Let your true self out to show itself and shine!
Name: Mariana Aleqsaniani
Course: BSc International Business and Management
Placement Position: Customer Service Intern| R&A Benelux
Location: Merck Chemicals B.V, Amsterdam, Netherlands
So here we are, nearly six months passed since we started our placements…and so far so good!
As time has gone by, a lot of improvements and progression has taken place at work. I feel more secure and confident, and at every one-to-one meeting with my buddie he highlights my progress. Trust from my management is rising, which is one of the hardest things to achieve as a student.
So far, I’m finding the pharmaceutical industry fascinating as it is amazingly broad and diverse. I am currently in the life science (research and applied solutions) department, and every day I find out something new about our products and industry itself, which is progressing and growing fast! The biggest reason for my curiosity and will to stay in this industry is the fact that everything we do as a company, we do for our well-being as humans. We invent to save lives, and we work for charities to support those who need our help. Being part of a group which is working for humanity is the best feeling so far!
Placement is going really well so far, as I am getting more and more involved in a wide variety of tasks. I am now required to attend regular meetings for Global Strategic Accounts, and I take part in more conference calls than in previous months. With more responsibilities, the workload is heavier, but at the same time it’s extremely useful (responsibilities are the best teachers!), interesting, and very challenging. It also helps to reveal one’s true powers; without the workload and responsibilities you will never know what you are capable of. Thanks to this placement opportunity I get to know myself better. I never knew I could do all that I do now on daily basis. It’s just great!
My life is getting back to normal (after family visit and little holidays) and it looks like a true professional’s lifestyle. I work office hours and then have a relaxed evening, and from time to time I do some entertaining activities on weekends with colleagues (who are my good friends). I have a few Aston University students working with me in different departments, and having each other helps us not to feel alone or isolated. We are good friends at work and outside of work. It truly is a big emotional support to have “your people” in a new environment with so many strangers around.
Highlight of the month:
My colleagues from the Spanish team decided to give some Salsa classes after work to keep us entertained during the week. On 22nd November we had our first class – we had so much fun! It was great entertainment and at the same time we gained some dancing skills. So far this was the most pleasant entertainment I have experienced here, as dancing is my number one hobby! So looking forward to having classes every week! I can proudly say this is the most enjoyable part of this month for me.
Finally, my advice to second year students this time is – guys study well! You are going to need knowledge. The more you read and educate yourself in various fields and topics, the easier you will find things in professional life! I educate myself on daily basis and regret every procrastination I have done. I cannot wait to get back to my studies at university, to learn more and be more educated. Don’t ever think that you will need to know one thing but not the other- that is not true. You need to know all to achieve all goals!
Here is the motivational quote of the month for you guys:
“Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow.”
― Richard Baxter
It has now been four months since I started work at Merck and day by day I become more experienced in what I do. I have learnt how to deal with those difficult customized issues that constantly arise independently! I require much less help and advice and this helps me to be more proactive in my role. In comparison to previous months, I feel much more confident and even ready to help newcomers (if I am asked to). I am also ready for new challenges as my curiosity continues to rise. Another new thing that I can say I have learnt so far is that now I can identify various job roles better. Previously it was very difficult to know what others’ job roles involved only by the title of the role. Now with just a title I know what that person does and what are its specific responsibilities. I believe this knowledge helps me a lot in addressing various inquiries that require immediate action and I do not lose time on finding the right people and right departments. It takes a while to know every corner of the company you work for but it’s absolutely worth knowing everyone. One piece of advice that I’d like to give those at the beginning of their career is – “Start networking from day 1. Eventually, throughout your career you will need a strong circle to be able to do your job at your best. People that you think you will never be in touch with are the ones you will need the most. Always be open to everyone in your business and you will be the strongest!”
As for the lifestyle, I can say that I am still who I am with a little bit of more knowledge of Dutch culture. I will never adopt this or any other culture/lifestyle, but I respect it and follow the flow… My current priority is my career, my job, and my education. Hereafter I do not occupy my mind with external things of other nature in order to stay focused. I will always be able to discover other lifestyles and / or change my own but only after my placement mission is complete))
Very recently we had a number of events going on in the company, which were celebrated for a whole week. The main event was a celebration of the 1st anniversary of becoming “Purple”. Becoming purple is a symbol of merger of Merck Millipore (blue) and Sigma-Aldrich (red), (blue+red=purple). There also were some internal little events going on and now we are preparing for a Halloween with all the “scary” decorations around the office.
Of course, all my university knowledge is useful and helps me do my job. I would not be able to understand all the business abbreviations and theories that our company adopts and follows without my university education. I can say with confidence that so far the most exciting process for me was an exploration process of theory at university and real life use of these theories. It is very interesting to see how the theory works in practice and does it really solve real problems.
I wish I knew at university how difficult it is to implement changes within the organizations, how time consuming it is and how much hard work from every single employee it requires. When we are given real life examples of other companies on how they adopted a change or switched from one theory practice to another, it seems easy and all possible. However, when now being present in the company, which is going through the life changing process, I see how difficult this is. It takes a lot to go through changes especially for multi-million corporations such as Merck. This is the most fascinating business process that I could have been part of in the very beginning of my career.
My advice to those who are due to go for placement is again go for big! If you want to play hard, you got to work hard! It will seem impossible in the beginning and at some point in the middle of the placement but believe in yourself, as I am sure you can do it. There is nothing impossible in this world. A golden rule for me is that if I don’t ask, no-one would like to give me anything. If I do not fight for what I want, it will never be mine. If you want to have it, go ask for it and believe me you will be much more appreciated for your initiative!
The most joyful part of this month for me is the fact that my entire family visited me here in Amsterdam together. It was amazing having the whole family here sharing my excitement and new experiences. I was given an opportunity to have a little rest and enjoy the time with family. My mother is still here with me and this inspires me more every day! The support of my family gives me all the strength to go through this difficult but exciting time successfully!
And yes, of course I miss home… On weekends I wish I was home with my family… But I know that this is worth all the difficulties that are present during placement abroad… this will be paid off!
Dear university friends, have a little bit of patience and find something to motivate you and inspire you during this life-changing period of your lives!
Thank you for reading about my experience. I will try my best to gather all the facts that can assist you during your placement and to help you avoid those minor mistakes caused by having lack of experience in this new career-world of ours!
The actual process of finding a placement was very tough, and at some points it seemed impossible to find a job which would be entertaining and educating at the same time. Obscurity and lack of experience in the professional world was affecting my confidence, and fear of making a wrong choice was rising rapidly. However, the choice had to be made sooner or later, regardless of what would be waiting for me at this new step in my life.
After going through these placement searches, I wish I had a better knowledge of companies that are always looking for interns from various countries, and I wish I knew which industry I would be specializing in. But it is never too late, as the processes that I went through taught me all of these things.
My travel experience was very exciting; full of adventures and very life-educating. Being in a country where I did not know anyone and did not have accommodation brought out new powers in me and raised all the fears that a person can have in an unknown new place. But eventually it all worked out in my favour, and I settled down even better than expected.
I am still in the ‘fitting in’ process in this new culture. It is very different from where I grew up and lived. Sometimes I find it very difficult to understand people’s way of thinking in the Netherlands, and I am still working on myself to try and adapt to this culture.
The best thing about my placement is the company that I work for. It is beyond all my expectations and is full of so many opportunities that it gives me a hope that I could have a very bright future. There is so much to learn and it gives me an opportunity to develop and structure myself as a future professional. Merck took part in helping me to find my professional path and choose an industry that I would wish to specialize in. I had many struggles to identify the industry/sector that interests me the most, or what it is that I am good at. Before choosing business, I always wanted to be a surgeon. However, I could not become one for a number of reasons, and business professions was my second and final choice. Having said this, Merck Chemicals combined my two favourite professions and helped to determine the industry of my interest.
My current responsibilities have differed from what was originally planned and they are very different from other interns’ responsibilities. Very luckily for me, I got into the right place at right time. A colleague of mine who is fully responsible for all the important key accounts in Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg is now moving into a different department, and I was the only one who potentially could do this work (by showing my manager how eager I was to be given more responsible and challenging tasks). In the end, I was trusted with the most important customers and now I am the first contact person for customers such as GlaxoSmithKline, Kela Laboratoria, Janssens Pharmaceutica, Baxalta (Shire) and Catalent. I run a weekly ‘open orders’ report for these customers and solve any issues which concern items of my department, which is Research and Applied solutions. Heipha items are very fragile to deal with due to various reasons and require constant observation from the moment when customers order them up until they are fully delivered. All in all, I am responsible for all R&A items for these key accounts in BENELUX. Additionally, I am solving issues that other customers have when ordering R&A items.
As well as Merck helping me to find the most appropriate industry, they also helped me to shape my future goals. I am now aiming to continue working for Merck after graduation in Australia. I am confident that Merck will help me to maximise progress in my career.
This may sound a bit unreal but I haven’t had any kind of obstacles, issues or any funny/ uncomfortable situations at work. Since 4th June up until today, I have only progressed at work and gotten better in what I do. Even when I overwork most of the time, it only helps me to grow. Ah, the only thing that I still need to improve is to remember to always silence my phone when going into meetings or conferences, as my phone is very keen on ringing at those uncomfortable moments.
Reality absolutely matched my expectations and even got beyond it. My short-term hopes have now turned into big future plans.
No matter how much advice we all give to new second year students, what is meant to be for them will inevitably be! All I can say is that the job hunt must start early, and the perfect option must be patiently waited for. I suggest not to accept easy options thinking that “oh it’s only placement’. Go the hard way and results will definitely worth it. Do not take up a placement just to tick the necessary box, but think about the opportunities that it will give you. Placement is a fundamental link into our professional life. It is our starting point in growing into our career, so think of it as our whole career life and not just one year compulsory university requirement.
For me, placement became the beginning of a career thread that I will not let go of…no matter how difficult it will be. I am well aware that it won’t be this smooth for the rest of my placement year or the rest of my professional life. I am awaiting those break down moments to make me even stronger and I am eager to turn these struggles into the highlights of my career, to help me achieve every single dream that I have!
To conclude this topic, I can only say that success depends on how you look at your opportunity. Some students that I met at Merck from Aston University left the job with empty hands, happy that the ‘boring’ year is now over. I will leave Merck as a winner, only because my intentions vary from theirs.
Here is a little motivation to students who think they do not have such opportunities:
“Opportunities don’t happen; you create them.”
— Chris Grosser