Anooshka Pathak: Procurement Graduate at Rolls Royce
Featured Success Stories
May 02, 2020
Anooshka, from India
I am from India and lived there till the age of 19. Then I came to the UK, studied Management with Marketing at Leeds, and did a placement year at Kimberly-Clark in my penultimate year which is the sandwich year. I realised I did not want to work in finance.
'International students should warm up to the idea of rejections'
Because I had done so many placement applications, I’d realised that there were many companies that did not want international students, that's why I looked at finding somewhere that could filter out only those companies that would sponsor.
I was lucky that I'd done a placement year because it made me understand that rejections were like a part and parcel of every application process. During my placement year, I created an excel spreadsheet to keep count, and I did about 50 applications, got 4 interviews and out of those got 2 assessment centres and then I got the placement. I knew from this experience that it was almost next to impossible to get a job immediately without any rejection. Some of the rejection letters I had got said that it was because I was an international student, and they couldn't sponsor a Tier-2 Visa going forward, so they didn't really want to invest in a student.
‘Had no idea about how VISA sponsorship works here!’
I knew nothing about the UK job market before coming here. The only vague notion I had from what I'd heard was that it was very difficult to get a job in the UK, which is also why most of my friends went to America instead. I knew the UK had a good education system but knew nothing about the working environment or the VISA process or the applications. I think my Uni played a big part in this awareness. I talked to my professors a lot to address these apprehensions.
Resources and tools used in the job-hunting process: ‘Find what suits you’
I think being able to use resources is more of a self-initiated process. One of the things about having a university experience is you learn how to give presentations and do group work — you communicate and it becomes your network. I got to know what other people were doing in their assessment centres before I went for mine.
Let me take an example. They often ask you questions such as 'when did you show teamwork skills or leadership skills', and for these things you don't really need job experience to quote incidents. I just joined a committee for the badminton society at the University and so these experiences helped me polish my answers to these questions. It also reflected that I wasn't just studying at the University, I was also involved in developing my skills and growing them. So I'd say that really helped in my interviews.
We had recruiters and employers coming over and holding a big fair in the gym and then we got to talk to them. Student Circus also came to one of these fairs - even though I found out about it from friends much earlier.
Before I found out about Student circus, I was using RateMyPlacement, even for my grad jobs. I didn't really look at the job specifications and the job descriptions — I was looking up the names of the companies with grad schemes that would sponsor me and then go from there.
Navigating the waters as an international student: a strategy
As an international student, I had realised early on that a reasonable goal was to get a job, not a job in a particular field or a particular company. I basically just went through companies and confirmed if they sponsor a VISA by looking them up on Student Circus. Some companies say that they do, but then you find out that they aren't actually doing it. So it is a meticulous exercise.
The application timelines and strategy: Insights into the process
If I go particularly with my grad job with Rolls Royce, I looked at it before my final year stated.
On the website, certain companies listed only wanted either Engineering students or law students, so I filtered my list for all the companies that are hiring business graduates. And then found that Rolls Royce was one of the companies that offered the best perks and were very proactive in accepting international students. So it was in January of 2018 that I looked at Rolls Royce and other companies to narrow down which ones I wanted to give priority to. I would keep checking on their websites to see when they would open their applications. Most of them opened in October and as soon as they opened, I applied. I got the request to do the tests in about a week after that. So for me, the good thing was that I had done a lot of applications during my placement year, I had practised for these tests a lot. Every single application meant I had to give a numerical reasoning test, which ordinarily I would find difficult, but after the 50 tests that I’d done, I had had enough practice.
I also thought that the quicker I apply, the better my chances are of getting the job because companies don't want to keep waiting. They like hiring people who get back to them right away because that would save them resources. Because they won't conduct another assessment centre for the next few months even if their applications are open on a rolling basis. So I did the tests the same day I got the request. And then I got the request to do an Assessment Centre. I chose the date that was the nearest - 5 days from the date of the request. Even with that, I had an essay submission for my final year, but I knew that if I didn't go to the first Assessment centre, my chances of getting a job would be reduced. So when I did the AC there were only 6 of us. And 3 of us got the job, so that makes me think that it does matter if you are the first ones to show up.
Interviews, Assessment Centers: First-come-first-serve?
It is one of those things where you assume it is not first-come-first-serve as long as you show up, but then consider this: the more ACs are conducted, they hire more and more people that are quite good, so after a point, they don't have as much urgency. When Rolls Royce called me, they had an urgency — so they asked me to sign a contract as soon as possible. Whereas the longer you go on, you lose out on the desperation of the companies who have already hired a few people.
For the AC, I had one presentation that I needed to do. It was about why I chose Rolls-Royce and why I think they should hire me. It was quite casual. The interviewers were quite nice as well — I think they were just testing your presentation skills. I think it was that presentation that gave me brownie points for getting the job because they asked me a few questions about the company.
We had 2 sections in the assessment centre and this was one of them. Another one was an interview that tested general aptitude. Then we had one interview that was technical — this one was quite difficult because it was basically a case study on the procurement assignment. The interviewers cross-question in this one, so you have to balance your nervousness with calm and logic. What they are looking at through that case is that you are confident enough in your suggestions and have thought them through.
And then we had a group exercise (I think they had a different one for each assessment centre) but we had one where you had to program a robot and give inputs for it to make the correct decisions. And that one was quite interesting because 2 of the others who also got hired after this AC — we were in the same team — they were doing the main work in that, but there were two other people who weren't talking at all. On the other hand, because I did not know much about the actual task, I decided to make sure I include the two that weren't talking. So that they were also contributing to the discussion and so I took up the coordination role there.
I had this learning from a previous experience where I had an AC at IBM. In a similar situation, I had no knowledge about the task at hand, so instead of getting involved however I could, I decided to shut off completely. So that ended up being one of the reasons I did not get the job. I learnt that I did not necessarily have to do the task — I could just manage the people who were doing the work. Ultimately it was all about teamwork.
Process after Job Offer: the VISA processing
All I had to do was tell them the route I wanted to go through - normal, priority or super-priority (they'd pay for it unless I chose super-priority) I then just had to turn up at the VISA appointment and everything else was handled by them.
The norm and the exception
Most of my classmates/batchmates have gone back home. And it is definitely because of the whole Tier 2 VISA hassle. They have bagged jobs in Deloitte and KPMG in India itself, so it isn't like they were not interested in these firms but it is quite difficult to go through with the applications in the UK, filtering out of companies - the whole process takes ages.
A day in the life of a procurement graduate
Most days are chaos because you are dealing with suppliers. At Rolls Royce this means engines, which are quite vital - it is a lot about dealing with suppliers who could be both nice and rude. Procurement as a department is quite big — I procure services, meaning people who come fit the engines that Rolls Royce makes. Whereas a friend is procuring stationery at the same company. So it could be anything — but I also think it is quite an underrated grad scheme because we don't really learn about procurement at the University, so people overlook this. But I looked at procurement at the time of application and thought that it is one of the less popular schemes so I'd have a better chance of getting a job.
Advice for the incoming cohort of international students
If I have to give someone advice, it would be to look at this process very practically. Jobs in the UK are getting scarce even for people who are from here. Even for the procurement grad scheme, they had about 300,000 applications. You have to think more strategically and cynically. Your goal could be working in marketing whether it is in India or the UK, but if you want to stay in the UK, be flexible and open to other fields.
Because I had to make so many applications, the one thing that helped me was to keep a record in a spreadsheet with details of the companies I had applied to and the updates on each application, to follow-up on each application. I was inundated with emails. So keeping the spreadsheet helped me understand that it is fine - it is not the end of the world if I don't get this one job, because I have 20 more I applied to. I applied to almost every job that was listed for about 6 months on Student Circus. I did get a lot of callbacks for interviews and tests.
In fact, even after I received the offer from Rolls Royce but they hadn't sent me the contract yet, I had applied to 6-7 companies in the meantime, just to be safe in case the VISA fell through.
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.