Identify your USP and never give up!

One Ticket Please for ‘Saltire Scholar’ Skanda Raman, University of Dundee Machine Availability Analysis Intern, Scottish Leather Group, Scotland (in-person)

I am a mechanical engineer who has recently graduated from the University of Dundee with first-class honours. I am currently working as a machine availability analysis intern at Scottish Leather Group (in-person). Writing this blog allows me to potentially inspire the next generation of Scotland’s entrepreneurial talent. In addition, it enables me to reflect on my journey so far.

The Saltire Scholar Programme is a world-class internship programme funded by Entrepreneurial Scotland. The purpose of this program is to invest in Scotland’s human potential to find, fuel and spark the next generation of leaders for Scotland. I learned about the Saltire programme in my third year of university through the careers service and Saltire Scholars ambassadors. It really intrigued me as this was not just any ordinary summer internship. The programme allows you to apply to the best companies in the world with a chance to give back to the community and the programme. It enables you to potentiate your skills, grow as an individual, and be part of an exclusive network.

The entire application process was highly competitive, with four rounds of selections before one could secure an internship with a respective host company. The speed interview rounds can be intimidating as you are interviewed by a saltire representative and saltire Scholar ambassador. A helpful tip would be – have a positive mindset and be yourself. Once I made it into the candidate pool 2020, I applied to 2-3 internships on every list but was rejected. The advent of COVID-19 was the final straw, and I could not secure an internship. This became quite demoralising as I had worked so hard to get to this point.

However, I was privileged to be given another opportunity to be part of the candidate pool 2021. I was ecstatic and knew that I had to capitalise on this moment - ‘When life gives you lemons, you better start making lemonade’. It was a difficult juggling act at the time- creating cover letters, tailoring my CV, writing my thesis, and studying for exams. I ensured that I took the necessary feedback from my career service and saltire representative and finally secured a role with Scottish Leather Group. A critical lesson that I learnt throughout the application process was identifying my unique selling point and the power of resilience. It took me nearly 20 failed attempts to finally succeed, so my winning mantra would be – ‘Never give up’.

One of the perks of being a Saltire Scholar is that you get to attend insightful webinars and leadership day events, which have allowed me to connect with various like-minded individuals. You also gain access to resources that further hone your skills and empower you with the recipe to succeed in your career.

Woah, We’re Halfway there… I was truly living my motto in life – ‘Seek Discomfort’. I believe that the best things in life are outside your comfort zone. So, after 4 years of living in the comfort of Dundee, I moved to Paisley over the summer for my internship with the Scottish Leather Group (SLG). The weekend before the internship was nerve-wracking, but deep down, I was buzzing with excitement.

The first week of my internship went by so quickly. On my first day, I got the opportunity to connect with the other four saltire Scholars working in different departments of the business. The onboarding process consisted of welcome talks with senior management, line manager and operators, health and

safety induction and an impressive factory tour. It was amazing to see the process and passion for providing the best quality low carbon leather to their world-renowned customers.

Transitioning from a student into a professional environment can be quite daunting but is something I am used to, due to my previous work experiences. The first week is usually the hardest as everyone and everything is new to you. Although university assignments and professional work can be very different, plenty of transferable skills can be implemented, such as teamwork, project management, and problem-solving. My colleagues made me feel very comfortable, which allowed for smooth integration into the factory work life.

The company is currently going through the amalgamation of all its subsidiaries into the banner of SLG. The impact of COVID-19 and Brexit has made this process more challenging. However, this has allowed me to observe how employees react to change and how managers deploy various business management techniques to ensure a smooth transition during these difficult times.

During my internship, I am working in the Tanning and Crusting department – the beginning stage of leather manufacturing. I will be implementing six sigma (process improvement) methodology to increase the productivity rate of machines, resulting in increased revenue for the company. In addition, I am working closely with engineers, supervisors, trainers, and operators to enhance the data collection process and reduce downtime/breakdown of machines.

As a graduate mechanical engineer, I have also implemented the theoretical knowledge I have gained through my university course into practice. It has been exhilarating to contribute to real projects that will make a positive impact on the company.

My line manager gave me complete freedom on my projects and presented me with various opportunities to learn new things by attending daily production meetings, shadowing supervisors, and conducting weekly progress presentations to respective stakeholders.

This has enabled me to enhance my soft skills. Furthermore, he was thoroughly committed to ensuring that I soaked up as much knowledge on sustainable lean manufacturing and business management and assured that I was having fun in doing so.

For the remainder of my internship, I hope to continue to learn as much as possible, network with various stakeholders and challenge myself. Being Saltire Scholar is a once in a lifetime experience, and I am truly going to embrace it.

Written by: Skanda Raman, University of Dundee, Machine Availability Analysis Intern, Scottish Leather Group, Bridge of Weir, Scotland.
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