It’s hard to believe that it has been almost a year since I finished my Civil Aerospace internship with Rolls-Royce. Adjusting back into university life after such an exciting summer was strange – especially after being lucky enough to spend parts of the previous year in Canada for study abroad and in Beijing for my internship – but I threw myself into my work, determined to get the grades I needed for my degree. I was also awarded an Athena Swan ‘Woman of Achievement’ award in October, which was a big surprise but an even bigger honour, and set my fourth and final year of undergraduate life off to a great start.
My official ‘Woman of Achievement’ Portrait
Luckily, the hard work paid off: last week I graduated from the University of Leeds with First Class Honours, and was absolutely over the moon! The English Literature dissertation that I spent the last year writing, which was about representations of non-conventional masculinity in twentieth-century war literature, was awarded a high first-class mark, and another extended essay that I’d written in the final semester was given an even higher first-class mark. My graduation day was a really lovely experience, made even better by my proud family being there to celebrate it with me.
My brother, Joe, and me at my graduation
It’s a bit scary to think that I’ve finished with undergraduate life and with Leeds, both as a city and a university. I’ve learnt and experienced so much; I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for the last four years. But I’m ready now to start this new part of my life as a working (salaried!) adult. My first graduate placement at Rolls-Royce, in the Defence sector in Bristol, commences in September, and I can’t wait to get started. I’m sure it’s going to be a challenge – it wouldn’t be worth it if it wasn’t – but if my internship is anything to go by, I can look forward to learning an immense amount about a whole variety of business and engineering-related subjects – and that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg!
I spent the first few days of my final week at Rolls-Royce in Haikou, a city in the Southern island province of Hainan. It’s known as China’s answer to Hawaii and it certainly was a fascinating place. With its palm-lined seafront roads stretching out for miles, it was a world away from the cosmopolitan buzz of Beijing. We were in Hainan for a review meeting with one of the Greater China team’s customers. It was a very different business environment to anything I have experienced so far, and I listened and helped out as our team presented to the airline’s senior figures. Apart from a slight technological blip, it went really well, and we rounded off the trip with a fantastic team dinner at a rooftop restaurant watching the sun set over the sea. It’s a hard life!
I flew back to England mid-week via Beijing. My flight was delayed by almost 24 hours, but I used the negotiation skills that I’ve learnt over the course of my internship to convince the airline to put me on an earlier flight so that I wouldn’t miss my final day at Rolls-Royce! It was a long time to be travelling for, and after getting back to Derby on Thursday evening, I got a taste of the realities of Customer Business – going into work the next morning at 6.30 so that I could finish off my projects, with jet lag and on only a few hours sleep! Suffice to say my last day was very hectic; I had to tie up all my projects as well as doing my end of attachment presentation and final review. Come mid-morning I was struggling a little, but a lovely goodbye lunch thrown by our team for me and the two other interns who were leaving was just what I needed to revive me. Until that point I hadn’t really had time to think about leaving, and it made me feel really lucky that I had been placed in such a brilliant team. My time at Rolls has been such a laugh, a lot of hard work, a brilliant learning experience, exhausting, exhilarating and significantly out of my comfort zone at times. I’ve had to work really hard, but it was worth it in every way, and my three weeks in China were the perfect way to end an already fantastic experience.
But the turning point for me came on the Friday morning when I was completing my end of attachment presentation. I have been hearing about the Rolls-Royce graduate programme since week one, and to be perfectly honest, my initial reaction was that although it sounds great, it wasn’t really for me. But putting my presentation together made me think that I’ve really come to be impassioned by the work I have been doing. I never thought I would say this, but I’m excited about engines now. And I never in a million years thought I would say this either, but I can really see myself working in a business environment like at Rolls-Royce. And it is with that message in mind that I can proudly sign off my blog with the great news that I have formally accepted the offer of a place the Rolls-Royce Customer Management Graduate Scheme 2014. I have just started back at university for my final year, but it is all sorted for me to be returning to Rolls next September. Who knows where it will take me, but I am ready and willing to jump at every opportunity and challenge that will doubtless come my way.
I’ve been in Beijing for a week now and so far I absolutely love everything about it! As you would imagine, the culture is very different and not at all what I expected. It seems to be the little things, like door locks turning the opposite way, that confuse me the most, but I am settling in pretty well.
The Rolls-Royce office is situated in the heart of the Central Business District and it’s a big change for me – you only have to compare the 35 or so employees in the Beijing office to the thousands in Derby to understand the scale of the difference! All my colleagues here are absolutely brilliant, and I have been for a string of fantastic meals since I arrived. I never realised just how many Chinese cuisines there are (I’ve been told thirty-six?) and I’m having a brilliant time discovering them all.
So much has happened in the last week that I could never put it all in one blog post, so I should probably focus on my work! I have been assigned to help with the 50/30 celebration, which is an event comprised of an Innovation Forum followed by an anniversary reception to commemorate 50 years of Rolls-Royce engines in China and 30 years of Rolls-Royce having a presence in China.
My English skills have come into their own as I have been helping to write media pieces and interviews as well as helping with the actual planning and preparation of the event. On Friday we did a check of the venue to make sure everything is on track – it’s a prestigious event with some of the most important Chinese customers attending so we have to make sure everything is perfect! As a result I have been learning a lot about the history of Rolls-Royce’s partnership with China. I’ve also had a chance to learn about some activities outside the Civil Aerospace business, so I’m continuing to learn a lot about how Rolls-Royce operates more generally.
It’s not all been work though – as I mentioned, I’ve been to some brilliant places; I cycled to Tiananmen Square (quite a feat with the drivers here) and had a go at haggling in Yashow market. I also spent the weekend being a typical tourist at the Great Wall of China and the Summer Palace. They were fantastic and the scale of both was awe-inspiring, although I had a close shave when an enormous snake launched itself at my face on the walk up to the Great Wall!
I could talk forever about the kindness and hospitality of everyone I have met in Beijing, the incredible flavours of the food, the buzzing vibe of the city and the excitement of my work. All in all it has been a brilliant week and I am really excited for the opportunities and challenges that will doubtless be thrown at me over the next week!
So this is it – as quickly as my internship started, my final full week in Derby has come to an end! It’s been a bit hectic trying to get all my travel prep finished and all the loose ends tied up before I go, and it’s been made all the more difficult due a shoulder injury that put me in a sling. Nothing dramatic or heroic unfortunately – according to the doctor, sometimes ligaments or tendons “just tear”.
It doesn’t really feel like I’ve finished in Derby – and to be fair I do have one last day back in the Derby office at the very end of my internship, so it wasn’t really goodbye. I am really lucky to have met some amazing people here and had such challenging but brilliant experiences. Derby has come to feel like a second home, which is something I never thought I’d say. I was actually quite sad and sentimental when saying goodbye!
I spent my week trying to finish off all my objectives. I didn’t quite manage to get everything done, but the majority of my work is now complete, and with just a bit of work while I am in China I think I will be on top of getting everything sorted and complete to a level that I, and my manager Larissa, are happy with.
I’ve had a few meetings with the rest of the intern team to make sure everyone knows what they are doing for our Customer Business Open Day project while I’m gone. Anna, another Customer Management intern, has been doing some great video work for the project, and I’ve been helping her out with it. I’ve been really impressed with the results and with Anna’s ability to get us access to filming equipment! The whole project is really taking shape and I’m excited to see the finished prototype.
My Excel saga has also almost come to an end. I reckon there is an hour or two more work to do on my internal process improvement objective, and then I can stop ranting to anyone unfortunate enough to get in my way about my love-hate relationship with Excel.
I fly on Sunday and I will try my best to keep posting updates from China. It’s really exciting and I feel very lucky to have the chance to see Rolls-Royce’s operations in another country, especially a country that is so culturally different to England. I’m going to get the chance see how a Field Service Office at the airport works, so it is great that I’ll be able to see the practical side of some of what I’ve been working on in Derby.
Wish me luck (although it would seem I already have enough of it!)
For the first time, I actually feel on top of my objectives. I’ve still got a lot of hard work to do, but it feels like I will manage everything before I leave for Beijing. One of my remaining objectives involves gathering interesting facts about our customers to be presented on internal displays. It’s part of the Rolls-Royce-wide focus on understanding our customers and putting them at the heart of everything that we do, and it’s a really good chance for me to make use of my creative skills.
My next objective is the same internal process improvement project that I have mentioned a few times previously – Excel and I are friends again, but I have been boring my flatmates half to death with my never-ending Excel monologue so perhaps the less said about that objective, the better.
My final objective concerns the Customer Business workshop. We had a few hiccups early in the week regarding some mass confusion about terminology, but it’s all been smoothed over now thanks to the very sharp team of interns helping me! The “vision” behind the workshop has also been dramatically overhauled but it’s really starting to take shape. There was a funny moment in a meeting when someone discovered that the acronym I have been using to refer to the workshop (Rolls-Royce loves acronyms) sounds like “seabass”. There is a general sense of good humour throughout the office which I really like!
Finally, I spent a bit of time with Heather McVicar and Natalie Sigona, who both work in Diversity and Inclusion. I first met Natalie and Heather at my assessment centre, and their jobs sounded really interesting. So it was great to catch up and hear about the work they are doing and the challenges they face, and they even suggested that I could get involved with some of the Diversity and Inclusion initiatives as a way to help work towards a more inclusive workforce here. I think that this is a really positive step following on from my thoughts two weeks ago about women in business and something I’m really excited about getting involved in.
So what now? I have a meeting next week to discuss the Rolls-Royce graduate programme. It’s weird to already be thinking about finishing uni, but it’s also very exciting. I guess we’ll see..!
So I have reached the halfway point, and I’m continuing to get stuck in to whatever Rolls-Royce throws at me! At the beginning of the week, I had a follow-up Trent XWB tour from the eternally helpful Andy Knox. The engine is looking a lot more like what I would have expected it to look before I started at Rolls-Royce. The shiny new fan blades are in place, and Andy gave me a run-down of the challenges to come in the final leg. I also saw two separate parts of a new engine – it’s very cool to see how these massive pieces will slot together to make a dauntingly powerful machine.
The main focus of my week has been continuing with my projects. Last week’s eureka moment on Excel was somewhat dampened by all my formulae becoming corrupted, but a new Excel discovery was made in its place, and I am back on track. I’ve also been getting to grips with creating my Customer Business workshop and trying to convince others to help me out with it – I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how helpful certain individuals have been!
I also had a couple of meetings with Robert Nightingale, Senior Finance Business Partner – Western Region. I met Robert when I was shadowing Jacqui Sutton, when he very usefully explained some finance terminology for me (I’m learning!). This week, he arranged to see some of us interns to explain how Accounting and Forecasting work within Customer Business. I learnt loads and it was fascinating for me to find out about aviation industry regulations on how long planes can fly with only one engine. But although I did my best to get my head around how Robert and his colleagues model financial risk, I think I will stick to Customer Management!
My week finished off with an encouraging Personal Development meeting with my manager Larissa to see how I am progressing. In the last few days, Larissa has been heavily involved in a new, important piece of work so that has given me the opportunity to be really independent. I’m now focussing on taking Larissa’s comments and applying them to my projects so that they can be the absolute best that they can be.