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Satyam Patrick Vora

BEng (Hons) Chemical Engineering

Placement with GSK, Maidenhead (July 2018 – July 2019)

Why did you apply to the University of Bradford?

I applied to the University of Bradford because it was one the few universities which were accredited by the Institute of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) and which also offered a course with an integrated placement year. Moreover, I was impressed by the lecturers at the university, some of whom were conducting research into polymer science and new methods of metal refinement which I found very interesting.

Initially I knew next to nothing of the city and was impressed by the history of the city which can be seen from a lot of the buildings around Bradford like the City Hall. It also had good connections to my home, London, which was convenient as it meant that I could visit my family frequently.

When I moved to the university halls I was surprised by how friendly and helpful everyone was, some people even helped be move into my flat on the 4th floor after the lift broke. After settling in, I began to realise how tight-knit the students at the university were, which I think was due to the impact of the Students Union. Within 2-3 weeks, I got to meet a lot of new people through different societies as well just by living on The Green.  All of this made the transition to university life very easy and enjoyable. My favourite part of being at the University of Bradford was being able to meet a lot of people through the societies I joined and then meeting more people through the societies’ socials. This resulted in no shortage of things to do as either students or societies were always hosting an event.

Why did you choose that particular course?  What did you like and enjoy most about the course?

To begin with I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do as a career, I only knew that I wanted to do something with a basis in chemistry and mathematics that had good job prospects. I also knew something that would have some kind of positive impact on the world. Based on this, I had two options that interested me; Pharmacy and Chemical Engineering. The deciding factors for me were the diversity of jobs available for a Chemical Engineer and the more practical aspect of the course. As a Chemical Engineer you can get a job a variety of industries, from food to finance which was great for me as I still hadn’t decided on a career path. The course also provides a good balance of lectures and lab work so that you learn the theory and then see them in action.

The past two years have been some of the best years of my life as I am studying subjects that interest me with some amazing people. From an academic perspective, the course has taught me how to problem solve as an engineer, from mundane things like solving maths equations to finding the optimum operating conditions for gas absorbers. On top of that, the way the modules were delivered, a good mix of lectures, lab work and group work, made me engage with the content more. Had the course been delivered differently, my understanding and interest in the course would be lower. On another note, the academic staff have always been approachable and helpful – Dr. Patel (Programme Leader, Chemical Engineering) even helped me with my preparation for assessment centres!

From a social standpoint, the smaller course size means that the students are closer, which is great as it means that there is a lot of support and sharing of knowledge, which is especially helpful during exam season. This is further encouraged by the Chemical Engineering Society which organises events where chemical engineering students can meet and relax together, sometimes even with other engineering disciplines. At the risk of sounding cliché, I have met some of my closest friends through this course and this university.

"Start writing your CV and CL near the start of the semester and start searching for opportunities as soon as you can. Writing your CV and CL early on gives you a lot of time to develop it, which I would do by frequently booking appointments with Career and Employability Services – they’ll always have time for you. The earlier you apply to a position, the better your chances of a successful application."

What tips would you give to prospective students about the course at the University of Bradford and the university itself?

Join as many societies that interest you as possible in first year as you have more free time then to be able to go out, socialise and meet new people. Overall, try to engage with as many activities around the university as possible, especially ones like STEM outreach or RAG which develop your employability as well as your HEAR.  I wouldn’t stress too much in 1st year, as it is designed to allow you to settle into university and develop a foundation of understanding.

What support have you received from Career and Employability Services / Placement Staff?

Throughout second year, I attended the weekly placement workshops where I developed an understanding of how to apply and what to expect during the application process. These sessions covered every aspect of the application process, from what to put in your CV and cover letter to what to expect from the assessment centres. The sessions were key as without them I wouldn’t have had a clue as to how to approach the application process and what to expect from each stage.

After starting the application process, I booked appointments with the Link Faculty Career Consultant to improve my CV which was crucial in my application being successful. Those appointments taught me how to properly write and format a CV as well as how to present myself professional on paper. When I was invited to video interviews, I booked an appointment again with to help me prepare as well as develop my ability to use the STAR technique.

The Career and Employability Services hosted careers fairs throughout the year which I found beneficial since it gave me the opportunity to speak to potential employers, get an understanding of the options available to me and what employers would be looking for. They also allowed me to see smaller companies which I would not have seen otherwise as they had limited exposure on recruitment websites.

It is worth mentioning the dedication of the Career and Employability Services staff. After having talked to friends at universities like Manchester, Nottingham and Bath, I can say for certain that our Career and Employability Services does more for our students! There have been a couple instances where staff have stayed behind after hours to meet and help students.

What action are you taking to improve your employability whilst at University?

During second year, I took part in the PAL Leader and STEM Ambassador Programmes on top of attending workshops organised by Career and Employability Services. The PAL and STEM schemes gave the chance to improve my employability skills as I was given a lot of responsibility in both programmes. As a result I had a greater variety of examples to draw from in order to evidence my employability skills. The workshops organised were crucial in being able to present myself professionally both on paper and face-to-face.

What advice would you give to your fellow students about finding placement and work experience opportunities?

Start the process early, by that I mean start writing your CV and CL near the start of the semester and start searching for opportunities as soon as you can. Writing your CV and CL early on gives you a lot of time to develop it, which I would do by frequently booking appointments with Career and Employability Services – they’ll always have time for you. The earlier you apply to a position, the better your chances of a successful application.

Another bit of advice would be to go to the Placement Drop-in sessions as well as the workshops as they guide you through the application process and make whole thing less daunting. Lastly, don’t stop applying, don’t let any rejection get you down! Another student in my cohort kept applying and ended up securing a placement in May after applying for the majority of the year.

Tell us about your current placement (include brief responsibilities)

I am employed as a Process Engineer in the plant’s Technical department. While my main project for the year will be to reduce the batch cycle time for toothpaste manufacture, I will also be supporting other areas of the plant from a process standpoint. This means that I’m to help with resolving the root-cause investigations, help with the introduction of new products and help improve current manufacturing processes. I will also have the opportunity to visit other GSK sites as part of their placement exchange programme, which will allow me to experience the different aspects of GSK – from pharma to R&D.

How will the placement year benefit you when you return to study at the University of Bradford?

There a lots of ways that the placement year will benefit me, aside from the industrial experience. GSK’s placement programme gives me the opportunity to receive training in a variety of things from project management to Lean Six Sigma, both of which will be useful for my final year design project.

As part of this year, I will be designing my own trials. Consequently, I will enhance my project management, planning and organisation skills as well as my lab research skills. Project management and organisation will be key to my final year design project as, by improving them in a high pressure industry environment, I should be able to streamline the whole design process.

The biggest take away for me is communication; more specifically, how to communicate my ideas in a way that everyone understands and engages with what I am saying.  Since the final year design project is a group project, communicating my thoughts and ideas effectively is key to having a good flow of communication which should result in a higher quality design project!