Final reflections on my time at Neogen and what’s next for me

This whole experience has given me newly found self-belief.

Hello readers and welcome back to what will be my last official blog all about my time at Neogen. 10 weeks have gone in a blink, I can honestly say the whole experience has been surreal. This week I will cover what I got up to in my last week, the conclusion to my project, reflections on my internship and my progress and finally what’s next for me. Hopefully this final blog will sit as a final instalment of the epic read that are my Saltire Blogs and will inspire those future Scholars reading this to get involved!

 

What I got up to this week

This week was all about finalising my project, getting it ready for submission and doing my final presentation to my colleagues on my very last day. While adding my final touches onto my project and doing that all-important spell check, I looked at all 32,000 words and 42 pages of my findings and couldn’t help feeling nostalgic. How had I managed to create such a massive body of work? And how was it the end? There was a lot of reflecting this week, probably where I should have been preparing for my presentation, but reflecting was easier then planning a presentation to give to Neogen’s top people. My last few days were spent creating and practicing my presentation so that hopefully I would not freeze up when asked to speak in front of such important people on Friday afternoon.

 

The finished project

By Thursday my project was finished, printed and bound. Seeing it there on paper was crazy and a truly memorable moment of satisfaction and relief that it was finished and done to the best of my ability. On Friday afternoon I presented my findings of my project to many important people to Neogen discussing my market research findings as to the viability and demand for a 16s Metagenomic Sequencing service in the UK and Ireland food safety testing market. Somehow, I managed to speak for over 45 minutes to colleagues including the Director of Sales and Marketing and the Managing Director, both of whom took notes on my findings which is always a good sign! The first 10 minutes of my talk were a blur, I couldn’t tell you what came out of my mouth! After that I settled in and got into my stride a lot more, dare I say that I enjoyed it! It was a surreal experience talking to people who are at the top of their field in a situation where you are educating them – it is a memory I will never forget.

 

Reflecting on my personal and professional goals

For those of you who have followed my progress from the very beginning, firstly – thank you! Secondly – you may remember way back at the start I set myself some personal and professional goals to achieve during my summer. I thought the best way to go about my final blog would be to reflect on my progress based on the goals I set all those weeks ago. If, like me, you tend to forget the little things, here’s a quick reminder of what I set out to achieve:

Personal Goals:

•            Get 8+ hours sleep each night

•            Go climbing 1-2 times per week

•            Spend more time with family and friends

•            Do something adventurous once a week

My personal goals were naturally going to be easier to achieve than professional. By simply adding little changes to my daily routine I knew I could significantly improve my mental and physical health, relationships and lifestyle for the better. What better time to make a difference to my daily life then when I am already undergoing a massive lifestyle shift? In the beginning, I struggled to find the balance of work, fitting everything I wanted to do in outside of work like climbing, seeing friends and family and getting an adventure in while still managing to get enough sleep at night. Very quickly I took this in my stride and managed to achieve all my personal goals I set for myself. I found I have come out the other end of this busy 10 weeks with a new appreciation of a balanced lifestyle. I have always been a busy bee who is constantly on the go and I struggled to say no to things and know my limits. This internship has showed me the need for balance and that everyone needs a long bath every now and then!

Professional goals:

•            Improve my communication and networking skills

•            Promote myself and make a lasting impression

•            Integrate myself into the company ecosystem

•            Learn comprehensively about the industry

•            Gain relevant work experience

For me, setting professional goals was a daunting task. The goals sounded tricky and impossible at first which worried me – would I be able to achieve what I set out to do? Honestly, for the first few weeks of my internship I was a nervous wreck! These goals were always playing on my mind like a small niggle in the back of my head, how was I possibly going to learn comprehensively about the food safety testing industry in 10 short weeks?! Over time I realised that in true Robyn fashion I was getting myself worked up about nothing and really, I had nothing to worry about. For the 10 weeks I was immersed in a professional environment which allowed me to grow, develop and progress in line with my goals without even realising it. My communication skills were improving every day from chatting to customers and colleagues, my network was expanding with every new person I met, every day integrated myself further into being a part of the Neogen family and I was learning all the time! I really had nothing to fear as progression is a natural thing in day to day life if you allow yourself to be challenged and drive for success. Therefore, I am happy to say that as I reflect on my progress, I can say that yes - I have achieved my professional goals, and the reality is that I achieved these without really realising it. I guess that is why reflection is so important!

 

Reflecting on my internship

I knew before writing this section that it would be the most difficult to put on paper. Not because I’m struggling to think of things to write, but that there are too many to write down. The entire Saltire experience has been a blast. Form the initial information sessions through all the applications, interviews, CVs and of course, my final internship, the experience has exceeded any expectations I had. Meeting other scholars, like minded individuals and inspiring professionals in their field was surreal and I am entirely grateful for this opportunity to grow that Saltire have provided me with. The whole experience has been probably the most challenging, demanding and sometimes time consuming, endeavour I have ever done but the result of the process is by far the most rewarding thing I have ever done. At moments I had to pinch myself to see if I was awake!

I had many pre-conceived ideas as to what my time at Neogen would be like before starting, most of these revolved around the theme “will I be good enough?”. As a self-doubter I guess this is a common theme that runs though my head when undertaking something of this magnitude. “How will I cope? Will the work be too hard? Will I flop? Is my micro knowledge up to scratch? Will I seem clueless?” You get the idea…

Looking back, I can confidently say with my head held high that I had absolutely nothing to worry about. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of had work and graft that went into making the experience flow smoothly but put in the work and you will get from it what you give. Neogen provided me with the tools to learn everything I needed to know, all I had to do was go for it!

This whole experience has given me newly found self-belief. It has showed me that If I put my mind to something, give it my best try, and most importantly ask LOADS of questions, I am capable of way more then I know. Having grades on a piece of paper saying that you are good at something or the reassuring word of a colleague is great, but having the belief within yourself is something that can only be earned and I am truly grateful to everyone at Saltire and more importantly Neogen for allowing me to find this.

10 weeks was a short time overall but a long time to make ever lasting memories, so I thought I’d list a few favourite moments and highlights from my internship that made my time at Neogen so memorable.

  • First day – getting plunged into the Neogen working environment was terrifying but I loved every minute of it! The apprehension and excitement merged into one and I was left on a high all day. Meeting different people and seeing all aspects of the company from order to dispatch, the labs to sales, it was like nothing I had ever seen before.
  • Night out – around my second week at Neogen we had a night out for food and drinks at a local restaurant. It was great to get to know everyone on a more personal level and left me feeling much more at home with my work colleagues.
  • The office – this for me is probably one of the most important memories and really made my time at Neogen the best it could be. In our little office there was always a great atmosphere, whether there were six of us or just two it made the days pass in a blink with many laughs along the way. Being immersed in a shared office environment allowed to me to develop both professionally and personally as I was constantly picking up on tips or little pieces of info that would prove very useful as my internship went on. The field sales team really are great at what they do – Scott, Lisa, Laura, Stephen and Matt, thanks for everything!
  • Last day – The team threw me a mini party with cake and sweets, and everyone gathered to see me off well before my big presentation that afternoon. I was showered with Neogen goodies and things to remember the team by. It really was the best way to finish my time there and made me feel incredibly valued. To all of you reading this who were there, we won’t talk about the crying!
  • The support – finally, the most memorable thing about my time at Neogen was the support. Firstly, to Janice for overseeing the whole process and making sure I was settling in okay. Secondly to Scott for being there every day to answer my silly questions or to get excited with me about the little bits of progress the 16s Metagenomics service made during my time there. Lastly to Gordon for seeing the potential in me and giving me the job, putting up with my very dry sense of humour, for being a snack sharer (I’m now obsessed with Katsu Curry crisps), for being my office buddy for the last 3 weeks of my internship, and finally for helping my grow and progress. Without your help I can guarantee I would not have the positive outlook I now have for my future and the experience and knowledge I now have. So, to everyone, even those I have not mentioned by name, Thank you!!!

 

What’s next for me

With my time at Neogen now officially over I am going to take a few weeks to rest/explore. I have a few long weekends booked which will allow me to get out there before starting back university in the middle of September. I will be going back to my 4rth year of university to study biochemistry and microbiology where I will hopefully be graduating with a 2:1 or above in June.

As mentioned in pervious blogs, on the 17th of august (Tomorrow!!) I am climbing Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain to raise money for the Saltire Scholars appeal which helps fund other undergraduates like me to go on world class internships just like I have for years to come. If you wish to support me in fundraising, I have added the link to my Just Giving page at the end of this blog, we are not too far off target now!

I look forward to hopefully becoming a Saltire Ambassador to help promote the programme to other students looking for industry experience and I am excited to see where this chapter of my Saltire Journey takes me.

In the broader scheme of things, I will be leaving my whole internship experience with a broader outlook on my possible career paths. Before my internship, I had always assumed that I would go into research, laboratory work or possibly teaching after I graduate. The prospect of sales or marketing was never on my radar as I had no business or industry experience but now these doors are well and truly open, and I can honestly see myself pursuing a career in sales/ marketing within the life sciences field.

 

Rounding off for the last time (kind of)

Thank you for taking the time to read my final blog on my time at Neogen, I will be writing one final blog instalment all  about the outcome of my fundraising and my experiences climbing Ben Nevis within the next few days!

Finally thank you to everyone at Neogen and Saltire for making this experience possible. I will always be grateful for the opportunity afforded to me.

As always, if you have any questions about my Internship, Saltire, fundraising or anything else really, I’m always up for a chat!  You can find me on LinkedIn where I post regular updates about my internship, the life science industry and occasionally a bit of Formula 1.

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/robyn-braes

Just-Giving Page: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/robyn-braes