There were three main factors that led to A-level student Felix joining British Gypsum this summer on work experience. The first was that he was well aware of the importance of gaining first-hand experience of a working environment. Second, the reputation and success of British Gypsum as a market-leading business, appealed to him. And third, there was the “obvious personal connection” through his father – Operations and Supply Chain Director Olivier Bluche. Felix’s conclusion? “British Gypsum was the natural choice.”
While he had been briefed on the nature of the work he would carry out in Internal Communications, he had never worked in a business before, nor, he admits, had he taken a “huge deal of interest” in the specifics of his father’s work, so he entered the company without preconceptions.
“I kept an open mind and hoped to enjoy the experience as it happened,” he says. “I didn’t have any firm objectives. I just wanted to spend time in a working environment.”
For his week-long placement, he was asked to interview a series of British Gypsum employees from various parts of the business, then write each one into an article for The Bulletin. He covered how they joined the company, the nature of their work, their progression and development within the business.
“It wasn’t the type of work I was used to, so I had to adapt and refine my approach throughout the process, learning from each interview and article, hoping to improve the next. I enjoyed the different pace of work and feel that I achieved what I had been asked to do,” he says.
The two halves of the task, the interview and the article, presented particular challenges. “I assumed it was easy to just ask the questions,” says Felix, “but the reality turned out to be much different. There is skill involved in directing an interview, building a rapport with the interviewee and asking the right questions. All of which I hadn’t appreciated before my placement and I had to somewhat ‘learn on the fly’ during the process.”
Second, the articles required a style of writing that he had no experience of. In particular, the challenge of using and adapting the interviewee’s answers into an article that is both entertaining and readable, while also remaining true to interviewee’s message and character.
Ultimately, says Felix, he feels the most valuable part of his placement was to spend time in a workplace and to see first-hand the daily processes that are necessary for the company to work and be a success.
“It is a cliché, but I think it rings true at British Gypsum: it’s simply that you get out what you put in. If you can commit yourself to be open to new challenges and experiences, and work hard when required, then you will learn a great deal more than if you don’t.
“The work I did during my placement suited me because I have an interest in writing, but it is very important to make sure placements are adapted to the individual to ensure they learn as much as possible and, ultimately, enjoy it.”
And the most memorable part of the experience?
“Finding out what my father actually does all day will probably remain the most memorable thing” he laughs.