Alex Taggart Customer Management (Sales)

How failing helped me succeed at Unilever

 

I started my second year at University in September 2015 faced with the challenging task of securing a placement for my third year. By November I had applied for over 15 different placements, with a handful of rejections and radio silence from the others. Middle of November came and I started to feel nervous; I was worried I wouldn’t find a placement that would let me achieve what I wanted to achieve – maybe I wouldn’t find one, I remember thinking.

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Angus Giddins Business areas

Summer Placement Mid-Point Reflection!

Having now worked at Unilever for 6 weeks, some Summer Placement students reflect on their experience as they reach the half-way point…

Charndeep Singh, Supply Chain

 

Office Location: Manufacturing Excellence Centre (MEC) Port Sunlight

Most exciting experience so far: Leading Autonomous Maintenance training sessions for operators.

Key skill  learnt you will take back to university: People management skills. Having to coordinate with and motivate operators and engineers to comply with standards set and improvements made has been challenging but highly rewarding.

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Maria and Paul Polman2 Business areas

6 months down the line: Maria Snowden, Finance IP

Hi, I’m Maria. I study economics at the University of Bath and am currently an IP on the Finance scheme.

My last blog post was about my experiences in Brand Development for Homecare, which involved business partnering a marketing team and working on everything from
business cases to brand strategies. Over the past few weeks I’ve transitioned from that role to working as part of a project team with external consultants to streamline our cost recovery process. It’s been a strange feeling joining a new team and feeling totally clueless all over again! I’m still based in our Global HQ in Central London, which is a really buzzing office to work in- not to mention being in a perfect location for socializing after work.
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Raji profile pic Business areas

6 months down the line: Raji Khaira, Marketing IP

Hi my name is Raji and I am currently an undergraduate placement candidate, in marketing at the wonderful world we call Unilever. I study Business and International relations at Aston University. I have worked in retail as a part time job for many years mostly at phone shops, so I enjoy a good sale and definitely love the evolving world of technology. Read more “6 months down the line: Raji Khaira, Marketing IP”

Clodagh profile Local Internship Programme

The Scoop on Ice Cream: Clodagh Chapman, R&D IP

Hi everyone, my name is Clodagh and I’m now almost six months into my year-long placement with Unilever, working as Process Development Technologist within the Ice Cream Category. My role involves working on a number of short-term projects both alone and in a team, with the overall aim to apply an engineering approach to develop, evaluate, and improve processes used to make ice cream across the company.

Settling In…

As for most, the thought of leaving the security of university and starting a full-time job was very daunting. However, thinking back now to what I anticipated a workplace to be like, I could not have been more wrong! I quickly learnt that the ‘real world’ wasn’t quite as intimidating as I expected it to be; not once did I get laughed at for asking a silly question or for getting lost in the offices. Instead, I was greeted with a smile from everyone I met or passed by, and quickly felt like part of the team.

My first week with Unilever was spent taking part in the Ice Cream Technology Course, a training week run annually, which is aimed at newcomers to the category. This meant I gained vital knowledge on every area within the Ice Cream category, as well as having the chance to network with many others based in Ice Cream across the globe.

One thing that surprised me most during my first week – and still surprises me up until today – is how much time and effort goes into the development and production of an ice cream!

Gelato Flavour Profiling

One of my main projects so far has been based on the flavour profiling of a premium gelato company. Seeing as gelato products are so focussed on flavour delivery, this work was important in establishing the flavour profile of current products, as well as seeing how this compares to competitor products.

This was a very technically challenging project, which involved running trials in the pilot plant here at Colworth, as well as analysing the flavour profiles of samples using Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry. This project taught me that even if the work you are given is not something you have directly learnt about at university, you have to apply the skills you have and use your initiative to research and learn about a whole new area of study.

My biggest achievement so far on placement was a result of this project – the huge improvement in my presentation skills. After only ever presenting once at University, I was always very nervous at the thought of having to stand in front of a big group and present alone, but practice makes perfect! After a number of smaller presentations, I was trusted to present my findings to Supply Chain, an important customer of the Ice Cream category, and to a Senior VP in the company.

Life in Bedford

During my placement year, I am living in Bedford – a relatively small town around 60 miles north of London. Getting used to living in a new town where you don’t know anyone is always difficult, but by joining clubs outside of work it didn’t take me long to feel at home.

One of the best things about working full-time is having weekends to yourself – with no guilty thoughts that you should be finishing that assignment for university – so I try to make the most of them! I like to spend my weekends exploring the local area and visiting friends all over the country.

Tara Ennis profile Business & Technology Management (BTM)

Port Sunlight, the birthplace of Unilever: Tara Ennis, BTM…

Hello, I am Tara and I am on a Business and Technology Management (BTM) Industrial Placement. Doing a degree in Sustainable Development and Politics at the University of Edinburgh you may be wondering how I ended up in Business and IT function. Well truthfully, it was not solely the function that attracted me to the scheme; it was also my pure fascination and appreciation for the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan that drew me in. That being said, I will leave my personal story for a later date because as I am based in Port Sunlight, the birthplace of Unilever, I feel it is only appropriate to dedicate my inaugural post to our founder, Lord Lever-Hulme himself.

William Lever, the son of a humble grocer, was a visionary and progressivist whose legacy not only radiates through Unilever today, but can be seen throughout corporate and union strategies worldwide. From an economic perspective, his initial success was born out of Sunlight Soap – the first ever individually wrapped soap bars. Who knew, a commodity we take for granted today was considered so revolutionary just over a century ago? However, although his economic legacy rests in a company whose revenues topped £48 billion last year; what makes me (and many others) proud to be a Unilever employee is the social legacy he leaves behind.

After Sunlight soap took off, and his factory in Warrington was running at full capacity, Lever began looking for a new premises. The plot of land he chose was ideal: near a potential source of labour in neighbouring Birkenhead, with road, rail and water access, and located just off the banks of the Mersey River. Port Sunlight had found its home. However, Port Sunlight was never to be just a factory. Being a great believer in the idea that healthy labourers were more productive he pioneered the concept of employee welfare. Within a couple of years he had built an entire village of 900 homes to house employees from across his business. At a time of vast industrial revolution, where disparities and poverty were vast, Port Sunlight was considered utopian in comparison to average living standards. With a hospital, fire station, manicured gardens, leisure facilities, and schools, workers never needed to leave. In their village, where they both lived and worked, they were guaranteed a decent standard of living and better quality of life.

Port Sunlight Fire brigade
Port Sunlight Fire brigade

The village and original factory site remain almost identical to the time of their construction. Port Sunlight has been declared a Conservation Area since 1978 and has strict upkeep regulations in order to retain the character of the village. Work ethic within Unilever also remains central to Lever’s vision with a high emphasis on employee wellbeing and welfare. Simply walking through the village is a living reminder of Lever’s efforts to build the company we know and love today. If anything it makes me proud to work for a company who is founded on its progressivist thinking whilst staying true to its historical legacy. And to be reminded of that every morning is a pure joy.

 

Port Sunlight village
Port Sunlight village

If Lord Lever were to enter 21st century Port Sunlight, aside from the various mod-cons, I like to think he would be walking into an office not much different than the one he created in the late 1800s. Now that is a legacy to be proud of.

Lever House Exterior: then (R) and now (L)
Lever House Exterior: then (R) and now (L)
Entrance Vestibule: then and now
Entrance Vestibule: then and now
Maria profile pic Finance

Finance, it’s not just sitting in an office all…

Hi- my name’s Maria and I’m three months into my Industrial Placement in the Finance Function. I work in Brand Development for Homecare, which is a really exciting global role that gives me a first look at some of the newest innovations coming out of Unilever. I’ve already been given lots of responsibility after just a short while- including leading a Strategic Plan for the Living Hygiene brand in Household Care, updating the quarterly results scorecard for the Homecare VP and creating a cost model to identify potential for margin improvement.

It was pretty daunting coming in for my first day working in central London. However, I was soon put at ease since everyone in my team was so welcoming; my manager even took me for lunch on the rooftop terrace on the first day! Day to day it’s not just creating and updating spread sheets- I’m also having conversations with people all over the world about some of the key issues affecting the Homecare category. I’m constantly liaising with new people, learning about different aspects of management accounting and problem solving, which definitely keeps me on my toes.

But it’s not been all about finance- I’ve also done had some additional voluntary work towards Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan. In September, through Unilever I got the opportunity to spend a day with a fantastic charity called Fareshare, who distribute surplus food from supermarkets to places that really need it- including homeless shelters, rehab and community centres. We spent the day delivering food all over London and meeting the people who benefit from their work. You can see us below (I’m second from the left) enjoying a cuppa before we set off on a hard day’s work!

Maria Finance

I also contributed to Dove’s Self Esteem Project by delivering a body confidence workshop to a group of Year 8 students. It was a pretty nerve wracking experience- and a long way from the days at the office that I’ve been used to! But it was incredibly rewarding to see how well the kids responded, and we even got some freebies at the end of the day.

I’ll soon be rotating to a new role, so I look forward to seeing what the next few months will bring!

Ollie Supply chain Business areas

Three months into Supply Chain: Oliver Friston, IP

Hi, my name is Ollie and I’m now almost three months in to my yearlong placement at Unilever, working in supply chain. I’ve spent the last three years studying Chemical Engineering at Birmingham University so this year represents a big change for me – both in terms of my daily routine and the material that I am working on!

I was attracted to Supply Chain as I wanted to see the true global scale of the business and in my role I’ve certainly been able to do that. I work in personal care (shampoo, deodorant, body wash, etc.), looking at the global simplification programmes that we have in place. Unilever is currently making a big push to grow the business, whilst reducing unnecessary complexity from things like low performing lines and different packaging and formulation variants. This is a very exciting project to be part of as I can tell that the work I am doing is used at a very high level within the business and is vital to the future of the company.

Despite being a diehard Southerner and originally being a bit daunted by the prospect of moving so far north, I’m very happy to be based at Port Sunlight and living in Liverpool. The office environment is relaxed, friendly and welcoming and the social life with other employees is extremely active (almost like I’m still a student!).

Last week, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to help out at Unilever’s Supply Chain Leadership Forum. This was a two day event where all the top people in Supply Chain got together to share ideas on the successful future of the business. As a reward for helping coordinate the personal care displays at the event, I got the chance to meet some very influential people within the company and enjoy two nights in the five star hotel where the conference was being held! There were lots of presentations by some really interesting people, not least top sports psychiatrist Professor Steve Peters, who has worked with the likes of British Cycling and Liverpool FC, on how to get the most out of your mind. Check out the extremely cheesy photo of me with one of our displays!

Ollie Supply chain

I wanted to do a year in industry to give me experience of the working world and to help me find out what sort of area I wanted to go in to. I’m so glad that I’m spending the year with Unilever as I could tell right from the start that my values really align with the way that work is done here. I’ve got a lot to do, and I’m looking forward to the remainder of my time here, this year and hopefully further on!