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Sophia Palamianaki (Graduate Project Specification Manager)

With a wealth of development opportunities available, graduate roles can be a fast track route to a successful career. For Sophia, her graduate position with British Gypsum has offered even more than that – the chance to carve a niche within the business, through a bespoke training package.

We caught up for a chat to learn about what it's like to be part of British Gypsum

Tell us about your career so far.

I studied Civil Engineering in Greece, my native country, and came to the UK to complete a master’s degree in Structural Engineering at Cardiff University. After graduation, I knew I wanted to work in a big company that could give me a long-term career and lots of different opportunities. Saint-Gobain seemed like a perfect fit in that sense, so I was pleased to be accepted into my current position.

My role is in technical sales, so I am involved in the building design process with architects and main contractors. We help them specify our products and systems, working closely to provide technical support and ensure the chosen products will achieve the desired performance levels on site.

Working closely with project design teams, we ascertain what the building designer and client are trying to create. We then recommend the appropriate British Gypsum technical systems and solutions to achieve the specific project and regulatory requirements. Where we can, we aim to remove complexities and consolidate product types to simplify the installation process. We also provide full documentation including specification documents, calculations and system specific detailing for the project.

What attracted you to Saint-Gobain as an employer?

Saint-Gobain has a good reputation in the industry and is a market leader in the UK and further afield, which was really appealing to me. The fact that it is a global business is also really important, as I like knowing that at some point in the future I can choose to work abroad if I want to.

However, I think the biggest thing that drew me to Saint-Gobain – and to British Gypsum in particular – is the huge investment in training the company makes for its employees. My experience has been that if you want to do something and can make a good case for it, the business is willing to do everything possible to help you develop and progress.

How has your role changed since joining the company?

It’s changed enormously. In actual fact, it was a new position that had just been created when I started, so there has been a tremendous learning curve for us all. For me, this has been an incredibly valuable experience, as it’s meant that I’ve had the unique chance to shape and develop my responsibilities going forwards.  

I had some scheduled training immediately after joining, but the process since then has been much more fluid and we’ve adapted things as needed. I initially spent about six months with my senior colleagues, travelling across the UK and recording my experiences. I was able to see what I liked, identify my strengths and see where I needed more training or support.

I then sat down with my manager and put a focused training plan together for the next six months, which tackled these areas. This has now formed the blueprint for the Graduate Project Specification Manager programme and will be replicated for new recruits – the first of which has already joined us. It’s really satisfying to know that I’ve developed a process that will have such a lasting impact and shows how much the company values the contribution of its graduates.

What are your plans for the future?

My short-term goal is to take the next step in my career which, for my role, means managing a project area and taking on more responsibility. Once I’ve gained more experience in my current position, I would like to explore the other opportunities that are available in different departments at British Gypsum and in other Saint-Gobain business around the world. That is the biggest advantage of working here by far – everything is flexible, nothing is fixed and you really are able to build exactly the career that you want.


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