Graduating was great, but what came next was even better

With graduation wrapped up for another year we take a look at how one of last year’s graduates, Sarah Kendall, is fairing in the big wide world. Sarah, who studied Biology, signed off from the University of Manchester this time last year and didn’t waste any time in kick-starting her career. It took her just two months to secure a position on a grad scheme at one of the biggest healthcare companies in the world and here she explains how her time at Manchester helped her to secure such a fantastic job…

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Why Biology

When I started my applications for university, I had an important decision to make in terms of which subject I wanted to study- my favourites being Biology and Chemistry. When I read through the University of Manchester prospectus and saw the diversity of modules on offer to me, from “Microbes, Men and the Environment” to “Cells and Tissues in Human Disease”, I was confident in my decision to study Biology. As well as the variety of modules on the University of Manchester’s Biology degree programme, the option to focus on Biology as a whole instead of specialising added to the diverse nature of the course. This allowed me to tailor the degree to my interests, where other Universities could not. The option to undertake a placement year cemented my decision so in September 2013 I left to pursue a degree in Biology with Industrial Experience.

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What I enjoyed

I particularly enjoyed my final year project- I opted for the ‘Life Sciences Enterprise Project’ (LSEP). This module was a group project where teams were presented a topic in Life Science and were tasked with creating an idea or product to fix a problem related to the topic.

The area myself and my team were appointed was Alzheimer’s Disease, which proved to be a vast and extremely interesting topic. Although challenging at times, the LSEP project taught me about the importance of teamwork and how to manage and work with different personalities, as well as providing me with a deep understanding of such a complex disease.

Another attractive aspect of the LSEP project was the inclusion of lectures from professors in the management school, these were different to anything I had studied before and gave me new knowledge of business and management.

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The project culminated in a Dragons Den event, where each team presented their idea to gain funding from the other project teams and markers. The Dragons Den event was really enjoyable and provided an end goal for the project. It was also rewarding to present the hard work myself and my team had done throughout the year to so many stakeholders. Overall the LSEP was one of the highlights of my study at Manchester and I would urge those with an interest in biology within the modern business world to partake.

Industrial Placement

I was successful in securing a Placement for my industrial experience at Pfizer, an innovative biopharmaceutical company, in their Global Regulatory Operations Division. This experience proved valuable for my introduction into the ‘World of Work’, where it differed so much from the university environment.

During my year at Pfizer, I learnt to perform under pressure and used to joke that I had become immune to stress. Pfizer was a fast-paced environment and suited my personality well. The experience I had on placement year set me up for final year as it taught me the importance of meeting deadlines and managing and prioritising my work effectively.

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Current Career

During my final year I applied for the Business and Technology Grad Scheme at GSK. GSK was an attractive company to me for multiple reasons. Following my placement year, I was sure that I wanted to return to Big Pharma and after researching the company it became clear that GSK’s mission statement and values were things that I aligned with personally. This combined with its high rank on the Times Top 100 Grad Schemes list meant that GSK was a company that I wanted to work for.

After a lengthy recruitment process of online tests and assessment centres, I was offered a place, starting in September 2017. I work in the digital stream and have spent my first rotation working on two main projects. One of the projects I have worked on involves the app used in GSK for Customer Relationship Management. The other focuses on connected medical devices. Both projects have been interesting for me – and my biology degree has proved invaluable for both. The devices have a strong disease focus and my knowledge of human disease from studying biology means I have been able to adapt to the needs of the project quickly.

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