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Lotti Williams

Operational Research team at Tata Steel Europe

Where did you do your industrial placement?
I did my industrial placement at Tata Steel Europe at the Port Talbot site in South Wales. I was working in the Operational Research team in the Technical Department.

How did that placement come about?
My father works at the same site, he received an email advertising the position and forwarded it on to me. I rang the HR coordinator at Tata to find out more about the job and filled in an online application form. I then was invited to complete online psychometric tests and a telephone interview. Successful in both of these I attended an assessment centre and received a job offer.

What was the best thing about the placement?
The team I worked with were really helpful and friendly, they made me feel welcome and an important part of the team. I was able to use some of the maths I learnt at Uni which I didn’t think I would be able to do! And I was given important projects that benefitted the company and allowed me to experience all areas of Operational Research. I also really enjoyed working life and liked having a routine.

Did you find anything particularly challenging during your year in industry?
My role involved a lot of problem solving and technical knowledge, sometimes this was difficult as I didn’t know a lot about the steel making process when I began but there were always people I could go to, to ask for help and I learnt a lot about the industry.

What skills did you gain?
I gained a lot of technical skills whilst on my placement, I learnt how to use many computer software programmes, the main ones being MS Office Excel and Access, VBA programming. I learnt how to use specialist Operational Research techniques such as simulation, data mining and optimisation.  I also greatly improved my communication and presenting skills and my organisation and time management skills.

Do you feel that this placement has helped your employability and future career aspects?
My placement has definitely improved my employability. I now have experience working for a large global business as well as skills that are beyond what you can learn at University. It has given me an insight into a career in Operational Research and I have been sponsored by the company to come back to join the graduate scheme, this takes a lot of pressure off when it comes to applying for graduate roles.

Was it easy to find accommodation for your placement?
I lived at home for my placement year as my family live only half an hour away from Port Talbot. Other placement students house shared in the cities nearby as both Swansea and Cardiff are University cities there is lots of accommodation available for students.

Do you have any tips or advice to give students thinking about doing it?
I would definitely recommend doing a placement year! It makes your CV stand out from the crowd and gives you valuable transferable skills. Don’t just apply to the big high demand companies that everyone applies to; you may have more luck looking at other companies as well. Think about where you want to go and what you want to do, as focussing your time doing a few really good applications is better than applying to loads of places.