My time at GForces by Ken Catabas (Student Case Study)

Hello, my name is Ken and I study English and American Literature. I felt that I needed to look for something to help me stand out. You see, I had no doubt there are plenty of people who in comparison to me most likely have bountiful amounts of experience, theirs fruitful and lush in contrast to the barren wasteland known as my CV. So I started looking and that’s what I’m writing about. Oh, I should also say this placement year I’m currently on happened by accident, because that’s the best way to plan an entire year of your life!?

So it wasn’t really a surprise that I found myself at the Careers Fair. I eventually came to the GForces stand since I thought their company looked cool. They are a software/marketing company who deals in the automotive industry providing client services, software and technology – all of which I was interested in. The lady I spoke with was also really nice and helpful. I liked them so I thought I’d give it a go and applied.

I received no word for quite a while; about two to three months actually. Eventually, they did get in touch and I was invited to their assessment day. Bit of a surprise (not going to lie!) but who am I to question it? I was happy to be considered. Excitement was one emotion felt and dread was the other. Got myself a new suit to ‘look the part’, bar the face, and was off!

The assessment day itself was very friendly: a morning interview that lasted no more than five minutes, introductions to each department and what they do. Halfway through the day, I realised that everyone there was applying for a placement year. Twelve months, whereas I was there thinking it’d be for three in summer! Still, they said they’d consider offering the summer placement I asked about.

Weeks go by and I finally get that all important email:

“I regret to inform you that after careful consideration you have been unsuccessful on this occasion. Unfortunately we are unable to offer a short placement…

My heart sank. BUT…

if you are interested in a year placement in the future please contact us.”

A place in the projects team exactly like I wanted! Only trouble is that I didn’t have a year in industry in my degree title. What a pickle. I contacted the University and asked if the change was possible, apparently it was with no issue! I strongly thought the idea over, to the point of a severe headache. Finance, I can save up some money. Parents, they thought it was a great opportunity. Experience, I’ll get plenty of what I lack. These things seemed to point toward taking it…and so I did! Here we go…

My first day was nothing short of terrifying, as one might expect. A bunch of professionals, smart and knowledgeable looking…then I stroll in with that strong odour of, oh, mmm, what do you call it, oh yeah: ‘NEWBIE’.

After a quick guided tour I was ‘settled’ onto my team’s table. The person looking after me, Jen, was as friendly and welcoming as can be. I was put at ease even more when the rest of the people on my team were pleasant and had a good sense of humour. Then I was thrown in headfirst with all the software training. They have quite a few products and the Project Managers need to have a general understanding of each if they are expected to deliver them as part of the project. So naturally I should as well if I want to do the job!

A lot happened during that first month. Training, getting to grips with project process, pretending to know what I’m doing…in truth, in that first week or two I don’t think I’ve ever felt so out of depth in my entire life. Once I got the groundwork done, it was still an ongoing process since software and processes change so quickly. But I got my first project after my first month. They sold Rolls Royce and Aston Martins so that was pretty neat! It moved pretty quickly form then onwards really. Kick off meetings, presentations, conference calls, and scheduling work. I suddenly came to find myself doing the ‘fun’ stuff, what I wanted to do and finally beginning to imagine being a Project Manager. Still a heck of a lot to learn though of course, even now!

Despite the initial stress, difficulty and struggle to function it was the experience I had hoped for. When all is said and done, 10 months into this placement, I can proudly say it has been
worth it. I survived learned a lot. I learnt software. I learnt the meaning of hard deadlines. I learnt how to manage expectations. I learnt how to deal with clients. I learnt to pretend to know more than I do, but I guess the main thing was that I surprised myself. I surprised myself with the knowledge I was able to learn and the experience I can now speak of. And, to be perfectly honest, I’ve also had the best fun. Those smart looking professionals are people too, would you believe it! They can be as sarcastic and humorous as yourself and ultimately you have to remember they all started somewhere too!
If you are thinking about doing a placement I couldn’t encourage it more thoroughly than this: “I thoroughly encourage you to take a placement” …convincing I know! But you do really learn a lot about yourself and I mean it. I do hate to use so cliché and unoriginal a line but you do genuinely grow as a person. You learn to be professional and forward-thinking without compromising your personality. Serious, but not without enjoyment. Put yourself out there! We are fortunate to have so many opportunities, ready, if we just take that dizzying but thrilling first step. Give it a go and you might surprise yourself.

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