Sophie Marriott

Media and Communication BSc

Why did you decide to undertake a professional placement year?

I decided to undertake a placement year because it would give me an idea of what it would be working in a corporate, professional environment that you wouldn’t receive just by completing university. I also didn’t know what I wanted to do after graduating therefore this would give me an opportunity to understand what types of careers I would like and dislike.

Why did you decide to apply to Microsoft?

I decided to apply for Microsoft because it is a well-known technology company that is renowned for its placement programme. The culture at Microsoft is also very well known to be of extremely high quality, looking after their employees well and having a relaxed and flexible working environment. Microsoft also employ around 60 interns which appealed to me because this meant there would be a great community of people my age that could encourage and motivate each other during our year.

Do you have any top tips for succeeding in the application process?

Make sure your CV and cover letter are tailored to the specific job role you’re applying for and ensure you have properly researched the company’s values and culture as well as a couple of recent examples of work that has been successful. If you get through to interview or assessment centre, my biggest piece of advice is to be well prepared for company-based questions and competency. Also just be yourself! If you try and be someone you’re not, hiring managers will be able to see through it and they would rather have someone who will be the perfect fit.

What kind of duties and responsibilities did you have in your placement role?

I worked with the UK marketing team at Microsoft on commercial team involving creating campaigns that would be seen by other businesses who might want to invest in Microsoft products. I worked specifically on the Security and AI sector which was interesting, and we came up with some very cool campaigns! I think the best thing about Microsoft is that you are treated like a real employee and you are trusted to take on responsibilities of the same level as someone who has more experience. This may seem scary, but everyone is there to help you and it motivates you to push yourself to do more than you thought you could.

What did you expect from a placement before you started and what actually happened?

I didn’t expect to have as much responsibility as I did, I oversaw whole projects that would be seen by thousands of people whereas I thought I might just be assisting my manager. But you really are given independency to make your placement what you want it to be. I also had the opportunity to shadow in other marketing teams such as Education which interested me, so there is that flexibility there as well.

What was your biggest achievement during your placement?

My biggest achievement was helping to start up an Education roadshow in which we travelled around the country to different schools, showcasing Microsoft products to education leaders and bringing primary school children in to teach them how to code. Firstly, I learnt coding which I have never done before and it was amazing to be able to show young children how fun technology can be and to encourage them to consider careers in technology. We went from around 20 students at the first roadshow to over 100 during the end of my placement. The roadshow was such a success that they are continuing the execution of them now that I have left.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on your placement?

I think the biggest challenge I faced that I know quite a few placement students faced was knowing that it’s okay to ask for help and also to ask for more work. Sometimes I felt stuck but thought that it was my responsibility to figure it out myself but everyone in your team will always help you, they know you’re still in university and really want to help you develop and succeed. Similarly, it may feel awkward to say that you don’t have enough work but it’s important to push yourself because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and some of the experiences that I had wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t stepped out my comfort zone and looked for wider opportunities.

Were there any key projects that you worked on during the placement year? If so, what did they involve and what was the outcome?

I had a few key projects during my placement including creating video campaigns for Microsoft’s security software which involved organising the demonstrations, filming, editing and how they were going to be seen by businesses. This was one of my first projects and was really exciting to see how videos are filmed in large corporations and how they push them out onto social media (which is different to how we would use social media!). Another one of my favourite projects was organising the intern onboarding for the incoming cohort of interns. It was a 3-day training session that included everything from informative speakers from the senior leadership team at Microsoft to icebreakers and fun activities that got them to bond with each other. This 3-day training really helps build the intern network which is crucial in the year to have this group who are all in the same position as you who are there to ask silly questions and have fun with! The organisation involved booking the venue, speakers, catering, activities, socials and whilst it was a more fun project that I did, it was still extremely important and beneficial to the new interns.

What new skills did you learn on placement?

Some of the key skills I learnt during placement including experience working in a professional office in a corporate business, stakeholder management, teamwork as well as independent working. Many skills that I learnt during my first 2 years at university were also greatly developed on placement including time management and organisation, problem solving and delegation of tasks. I think that the skills you learn on placement are unique and give you much more experience than just completing 3 years of university.

How will doing a placement benefit you in your final year/ the future?

I think it will help me in my routine of work, organising my dissertation with coursework deadlines and exams. I also think it will help my writing and research skills as this is a key aspect of marketing that I can transfer to university work. For the future, my placement year has massively helped me to understand what careers I would and wouldn’t like to pursue in the future as well as opening my network due to the amount of professional people that you meet during a placement. I know that I now have mentors in the working environment that will be happy to give me advice during my final year and future career.

How do you feel the organisation has benefitted from employing a placement student?

Organisations such as Microsoft definitely benefit from having placement students due to the fact that they have been around for many years therefore having young, modern minds contributing ideas to a company as large as Microsoft can be extremely beneficial. It can give a breath of fresh air to a company that has long standing methods and processes, to have new and innovative ideas from young people can definitely help keep businesses successful and at the top of the market.