My journey so Far

My Saltire Application Experience

When I started thinking about what to write in this blog, it made me realise just how lucky I am to be in this position in the first place. When Saltire first took on applicants, I missed the initial deadline date. Fortunately, I was allowed to reapply in January, where I successfully managed to get through the different selection stages. I have always dreaded application processes, especially CVs and cover letters, as I was never entirely sure what had to be in them. Through the fantastic help of the career service at Heriot-Watt and the staff involved in the Saltire program, I managed to write a CV and Cover letter that bagged me a great internship in the first round made available to me. Despite hearing how beneficial the program was from previous scholars, it wasn’t until I took some time to look back at my own experience so far that I realised how much this has helped me develop and build on my soft skills.

My internship

My internship is with Scottish Leather Group, and my role is Cost of Non-Quality Intern. My project mainly focuses on developing a more accurate way for the company to record the cost of leather that is either rejected or reworked (the cost associated with sorting any issues present on the leather). The one aspect I have loved about my internship is the fact that it is an in-person internship. When I think back to how nervous I was on my first day, it helped being introduced to everyone face-to-face, and it gave me a lot more confidence to approach people for support in different departments. I am still amazed at how interested people have been in my project and how willing people are in helping me progress or speaking to me about their role/ career progression.

Key achievements

I think I speak on behalf of many interns when I say although there is a lot of excitement around starting this opportunity, there is undoubtedly a whole lot of nerves that go along with it. There are so many things that go through your head: what to wear, how you will handle the 5-day week early starts compared to the university ‘get up at lunch before a lecture’ lifestyle and mainly, will you be able to handle the tasks you are going to get. During the first couple of weeks, I became very familiar with specific applications such as Excel and PowerBI.

Although I had used Excel during many university projects, I had very little knowledge of the capabilities of PowerBI. In the space of just over five weeks, I have not only completed a PowerBI course to help me understand DAX formula (the formula used to program) but my skills and knowledge of Excel have dramatically improved.

Amy, my manager, is so knowledgeable about both, and it was great getting to spend time and learn from her, as she showed me how to use and understand the data. At this moment, the first part of my project, the cost of rejects, has been completed as far as possible but will be fully completed in October when IT complete their section.

The transition from student to Intern: Personnel achievements

Out with my project, there have been many other activities I have participated in that have helped me gain a better understanding of what it is like to work in a professional environment. Every week I join in the quality report meeting and team meeting where the outcomes of the previous week are discussed, and people can express issues they needed to be addressed. Although I have carried out numerous presentations throughout my time at university and worked a few part-time jobs, having the opportunity to discuss the progression of my project every week with the rest of the department was something entirely new to me.

Not feeling like part of the team or having the confidence to ask people for help were just two of my main worries before starting the internship. Participating in those meetings allowed me to build stronger relationships with the team and made it easier to approach people for help or learn about their roles in the company. I have truly benefitted from being surrounded by people who are so encouraging of what you are doing and want nothing more than to see you succeed. This has made the transition from student to intern that much easier.

I feel like, as a student gaining working experience through an internship like this is truly invaluable. Learning how to cope with the responsibility of your workload, developing a greater sense of self-awareness when there is more riding on your actions and networking with a vast number of different individuals helps you grow and mature personally and professionally.

Final Thoughts

As I head into the final weeks of my internship, I am looking forward to getting stuck into the last part of my project and utilising and developing the skills I have already obtained in both Excel and PowerBi.

Despite still requiring support to complete my project and overcoming the inevitable challenges, I am so grateful for the trust and responsibility placed upon myself, as well as the endless amounts of guidance from those around me. Despite the roles of the other interns at SLG being entirely different, chatting and supporting each other throughout has been great.

As my blog comes to an end, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Saltire Scholar team at Entrepreneurial Scotland for guiding me through the application process which resulted in me obtaining this successful internship role and for their continued support whilst on this journey.

On a final note of thanks, I would like to say thank you to SLG for selecting me for this role and to everyone who has been so encouraging and welcoming so far.

My guidance for future scholars would be the same advice I received- say yes to everything! Despite your role in the company being the focus, this is your opportunity to ask questions, get out of your comfort zone, speak to departments you find interesting and learn from different people. You never know the impact someone can have on your life and building a network of professional colleagues can provide you with so much support and endless open opportunities.

I think it is important to remember no one wants to see you fail, so if you need help, ask. Believe me when I say the time goes fast, so make the most of it!!

Written by: Amy Neil, Heriot-Watt University Cost of Non-Quality within Leather Manufacturing Intern, Scottish Leather Group (in-person)
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