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Inspiring young minds

The work experience programme is extremely important to SSTL, and so far this summer they have hosted 19 work experience students, one of whom is me, Vicki Slim.

Vicki Slim
I have just graduated from University where I studied Biochemistry, and although the vast majority of Biochemistry graduates go into research, I already know that this is not the career path for me. Instead I would like to do something that keeps me close to scientific progression; whilst not so close that I find that I am working in the lab myself. After considering what form this might take, the possibility of going into PR caught my attention. However, before this week I only understood the basics of what PR is about and had very little idea how it worked in real life. The opportunity to do a week of work experience at SSTL has therefore been extremely helpful in enabling me to see how PR is used to communicate with the company’s audience.  

Before I arrived I was unsure of what to expect and, although I have done a science degree, I knew next to nothing about satellite technology or space in general. I found myself sat at the desk of someone who I had never met (but who was luckily for me away on holiday) feeling a little bit overwhelmed, but when I was given a brief overview of the projects happening at SSTL I very quickly took a real interest and found I was able to follow the discussions relatively easily. I have been mentored by SSTL’s PR Manager, Joelle Sykes, and during the week I have attended several meetings with her and  gained insights into what her job involves, including how SSTL coordinates with its US subsidiary, Surrey Satellite Technology US LLC (SST US LLC), and how SSTL makes use of social media, for example through its twitter account.

On my first day, a media training session was being run for individuals within the company who were likely to need to give interviews or otherwise have direct media interaction. Amongst other activities, the attendees participated in practice radio and TV interviews and as they prepared themselves I realised that, although I had only been here for an hour or so, I was no longer the most nervous person in the room! Throughout the week I have also been given other tasks such as researching which are the largest newspapers in several overseas countries.   Another task was to research  the classification system used by companies to name different products of theirs that occur in a series or of which variants are available, which will aid SSTL in considering whether or not they will change the way that they name their future products. 

Someone else who has been doing work experience this week is Henry Bookham, who has just sat his AS levels and has been working with the finance department in project accountancy, as this is the sort of career he would like to enter into in the future.  

Henry Bookham
Henry was only halfway through the week when I spoke to him but SSTL has not been able to put him off working in finance so far! He describes his time here as being challenging but enjoyable because of this, and although it was quite an adjustment working in a new environment that is so different from his school, he found that he settled in very quickly. Henry has been kept busy this week with several assignments including updating statutory accounts spreadsheets.  Something that we can both say is that we have really enjoyed working in such a friendly environment, interacting with not only our supervisors but also other members of staff working nearby. Henry was even drafted last minute into joining the staff netball session, a sport that he had never played before, and his performance received a glowing report! Of the many positives that Henry will take away from his time at SSTL, the most important to him are increased confidence and experience for both his upcoming studies and for the future. Although he has not yet decided whether he will be attending university, if he does, Henry wishes to study something related either to finance or economics. 

Paul Charman – Mechanical and Structural Design Group Leader

During his time with SSTL, Paul has organised work experience for several students who are interested in engineering to come and spend time with the design and analysis team, and this is something that he is more than happy to do as he believes that it is very helpful for students to both gain experience working in a business environment and to receive a background in engineering to enhance their future opportunities.  Paul tends to arrange for the student to spend one to two days with other engineering teams in order for them to get a flavour for the whole process. However, due to its “hands-on” nature, this has on occasion resulted in his students leaving SSTL with a keener interest in the composite and manufacturing processes than his own area of design and analysis! 

Although SSTL is clearly not a biological research or pharmaceutical company, I have gained real insight into how PR for science and technology companies is carried out in general. Where previously I would only have considered in working for companies close to my degree subject I have grown much more open minded, particularly in respect to space but also to other subject areas. My week at SSTL has only strengthened my interest in PR and left me feeling more prepared to head down this career path.





26 July 20130 Comments1 Comment

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