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.
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.
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.
Hi everyone, I’m Tom and I am currently doing a summer placement in BTM.
It was only on my induction day that I found out just how broad the roles within BTM actually were. I was going to be working in Consumer IT, the worry about my ineptitude at coding set in! What had I done? I haven’t done IT since GCSE!
My first day however quickly alleviated my fears with my line manager explaining what the role of IT within BTM actually is. Consumer IT requires you to be a problem solver, partnering with brands globally to manage projects and develop solutions to allow the business to grow in a changing marketplace (not the coding and software development I had feared!!!).
My role is within the global sustainability and traceability team under the wide reaching umbrella of Consumer IT. Partnering with technology providers like Vodafone to deliver IT innovation to the business and the brands.
Networking was one of the most important tasks of my first weeks, meeting the team and other employees from across from the business helped me quickly learn about the company’s culture. The friendly ‘Unilever people’ speed the settling in process but it was the wave of immediate responsibility that makes you feel part of the business. One of the truly unique aspects of working within BTM is how cross functional your work is. Project management is a huge part of your role as you deliver projects for all areas of the business whether it be the digital team developing websites, or traceability projects for supply chain and brands. You are given huge exposure to all areas of the business.
I thought I’d talk about one of my projects at this point, the one I have chosen is not the one I spend the most time on, but it is one that I feel completely sums up Unilever as a business and has allowed me to truly live the USLP. This was a key project in my first couple of weeks and was my first experience of responsibility. The project is working with foodbanks in the UK partnering with external strategic business partners to bring together a technology platform of relationship management tools to enable them to meet the growing demand. As well as providing them with business training, organising volunteering events and managing the process.
This is not the project I am working on that is developing business radical growth through revolutionary IT innovation like my other projects. This for me is the beauty of Unilever not only are you encouraged to think differently in order to innovate business growth but you are also provided with projects and time to drive positive social change. The sustainability team is now an increasing driver of business growth, the continued acceleration towards truly sustainable business is an exciting area to be part of. Unilever remains at the forefront of sustainable business practice amongst FMCG’s and being part of this area has allowed me to see where it is going.
The First 6 weeks have gone fast! Working on challenging projects has allowed me to gain valuable experience in the corporate environment and gain that all important commercial awareness. From just a few months ago as a Geography student, talking about the theories of sustainability and sustainable development; to having the opportunity to be involved in the application of these theories has been unbelievably exciting and rewarding in equal measure!
Now into my final few weeks the time is upon me to start the handover process of my projects and beginning the self-evaluation process for which special time with my manager is set aside. What I wanted from my placement at Unilever was to develop my skills as well as gaining an understanding of the corporate world and Unilever more specifically. I have had the privilege of working with VP’s across the business and this exposure to senior managers has been a steep learning curve but one I feel has driven a great deal of personal development. Being part of a team who is driving sustainable business development so quickly and positively has been a sense of real personal enjoyment and has justified everyday my decision to work at Unilever.
I started on the Business Technology Management (BTM) stream of the Unilever Future Leader’s programme (UFLP) in September 2013. Having finished at the University of Bristol with a Biology degree in 2012, I became aware of BTM while doing an internship at an Innovation consultancy the summer after I finished University. The UFLP seemed like a fantastic learning experience within a company that was really highly regarded, while technology was an area I felt would be growing rapidly in importance within Unilever, and one that would be driving the business forward moving into the future. I’m a living, breathing example that it doesn’t require a technical background or computer science degree to be successful in applying to the BTM. A keen interest in what technology can do for the business is far more important!
BTM is split into a series of 6 month placements, the first of which I spent in 100 Victoria Embankment, Blackfriars, London working in the Sustainable Business Team. The Sustainable Business team is responsible for driving the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), which is a fundamental part of Unilever’s compass ambition to double the size of the business while halving the environmental footprint by 2020. Spending time in the team responsible for something so integral to the business gave me some really eye opening experiences and was a great place to start. One specific responsibility was to help in the creation of an online hub called the Sustainable Living Lab for Unilever employee’s across the business. The aim of which was to inform and offer a space for collaboration around Sustainable business. The lab went live in November 2013, and was formally launched at the Change Leaders conference (a conference for the top 400 Unilever members globally). Being responsible for the launch was daunting and exciting at the same time, but ultimately turned out to be a great success.
After finishing in the Sustainable Business team in March, I moved up to Liverpool and am currently based out of Port Sunlight working in the Global Network Services team. The Networks team is responsible for making sure that the data network for all of Unilever’s locations is robust and working. Consequences for problems with the Network can be extremely damaging to the business, as a problem with the network that stops production in a factory can cost a lot over a short period of time. This opportunity has given me a completely different perspective on technology in the business, and I’ve learnt a huge amount during my time here. Next up I’m staying in the Port Sunlight office, but moving into the Chief Technology Office, which is responsible for the long term technology strategy for Unilever. As you can see, one major strength of the BTM scheme is the amount of variation it’s possible to see over the course of the placements. In 18 months I will have seen a really broad scope of the different ways that technology supports Unilever as a whole.
The scheme so far has been challenging and rewarding, with fantastic learning opportunities throughout – highly recommended!
Welcome to our 2014/2015 Industrial Placement Business & Technology Management students! Here they share with you their profiles, what attracted them to Unilever and top tips for future applicants:
Name: Caroline Godson
University: University of Birmingham
Course: Business Management with Year in Industry
Role title: Social Activation Analyst
What attracted you to Unilever?
Unilever provides so many opportunities to build networks and skills within a global business environment and the breadth of experience they offer in the space of 12 months is amazing. Their organisational culture and values were also greatly attractive to me and I really enjoy working within a team of motivated individuals in a flexible and agile way.
Top tips for future applicants?
Be proactive and apply early – the earlier you apply the earlier you could secure yourself a job and relax! During the application process ensure to stay up to date with Unilever’s current news, what projects they’re focusing on, and try to integrate this information into your answers – particularly on the telephone interview. Prepare in detail for interviews/assessment centre with competency based question examples, knowledge of Unilever and remember to be confident! The application process is mostly about the company finding out about the kind of person you are, so be yourself and be sure to listen to others – it’s important to take other people’s views into account and not try to lead the entire time.
Name: Ioanna Yiallourides
University: University of Bath
Course: Politics with Economics
Function: Business and Technology Management
Role Title: Digital Planner, Digital Marketing Services Europe
What attracted you to Unilever?
Its unique approach to doing business, its diversity of accounts and opportunities and its global scale.
Any top tips for future applicants?
Be yourself throughout the process and try to enjoy it.
Name: James Tinson
University: University of Reading
Course: Business and Management
What attracted you to Unilever?
I had been looking at the reviews on Ratemyplacement.co.uk and similar sites and Unilever was highly rated by placement students, and the opportunity to work with some of the world’s biggest brands of course!
Any top tips for future applicants?
When it comes to the selection day, be yourself! It’s better to feel comfortable than to be on edge and over thinking your actions.
In BTM we leverage technology to efficiently solve the business challenges faced by Unilever
After Reading these blog entries feel free to leave a comment or question and we’ll get back to you!
Laura – UFLP
I joined Unilever on the UFLP Scheme after obtaining my Masters in Computer Science from University College Dublin. This time last year I didn’t really have a clue what I was going to do once I finished my degree. I was in the final few months of a Computer Science course and I had it in my head that I had signed myself up for a life sitting in front of a computer screen staring at reams of code day in, day out. Fair play to people who do this and enjoy it but I was NOT pleased by this prospect, it’s just wasn’t for me.
At a careers fair at my Uni, I was lucky enough to have a chat with a Unilever representative. I had heard of Unilever and had a good idea of what the company did but I had no idea they had a graduate programme which was IT related. The rep explained the programme a bit more to me. It all sounded great and had me pretty much hooked on the idea straight away. After doing a bit more research I found out that it sounded exactly like what I wanted to do, working on IT related projects, learning project management skills by working with others. The best part was: No coding involved! Being from an IT background wasn’t even a requirement. Most people already on the graduate programme were from completely different fields.
The application process programme was pretty tough if I’m being honest. There are a lot of stages and it does require some time and effort but I promise you it’s totally worth it in the end. It can be hard to balance when you’re also dealing with assignments and exams but it’s all over and done with by March and should only take 4-6 weeks in total
Anyway, as you can probably tell, I got the job and I absolutely love it so far. My first placement involves working on a project rolling out Chatter to others in the company. Chatter islike an internal Facebook just for Unilever employers where we can chat and collaborate on projects and ideas. It’s a really great project and I’m learning a huge amount. My friends all used to make fun of me for being a Facebook addict so now I’ve swapped Facebook for a different Social Network. My days are spent working with people from all different functions, in many different countries. I really like the diversity of the job and constantly meeting new people keeps things interesting. I do a lot of training presentations and demos with others in the company so it has been a really great role for building up my network of people in other functions.
As for future placements, I don’t really know what I’ll be doing yet. You change roles every 6 – 9 months while on the graduate scheme so I’ll find out what I’ll be doing next in the coming months. I have a manager who is in charge of my placements so I’ve had a chat with him about what I’d like to do next. There are opportunities to work in lots of different areas including digital marketing, sustainable living, IT across different geographies, services and IT innovation. There are also many opportunities to work abroad. Some people from the year ahead of us have been based in Singapore and India. BTM graduates are also encouraged to do one placement in a different function which is of interest to them. This is a really great opportunity as it gives you a better idea of how the business works as a whole.
So that’s my experience so far. Best of luck with the applications. I hope to see you next year on the BTM Scheme!
David – IP
I’m David, a student from Lancaster University. When I was looking for placements, I knew I wanted to work for a company where I would be given real responsibility, challenging assignments, global opportunities and an environment that prioritises individual growth. Unilever has provided that and much more. Working within BTM means that I am surrounded by innovation and can really make a difference to the day-to-day running of Unilever which has been really exciting since day one.
I work within IT innovation which allows me to get involved with a wide variety of different projects. The primary focus of my role is on providing custom-built mobile applications designed to help improve the productivity of employees worldwide. I support the design, testing and deployment of these apps whilst ensuring that the project is running smoothly. With over 100,000 global employees, there is a lot of scope to make a huge difference! My work supports Unilever’s culture that allows employees to work from any location at any time – a concept called agile working. This has given me the opportunity to work closely with multiple suppliers and deliver to senior stakeholders within the business.
BTM doesn’t require you to be a technical person, but you have to be willing to learn and adapt to the constantly changing world of technology. I am involved in multiple projects that are updating Unilever infrastructure to meet the needs of a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous). It’s been really interesting to delve into the world of IT Infrastructure and manage solutions to some of the huge problems facing the business. BTM is a really fast-moving and varied function, I urge anyone who’s contemplating applying to go for it – you won’t regret it!
I’m George, a Business and Technology Management Industrial Placement student. I chose to apply for Unilever because I was excited to be a part of an innovative, consumer product based global company whose brands and products are seen every day, all around us. I chose to apply for BTM because of the opportunity to work in a constantly changing environment where you’re always looking for better ways to do business through effective use of innovation and technology. I was also attracted by the great opportunities offered by the UFLP, and with Unilever being a global organisation, the potential to work abroad.
I work in the Supplier Management Team. We manage global contracts between Unilever and our key suppliers of Technology and IT Services. This shapes the way we do business on a huge scale. I love my job because I get to see tangible results of global negotiations that result in millions of pounds worth of savings, and plenty of exposure to some of the biggest projects going on throughout Unilever,. Much of the work I have been involved in during my first 3 months has been to do with managing and improving the performance of suppliers, primarily on their delivery of Business and Technology Services. A recent example of this work is my development of a Supplier Scorecard, a tool for monitoring the performance of key suppliers. This involves collaborating with suppliers and using my creative initiative to look for new ways to improve both the way we monitor their performance, and the way they deliver their service to Unilever.
BTM gives a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of implementing new and improved technologies throughout the business. One project I am currently working on is the roll out of a tool for signing documents digitally. Not only is this sustainable but it could save Unilever masses of cash by reducing ink and paper usage throughout the company, not to mention time and effort! This is a great example of where I have the potential to make a genuine improvement to the way Unilever do effective and efficient business through an improvement in technological ways of working.
Welcome to the second most populated country in the world, potentially the country with the most alphabets in the universe, and one of Unilever’s biggest growth markets. Starting my 5th placement in Bangalore has truly been a whirlwind, and a real eye opener. India is nothing like I expected it to be. Hopefully I’ll dispel a couple of myths for you now:
1. Everyone in India speaks English & Hindi. I’m not sure about you, but I thought pretty much everyone in India spoke English. Yet here I am in the most westernized city in India, and the majority of people I come face to face with each day outside of the office speak little or no English – it is estimated that around 30% of the population of Bangalore speak Kannada – the local dialect, and another 27% speak Tamil – another dialect that is from the state, but one that is very different to Kannada. 10% speak Hindi, thanks mostly to national businesses based here in Bangalore; that leaves 43% of people speaking other languages, and I imagine less than 1% will have English as their first language, even with the glut of Expats based here. I’m going to make it my mission over the next 6 months to work out how Bangaloreans communicate with each other!
2. India is very dangerous. I don’t think I’ve been told off as much as I have since arriving in Bangalore ever. Told off for not swiping out, told off for walking down an escalator (yes, apparently that is far too dangerous!). Given an hour long safety briefing where I was informed that children should not climb on top of buses to get to school. I’m pretty sure if I decide to walk down the stairs at work and don’t hold the handrail someone will pop around a corner and tell me off, and report me to the safety officer.
There are security guards at my apartment, and every mall you go into you have your bags checked and you can’t walk into a shop without having your shopping taken off you to prevent shoplifting. This results in very safe environments – which is fantastic, but when you’re new to India it does make you wonder if actually all of these security measures are necessary.
3. Indians eat curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Actually, this one is pretty true; and also a key reason why massive onion price increases are causing a national crisis – there were recently jokes in India that soon Onion Rings would be more valuable than Diamond Rings!
(Thanks to RedNivaram on Flickr for the photo!)
One of the questions we get asked most on our Facebook page is “Where will I be based?” and also “Can you guarantee my location?”. This post will hopefully answer all your location questions!
So, where might you be based? The UFLP is a geographically flexible scheme – meaning you move around for placements, making sure you get the best experience possible, working with lots of different teams and in different situations. Each function is slightly different, with different key sites where you’ll be working. You are supported by Unilever to move house each placement move 🙂
Industrial and Summer placements will have one location (usually) for the whole duration – and this will be confirmed when you are assigned a role. We don’t usually guarantee locations for anyone applying to the UFLP or Industrial and Summer Placement schemes.
Business & Technology Management (my function)
In BTM, you’re most likely to be working in:
– St. Davids Park (North Wales) – when working here grads tend to live in Chester or Liverpool. This site is closing and moving to Port Sunlight at the end of 2014, so you’re less likely to work here as more people move over to…
– Port Sunlight (Liverpool-ish) – again, working here people tend to live in Chester or Liverpool.
– Kingston (London) – our newly refurbished services centre, Kingston office is based right in Kingston town centre – trainees tend to live in Clapham or Wimbledon (or anywhere else in London) to work here.
– Those are the 3 most likely sites, but you can also do stints at Blackfriars (100VE), Leatherhead and Colworth. You do an out of function placement, and for that you will be based at a site for the relevant function.
Customer Management (Sales) and Marketing
Customer Management & Marketing are mostly London-based placements. It’s quite rare that you’d be based at other offices right now. You’re most likely to be in:
– Leatherhead (Surrey) – Our UK Headquarters, where we have an awesome Ben & Jerry’s Bar. Most grads tend to live in Clapham or Wimbledon and commute out.
– Blackfriars (London) – 1 of our 2 Global Headquarters (the other one is in Rotterdam, NL) . Again, most people live in Clapham or Wimbledon, mostly so they don’t have to move house when moving between the two!
You could also be based at our Tigi or Ben & Jerrys HQs, which are also in London.
In Customer Management (Sales), there is also an opportunity to be based in Dublin (Our Irish HQ) for your 2nd Placement.
Research & Development are mostly based at our Research & Development sites. You’re also likely to do an out-of-function placement in Supply Chain, CD or Marketing, which will most likely be based in Leatherhead or Blackfriars.
– Leeds – We have an R&D site for Deos up in Leeds – most grads tend to live in Leeds itself.
– Colworth (Bedford) – Our Colworth site is where a lot of ice cream and tea is developed – most grads tend to live in Bedford
– Port Sunlight (Liverpool-ish) – Our Liverpool site is where a lot of personal care and home care research goes on. Most grads tend to live in Liverpool or Chester.
In Supply Chain, you tend to do 4 placements – a planning role and a customer service role – usually both based at Leatherhead (or maybe Leeds), and then a project role and a factory shift management role – these roles could be based across the UK – the factories where you’re most likely to be based are:
– Norwich – The home of Colman’s mustard!
– Gloucester – Where you can taste the most delicious ice cream straight off the production line!
– Seacroft (Leeds) – Where the infamous Lynx is made, along with all of our other aerosols.
– Port Sunlight (Liverpool-ish) – Our Laundry Factories are all based on at Port Sunlight – most grads tend to live in Liverpool or Chester.
You could also be based at Crumlin, Purfleet, Slough, Doncaster, Burton, Trafford Park or Warrington.
Finance & HR
Financial Management and Human Resources Management trainees could be based pretty much at any of our sites! You tend to support different teams to get a breadth of experience. You will usually do at least one placement at Leatherhead or Blackfriars in both Finance and HR, and then you might go to any of our offices (the R&D sites, plus Kingston, Dublin and the TIGI & Ben & Jerrys HQs in London), or any of our factories (see the supply chain list).
This list hopefully helps you to understand a bit more about where you’re likely to be based when working in the UK & Ireland – it’s not exhaustative unfortunately but the majority of sites are mentioned above! Many of our schemes offer international placements when you could be based anywhere from Durban to Singapore to Sao Paulo. As a grad, you get used to going where you’re told as you know a really exciting placement is waiting for you there – and usually there will be at least a few other grads placed in the same location.
I joined the Business and Technology Management graduate programme in September 2012 and, as someone who has just recently gone through the process, I am excited by the opportunity to provide some insight into my experiences with Unilever so far.
I think I speak for most when I say that all grads felt some trepidation at what lay ahead prior to starting, even up to the point when we all clambered onto a bus to travel to the hotel for our induction week at the start of September. Within a couple of hours, however, I was strapped to another graduate as part of the 3-legged race in the “Unilever Olympics” and, by that point, it’s safe to say any existing barriers had dissipated!
Various social events ensued throughout the week in conjunction with the presentations and activities that had been planned to further our understanding of Unilever. I was surprised by the number of senior leaders who were prepared to give up precious time to welcome us to the company. A personal highlight involved visiting one of our distribution centres in Cannock, before continuing our journey onto Port Sunlight. Perhaps embarrassingly, I had always been intrigued by how they make the Persil tablets so this was a welcome discovery! This was followed by two days spent within our specific business areas – a mix of work and fun – which provided further clarity around our roles and expectations.
My first placement has involved working with global teams in a business partnering role on a project called “Workplace”. This has entailed working on three sub projects; namely around reporting strategy, Master Data and the implementation of an energy monitoring solution for all non-manufacturing workplaces.
I’ve spent the first two months of my placement based out of our global office (100 Victoria Embankment) in central London, which has been great; aside from being an impressive building in a prime location, it has allowed me to gain close proximity to the business, our customers and consumers. There has been a real buzz here and it’s a gentle reminder of why what we’re all doing is so important.
Having said that, along with hundreds of other colleagues, my team will be relocating to Kingston as part of an exciting office move over the next couple of weeks. There has been a huge initiative to refurbish the office in recent months – in line with Unilever’s commitment to agile working – and I feel privileged to be one of the first to enjoy all of their hard work (needless to say, the Unilever shop has been well stocked in anticipation of our arrival!).
Working across three projects, I have been fortunate to meet three times as many people and I have been humbled by the amount of time and effort colleagues are prepared to give up to facilitate my learning and development. My manager is supportive (and patient!) but also encourages me to take ownership for my work – every day brings welcome challenges.
My experience at Unilever so far has surpassed expectations. The wealth of opportunity on offer soon becomes apparent and it’s refreshing to experience this as part of an established and supportive graduate network. I’m looking forward to what lies ahead!
(Thanks to MSVG on Flickr for the photo)
I was lucky enough to join Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever at this year’s One Young World summit. You can check out what he said in the video below – it’s pretty inspirational stuff!
So what is One Young World? One Young World is an annual summit where young people from around the world get together to discuss world issues and formulate an action plan about how we’re going to make a positive impact in addressing these issues. This year, we were lucky enough to have 1,200 delgates from a massive 183 countries! (Only 20 less than the olympics – and I’m sure you all remember how long the opening ceremony for that was!) We got together for 4 days in Pittsburgh, USA and were challenged by some of the great world leaders – including Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, Muhammad Yunus, David Cameron (via Video) along with Bob Geldof and Jamie Oliver.
A truly overwhelming event, around 46 of us from around the world were lucky to be sent from Unilever to go and see Paul Polman speak in person. Of these, there were just 2 of us on the UK&Ireland Unilever Future Leaders Programme( UFLP) – HR Grad Sally Barstow and myself from Business & Technology Management (although there were also a couple of UFLP-turned-manager alumnus). It was really inspirational to not only meet all the speakers and young leaders at the conference, but to see the commitment Unilever are making to sustainability and the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, by sending us there.
We now have a big (but exciting) responsibilty on our shoulders – we, a team of young people from around the business need to create a plan of what we’re going to do within Unilever to address the social and environmental issues that were put to us at One Young World. So watch this space, and if you have any great ideas about how we can be more sustainable, why not enter our Unilever Business Challenge for a chance to win a trip for you and 2 friends to Singapore to represent Unilever UK & Ireland, and maybe even get a chance to meet Paul Polman for yourself?