Ollie Smith-profile Human Resources

Tchaikovsky to TIGI: Ollie Smith, HR UFLP

With a tightening job market, dwindling public support, and cuts from government funding, arts and humanities degrees are struggling to assert their relevance in today’s commercial environment.

Or so people often think.

Whilst students become increasingly concerned about employer opinion and their degree’s potential to land them a job post-graduation, and rightly so, pursuing a degree in the arts or humanities still allows you to develop a wealth of skills, and affords you many experiences on which you can draw, that you can successfully apply in the workplace. Whilst there are a few graduate schemes that demand specific degree subjects from applicants, Unilever is a great example of a business that welcomes applications from any degree type for most of its programmes.

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Lotte Business areas

My First 6 Weeks in Marketing: Charlotte Griffiths, SP

Hi everyone!

My name is Charlotte and I am a Summer Placement Marketing student based in Leatherhead. I am part of the hair team, working on Alberto Balsam and a bit of VO5 Styling.

BalsamLogo_HRVO5It’s amazing to have the opportunity to work on brands that I have been using for years. This was one of the aspects that initially attracted me to Unilever as it gives you the chance to work with brands that so many people, around the world, use. You really get to make an impact.

That being said, the thought of working on these brands was daunting to begin with and I was nervous to start my placement. However, these worries soon went away and I settled in very quickly. Everyone around me is always willing to help me out and will always answer my questions, however stupid they might be. This has allowed me to learn so much in such a short space of time.

When I first attended a talk from the recruitment teams at Unilever they spoke of having ‘real responsibility’ from day one, when I heard this I was sceptical of whether this would be entirely true. I can now say it definitely is! In my first week I was given my work plan and my line manager went through this with me in detail so I was clear on what I had to do. I have been given the opportunity to lead lots of my own projects and within 6 days of being here, I travelled into London to lead a meeting by myself with one of our agencies!

No two days at Unilever are the same. I am constantly working on different projects with different people from all over Europe. In addition to this, there is always so much going on in the office and you have the opportunity to get involved in so much. Just last week I gave a presentation about Hair Care to the apprentices based in Port Sunlight and then went straight to a big lunch with the whole of the hair team to celebrate our quarterly results.


hair products
Freebies – one of the many perks of working at Unilever

During these first 6 weeks, I have been so busy working on various different projects, including handling the PR for the launch of a new range, helping create a new website and designing promotional material. I have also attended various different events with the hair team which has given me a much deeper insight into how Unilever works and the FMCG industry as a whole. These different projects and events have meant I have learnt so much in such a short space of time. This is an experience that teaches you so much that University can’t.

As I write this post I am exactly halfway through my placement, I cannot believe how quickly it has gone. I am really looking forward to the next 6 weeks which I am sure will be just as full-on and interesting as the first six weeks have been.

Finance

You have a choice!

The purpose of this blog is to explain why YOU should choose to work in Finance at Unilever and shun the pocket-bursting bonuses of the banks and the jet-set lifestyle of the consultancies.. If it doesn’t succeed in doing this, then I apologize for wasting your time!

A role in Global Hair Brand Development Finance (one of the possible roles available to UFLP graduates when they join Unilever) effectively turns a trainee into the CFO of a particular brand. I manage a multi-million Hair Brand which has sales in over 15 countries and is rapidly expanding. Finance is absolutely pivotal to the long-term success of this brand, ensuring that the correct product investments are made in the most promising geographies. When budgets become tight, it is Finance that has to call the tough decisions and ensure resources are where they need to be.  It is a bonus that one can do all this in a glamorous industry like Hair, surrounded by some of the marketing world’s funkiest characters.

Whilst this is one of the largest FMCGs in the world, I can’t stress enough how much effort is made to maintain the entrepreneurial spirit that is inherited through the smaller brands (Ben&Jerry and TiGI to name a few) Unilever acquires. Managers encourage the most junior of employees to share best practices from these smaller and creative companies to keep Unilever as nimble as possible.

Many graduates I know have become disenchanted with jobs because they didn’t see the value they were adding to society in what they did. Contributing to a more sustainable planet is one of the ways in which Brand Development Finance lets trainees see and feel the real impact of their endeavour. One of my major projects involves working with one of the largest retailers worldwide to increase the attractiveness of specific Hair products which minimise the use of water and electricity.

The tide is turning; the value of a rigorous training within a pulsating industry is rapidly making itself apparent to the most forward-thinking of grads out there. Make sure you are one of them.

(Thanks to huskyte77 on Flickr for the great pic!)

Local Internship Programme

My Year at Unilever: Kevin Bartley, R&D IP

Midway through the final interview, I’d already decided Unilever was the place for me. I was immediately drawn in by the diverse and bustling atmosphere; the office had its own spirit, a special one. A mix of exceptionally interesting people, each with unique personalities, experiences and cultures, made settling in easy.

I joined the Hair Processing team at the Global R&D Headquarters in Port Sunlight and my work started with the maintenance, operation and training of colleagues on a filling simulator capable of emulating several technology types currently in use. My initiative, creativity and tenacity were tested as I was initially investigating a range of product types, product pack designs and sizes, levels of automation and filling line speeds and supply chain complexities.

Right from the beginning, I was encouraged to go the extra mile, and to set ambitious but achievable goals. With the support and guidance of some of Unilever’s world leading researchers, I developed methodologies and protocols which enhanced the company’s understanding of product behaviour during filling. The significance of my work far exceeded my expectations; the results of my research will influence future research and the operation of the 200+ Unilever factory filling lines around the world.

Once my main project began to take shape, additional opportunities to prove myself seemed to appear every day and I was never discouraged from challenging the status quo. I never had to wait to be asked or told what to do; the support of my colleagues inspired the self-confidence to know what needed to be done to ensure the results were delivered. I was trusted to work autonomouslyand my contributions were recognised, respected and valued by the team.

My colleagues showed as much interest in my personal development as the project itself. I was involved in various manufacturing and supply chain activities and after gaining sufficient operating experience on a manufacturing pilot rig, I had helped to commission, I led a team of operators during several production trials. Leading a team of much older and more experienced professionals on this trial was tough but rewarding. Through dealing with conflicts appropriately and resolving issues quickly, I learnt how to maintain the overall effectiveness of the team.

Working in Global R&D often involves international travel, meaning that I also had the opportunity to do so. The value that Unilever placed on my skills became apparent when I was asked to travel to Germany and meet with suppliers to discuss bespoke design plans for a major R&D capital investment. Using the knowledge I had gained during my work, I contributed significantly to the final design specifications and observed the exciting results as they unfolded.

Shortly after arriving back in England, yet another development prospect arose. My involvement in a particular production trial and a brief conversation with a visiting project team leader resulted in us visiting Poland to validate the pilot plant results on a factory scale.

Witnessing some of the many stages involved in bringing products to market gave me a deep sense of ownership. My work was relentlessly inspiring, engaging and innovative. The variety of working environments and learning opportunities I was exposed to at Unilever have instilled an invaluable level of confidence and professional competency. My year at Unilever was packed full of experiences and I made some lifelong friends.

Kelvin Bartley

Marketing

Out of Function

ShampooPhew… the past two weeks have been a blur of learning and new people. I have just started an out of function placement from my beloved, methodical world of R&D and have been transported to crazy, fast paced marketing.

The culture shock has been massive, but so valuable as I can already see so many useful insights that will help me work with marketing more closely when I return to R&D. After two weeks I finally feel like I’m getting to grips with it all!

The project I am working on is for a product launch for the Dove hair range. I am currently in the process of working with a graphics designer we have in the team to design the new packaging and a copy writer to write the product descriptions

It is phenomenal how people have listened to my opinion from day 1 and how I am helping to shape this new range under the careful guidance of my very experienced team. It will be amazing to see this launch in the future and be able to see the direct impact of my work.

Today and tomorrow are big days for the team as the marketers from all the regions are visiting us to talk about the projects we are working on and decide who is launching what and when. I am really looking forward to this as it will give me a good grounding in all of the ongoing work and it will be great to meet the people I will be working with over the next six months. Will keep you posted on my progress!