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A year in industry: tackling global projects before graduating

It’s time… our student placement year applications are now open. A once in a lifetime opportunity to get behind the scenes of our Project Management and Building Services Engineering teams before graduating.

But what should you expect during the whirlwind, 12-month placement? One of our past Project Management students has given us a peek into her experience. From working on global projects to feeling supported along the way, here’s what she had to say.

What led you to apply for the Project Management placement at FCDO Services?

“Before joining FCDO Services, I was working to complete my undergraduate degree in Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management at Coventry University. As part of my degree, I had the opportunity to undertake a placement year after my second year of study. When looking for opportunities, I came across FCDO Services’ Project Management placement, and it was ticking all the right boxes – particularly the opportunity to work on international projects.

Plus, FCDO Services are a rather unique business that works with a wide range of secure government-level customers right around the world, so I knew this would be an experience I wouldn’t get anywhere else. And I’d get to do it all within a tight knit team that would support me at every step.”

Can you tell us about your top three personal highlights from your placement year?

“I took on the role of Project Manager and my main responsibilities were to manage the team, while monitoring the project’s finances and progress. I got to see a project from initial inception all the way through to completion. In this role, I achieved an awful lot in just one year, but my top three highlights would have to be:

Firstly, travelling to the Hague. I got to take part in a site visit where I toured the embassy, met the Deputy High Commissioner and saw first-hand how my work in the office was being translated on-site – and the impact I was making.

My next highlight was working on an independent project, which went live in Africa. Towards the end of my placement, I’d built the confidence to take on my own project. This was a major milestone; not just for me but for the organisation too. This was the first time a placement student had managed a project of this size alone.

And last but not least, my final highlight would be working on a project in Ottawa, Canada, as I got to work one-on-one with a well-respected and knowledgeable member of my team. I learnt a lot working directly with this colleague, and this experience helped prepare me to deliver my independent project smoothly and on time.”

What kind of support was on offer to ensure you felt comfortable taking on such great responsibility?

“I was given the perfect balance between independent learning and guided support, so I was able to have a real impact on the organisation while developing my skills and boosting my potential. My line manager was there throughout, meeting with me monthly to review my progress, my workload and to ensure I got as much as I possibly could from the experience. And, of course, my team were always there to offer a helping hand and a few words of wisdom when needed.”

What advice would you give to students searching for the perfect placement?

“My advice would be to look for a placement that gives you the opportunity to work in a role you’d genuinely consider after university. This gives you the chance to experience this career path beforehand and will be of great benefit when you’re looking for graduate roles. Also, make sure you look for a company where you’ll get the chance to work alongside a mentor or in a small team. This will ensure you get the most out of your experience without getting lost in the crowd. At the end of the day, look for an organisation that makes you feel positive about going to work and will offer you a wide range of opportunities and experiences, so you’ll learn a lot during your time.”

 And finally, how did your year in industry set you up for a successful career?

“I’m so glad I found this opportunity. The placement allowed me to take the theoretical knowledge I’d learnt in the first two years of my degree and apply this to real life projects and situations. FCDO Services gave me the opportunity to gain a lot of experience in a short space of time – all through working on a diverse range of projects and as a result of their robust training programme.