Who was your placement with and what was your job title?
My placement was with Plymouth Community Homes (PCH), Plymouth’s largest social landlord, and my position was as an Operational Data Analyst.
What attracted you to this placement opportunity?
I was initially attracted to this opportunity after looking at the job description, and finding that a majority of the required skills matched those I had accumulated from completing the first two years of my degree. Although the Housing Association didn’t seem a typical destination for someone with a maths degree, it interested me due to being able to have a positive impact on the local community. It was also a good opportunity to work within a large and local organisation.
How did you go about securing your placement and what was the process for this?
The first step in securing this placement was to complete and submit the application form via email, as PCH does not accept CVs, so I needed to work on my application form in order to make sure I gave the best first impression possible. As my form was all I would be able to submit in order to apply for the role, I needed it to stand out, I then received an email inviting me to interview. The first step of the interview process was to complete an assessment, where I was given a spreadsheet of data to analyse and this was followed by an interview where we discussed the skills I had put on my application form in greater depth.
Can you describe the various roles and responsibilities of your placement?
One of the main roles of my placement is to complete weekly reports on a rotation with the other data analysts. As well as this, an important part is receiving and interpreting ad hoc requests for analysis and interpretation of complex data, and to turn this into information which can be easily interpreted to assist in performance monitoring, decision making and operational service improvement. I am also working on several ongoing projects within the business to improve and refine processes. It is encouraging to know that my work can create change within the business.
How did the Careers & Employability department (Placements Team) support you both before your placement?
Throughout university, the placement team have always been on hand to provide advice. From my first year they were holding sessions in order to introduce the idea of a placement followed by more in-depth sessions in the second year of the course to provide us with all the advice we needed to begin searching for and applying for placements, as well as inviting in students who had completed placements to share their experiences. My placement at PCH was one found and advertised by the placement team, and I was always welcome before any interview to meet in order to prepare myself for it.
How did the academic staff support you during your placement?
My academic tutors were always very approachable when I asked for advice relating to placements. Speaking to my tutor in the second year helped me to improve my CV and make it more professional, as well as helping me make the decision that I wanted to complete a placement. Throughout my placement, I stayed in contact with the academic staff through completing my progress reports as well as the two visits from my placement tutor in the workplace.
How did your previous studies enable you to be successful during your placement?
My previous studies had provided me with a whole host of skills which prepared me for my placement, the key ones being the computer skills I had learnt, particularly in Excel, to assist with the data analysis and to be able to think logically and analytically. But having been able to study such a wide range of mathematics throughout my first two years of university definitely prepared me for the challenge of a placement year. It has been very interesting being able to apply these in the real world.
How will your placement help you with the final year of your degree?
I have found that I have become much more confident in my own abilities, which I am sure will be beneficial when it comes to completing my final year. Also having worked full time, I feel a lot more focused, which again will help me complete my studies. This experience has helped me discover what I would like to do after I graduate, and so now I can make a more informed decision in which final year modules to take in order to work towards that.
In terms of your career development so far, what have been the benefits of undertaking this placement?
My placement has given me a wide set of new skills aside from those learnt throughout my degree which I would not have earned had I not spent a year in the workplace. In a majority interviews and applications, you need to be able to provide examples to evidence your skills. Having completed a year-long placement, I have had many experiences I can draw on in order to do this.
What would you say to a prospective student thinking about undertaking a placement year?
If you are at all considering a placement year, it is definitely worth looking into placements available to you, as there are many more than you think in a variety of industries so you are sure to find something that will capture your interest. And if you are sure you are interested, try and get as much experience beforehand in order to help you in the application process, whether it be the FLUX and Hotseat competitions, working as a student ambassador or as a PALS leader.
Was the fact that Plymouth offered a placement year a motivational factor in your decision to choose Plymouth? If so, why?
This wasn’t the sole reason which drove me to apply at Plymouth, as the friendly and welcoming atmosphere did that! However, it was a definite bonus to know that I had the option of completing a placement year, without any pressure to decide whether or not I wanted to until I found the right option.