So I find myself writing this blog whilst I wait for my flight out to one of Unilever’s regional deploy centres for ice cream in Caivano, Italy. I am now 10 weeks into my first placement and I have been exposed to a whole range of fabulous opportunities, including an induction week in Liverpool, training courses in London, trials in Paris and last but not least, a visit to our ice cream factory in Gloucester. Read more “Surviving the Scheme: Rosie Smith, R&D UFLP”
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.
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.
I joined the R&D UFLP just over a year ago. When I joined Unilever, the R&D scheme was comprised of four different six month placements. Usually one of these placements is situated in a function outside of R&D, such as marketing or supply chain, but it doesn’t have to be.
My first placement was in the Hair category as part of the Discover department in Port Sunlight. I was asked to investigate a new consumer trend in the marketplace and propose a strategy for how the company could respond to it. A very open brief, and lots of freedom to shape and influence the actions Unilever will take in the future. My days were spent learning the science of haircare, the needs of our consumers and making shampoo formulations in the lab.
My name is Emilia and I have just joined the UFLP in Customer Development, or Customer Management (Sales) as it’s called in the initial stages of application. I’m currently based in Leatherhead, as a Customer Account Manager on Impulse and Out of Home Ice Cream. Like Alex did, I’m going to give you a bit of an insight into what I’ve been up to in my first few weeks and provide a glimpse into what life is like on the UFLP!
My name is Petra and this summer I have been lucky enough to join the ice cream Marketing team. I have been working on various brands such as SNOG, Carte D’Or, Viennetta and Wall’s. I feel very nostalgic about the amazing experience I had at Unilever.
You probably heard many amazing things about Unilever- how everybody is very welcoming, how you are given full responsibility from day one, how exciting the industry and brands are and especially how much you learn in such a short space of time. I did not expect all of this to happen, but the reality is even better than it sounds. I am working in a multimillion corporation, in a team full of intelligent and experienced people and I still feel relevant, heard and important for business performance.
When I was applying for this role, I did not have a clear image of what marketing at Unilever really was. I would now sum it up as a managerial role that requires you to be on a constant move, communicate with a lot of stakeholders (creative agencies, customer managers, market research, and your team) and be really good at task switching. By that I mean, within one day I can work on an organizing an event, preparing a presentation, ordering samples and going to training sessions to learn more about the company. Essentially, as a marketer at Unilever you get to decide on what, when and how a product is presented to the consumer. But do not worry- it is not stressful, it is exciting! You can never get bored at Unilever. Being able to execute brand strategies and see the results in the markets is such a great motivation! Besides that, EVERYONE in the ice cream team is always happy to take a break and help me out, teach me new skills and support me if I feel insecure.
I was assigned to 4 brands, hence I am learning so much about different management styles, brand personalities and their executions. I am working on many different projects for very different brands. All of these projects are new to me so you can imagine how much I got to learn in such a short period of time!
But enough about serious stuff- Unilever is a FUN company to work for! Everyone is always smiling, joking around. People always find time to unite and celebrate big occasions, for example by going to a Zoo or to a team meal. We have a gym where I meet people from various departments, a shop where I can buy lots of products, the ice cream team has free ice cream in the office, we have flexible working hours, frequent new product tasting sessions and often attend brand events! But most importantly, I met so many inspirational people, that I will never forget and hopefully keep in touch for longer than the internship lasts.
Unilever really is a company that feels like home and has helped me to grow immensely. I have a lot to remember and am now looking forward to working in marketing in the future.
I’m Charlotte from Exeter Uni and sadly my summer placement at Leatherhead is almost over. I’ve been working in the ice cream marketing team on Cornetto which has been amazing and I can’t believe how much I have learnt in such a short time! Everyone has been so supportive and I was made to feel welcome and part of the team from day one.
As Unilever operates in the FMCG sector I was attracted by the fact that our products are in 9 out of every 10 UK homes, so I’d be exposed to so many brands I use every day! I didn’t have any previous marketing experience and was excited to be given the opportunity to help organise and attend lots of cool events. They say every picture paints a thousand words, so I thought you might like to see some of the things I’ve been up to over the past 11 weeks…
I travelled to Birmingham to an after prom party with Rixton. The Twitter competition winner said the party was ‘the best night of her life’. It was interesting to see how a brand deals with an artist through PR and the legal side of organising an event for under 18s.
I helped organise ‘Cornetto Beyond The Screen’ an experiential at Westfield shopping centre in Stratford where we had a pop-up cinema for a month. It included an immersive theatre surprise for consumers where the actors appeared from behind the big screen after the film to act out further scenes in a secret room. One day Tom Daley popped in with his friends which was a great picture to post on Twitter!
Once a month the ice cream team have a meeting where sales and performance of our products are discussed with the customer account managers (CAMs). We had a trip to the SNOG bus on the South Bank, visited the Magnum Pleasure Store in Covent Garden and finished the day off by going through Cornetto’s unique experiential!
London Zoo was the venue for the ice cream brand cascade, where each brand presents how their year has gone and then introduces all the new products for next year to CAMs and our agencies. I helped out by setting up the room with props, pull up banners and handing out the products for the audience to sample throughout the presentations. At the end of the day we had time to explore the zoo!
I had the opportunity to ‘hawk’ at Thorpe Park, suitably dressed in a promotional t-shirt, selling Cornettos to excited consumers enjoying a day out. After a successful day of sales we had some down time to experience the rides!
I’ve visited PR companies and media agencies, liaised with designers and printers to create vouchers, leaflets, posters and props for events and not forgetting sampling lots of ice-cream. My placement has been challenging with long hours and tight turnarounds but I’ve loved every minute of it and really hope once I’ve finished my business degree I go from uni-leaver to Unilever!
My name is Arjun Mistry, and I am six weeks in to my summer placement at the Unilever head office in Leatherhead. I belong in the customer management function – which is where the execution of products lives or dies. Specifically the responsibilities of my role are looking after all the Ice Cream that goes to The Co-Operative supermarkets.
As an avid ice cream eater myself, being able to work with well recognised and popular brands such as Magnum, Ben & Jerry’s, Vienetta and Cornetto has been an engaging and interesting experience. Before I started my role, I had no idea about the amount of careful planning and negotiating that goes into all the products you see on supermarket shelves! From the way that products are set out, to the type of promotion, to all the co-ordinated marketing, it was great to learn more about how multi-faceted the FMCG industry is.
Before I had even begun my role, I was contacted by a current graduate at Unilever who put me at ease with all the various questions I had about the company. It was comforting to know that I had someone to talk to about the intricacies and also the simpler queries I had about the role. Then it was on to our induction at a sumptuous hotel in Dorking: all the industrial placements and summer placement students had a chance to meet, socialise outside the office and really get to know each other. This meant that on my first day within the office I already knew a bunch of people which was useful.
When I met my team I was made to feel welcome and we had a nice lunch on the first day. What struck me was how friendly and sociable everyone is – ask anyone for help and they will give it to you. My line manager had a laptop and mobile phone waiting for me and I was able to crack on with getting settled in straight away. Straight away my calendar filled up with meetings and I became immersed in the day to day business activities that gave me hands on experience.
In terms of responsibility, Unilever is like no other employer. I was given a set of projects that I could work through in any way I liked, and by week 4 I was presenting the findings of my project work to the buyer at the Co-Operative headquarters in Manchester! By being given this level of responsibility, it really made me take pride in my work and also meant that I could demonstrate my own effectiveness to my manager. It was great to not be micro managed or having someone constantly breathing down my neck, yet being able to talk openly and honestly with anyone in my team, if necessary.
So I am now just beyond the halfway point of my placement and I can honestly say there has not been a dull moment. I have fully acclimatised to the getting up and doing a working day (something I was nervous about before starting!) and feel very well settled in to my team. In fact, I am dreading the thought of having to leave come September! Some highlights for me have been the regular meetings with the Ice Cream buyer in Manchester; attending brand cascades and trying new flavours of ice cream before they have been released and helping co-ordinate the winter range. Again, I am amazed by how the scope of my own involvement will make a tangible difference to all the Co-Opertaive stores throughout the UK.
Every day is a new challenge, and I hope to learn more and more in my time here. Bring in the next 6 weeks!
Just over two months ago, before I began on the Unilever Future Leaders Programme (UFLP), I found out my first HR placement would be in the ice cream factory in Gloucester. My emotions were a mix of excitement at fulfilling an obvious childhood dream of being surrounded by ice cream and honestly, nerves of moving somewhere new without any other grads at my site. Now, nicely settled in Gloucester, I have neither gained 10 stone nor lost touch with the other grads on the programme who are all around the country. More importantly, the role has been challenging, exciting and immensely rewarding.
Here are a few examples of what I have been working on:
· Taking on case work. For the past two months I have been shadowing my colleagues as they work on individual disciplinary and grievance cases. Now it seems they are letting me loose and, with them carefully positioned to answer my questions, I am beginning to advise managers and work on cases myself.
· Training. Working with another member of the HR team in Gloucester, we have been designing and implementing a training programme for the site. Fitting training in alongside production is always a challenge, but I have enjoyed looking at how to develop and motivate people.
· Consultation. The trade unions are particularly important in our factory sites and I have had an amazing opportunity to work with union representatives, consulting with them on various issues. My negotiation and influencing skills have definitely been improving!
· HR Ambition. Globally, Unilever has this year launched an exciting new HR strategy and in the UK and Ireland we will have a conference for the entire business area, including members of the HR Leadership Team, to engage with the plans. As part of the day I have worked with another HR grad, Sally, to organise an activity on Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan. Unilever is extremely ambitious in its sustainability plans and it makes working in HR so exciting.
These examples show only a part of the responsibilities I have been given in my first role and I am learning all the time. The range of experiences across sites, including the opportunities to partner managers and understand specialist expertise roles means that I would thoroughly recommend the grad scheme to anyone considering a career in HR. There are high expectations of you as you are aiming for a management role but the support and development you receive is brilliant. Unilever will also support you to gain your CIPD professional qualification, which is a brilliant opportunity and one of the elements that attracted me to the programme in the first place.
One of the other aspects of working at Unilever that I love, is that they have moved away from a time and attendance model of working and encourage people to be much more agile in their work. This means that you can be flexible in where you work and what hours you do, as long as you’re getting the job done! I am also enjoying the opportunities that being on the grad programme provides you with. Everybody recognises that you have joined the company with the potential to be developed and so senior people will give you a lot of time. This is great for listening to how other people have formed their careers and taking lots of top tips from them. If having the opportunity to learn business fast and develop your HR skills sounds appealing, then don’t hesitate to look at the HR area of the Unilever Future Leaders Programme.
Eleanor, 1st Year HR Grad
Well I am certainly settling into the Italian lifestyle a bit more- went for pizza last weekend with some people from work and this weekend we are going to visit one of the islands close to Naples. I am very lucky to be living in the same town as so many colleagues- it means I get to experience the Italian social life at weekends too!
On the work front I’m really getting immersed in my ice cream projects now- there’s lots going on which is good as I like to be busy! I’ve been given responsibility for one regional project which allows me to work with a factory team, and I’m providing support for two other projects, with plenty of other bits and pieces to get involved in. This week I’ve also had some training with another new starter, and have been using all sorts of new systems that are widely incorporated into our everyday work.
Today there was an event organised for all the R&D graduate trainees- in fact Jasmine and I organised this one together. It’s an event designed to let us learn a bit about another category in Unilever, for example today was all about the Spreads category. We also took the chance to share our experiences of the UFLP so far and speak with ex-trainees and managers. Since I’m in Italy I couldn’t attend in person (lots of travel just for 1 day!). However, thanks to teleconferencing and virtual meeting technology I was able to be there for some parts – yay! Right, back to the lab for me…
Have a great weekend!
Welcome to my new blog about my experience of the Unilever Future Leaders Programme in Research & Development. I’ve been asked to write about my experiences whilst in my last UFLP placement, in Italy. Before I go into the details of my current placement I thought maybe you’d like to know what I’ve done previously?
– 1st placement: Colworth, Ice Cream Research & Development
– 2nd placement: Port Sunlight, Hair Research & Development
– 3rd placement: London Blackfriars, Hair Marketing
When the time came to get my 4th and final placement organised I was lucky enough to have the option of a placement overseas. Then I had to weigh up the pros and cons…
Pros: fantastic opportunity to experience working abroad and open my mind, get to learn lots about product development near the end of the R&D process, embrace a new culture.
Cons: missing my family/friends/boyfriend, not working in a different category, for-going a decent cup of tea for 6 months.
In the end- and with the support of my family/friends/boyfriend- I went for the overseas option. and so So here I am almost 3 weeks in, living in Southern Italy and having a great time! I’m working in the final stages of the ice cream development, and in addition to learning more about my own projects and figuring out what value I can add, I’m also learning about what the rest of the team are working on. At the same time I’m doing some practical work (making ice cream!!) and getting to grips with the day-to-day activities, sending samples to the team etc. Overall I’m finding it pretty exciting, and the people here are lovely.
Although the business language is English but it’s still important to learn Italian. This helps with speaking to the guys in production and also for life at the weekends! I have struggled with the language barrier a few times, but hopefully this will ease up in the coming weeks.
Will post again soon to let you know how I’m getting on!