be at all concerned if you don’t know precisely what area of business you’re most interested in – most people, myself included, would have never had the opportunity to study business-related subjects before, so your first year will really help you discover these.
Research the module outlines for each year and consider whether this fits with your expectations for study – many universities differ in the range of modules on offer and the flexibility to choose these. The modules you study in your first year at WBS are typically set out to provide you with a solid grounding across a number of areas of business, from accounting to supply chain, and then in later years you have much more freedom to mould the degree to fit your interests and future career path.
Finally, remember to enjoy yourself; going to university is a stage within your life that you will never forget!
Discover more about Jola`s course BSc Management.