Name: Emma O’Donnell
University attended: University of Sheffield
Position: Business Operations
How long have you worked for BHP? I started working for BHP in the middle of August 2013, so around 6 months ago. My internship is focused on a single 9 month project which is due to be completed in May.
Why did you want to work for BHP? When I was first looking for work I wasn’t entirely sure on what I should be looking for in an employer. I was keen to work in a smaller business but beyond that I really had no idea! I was mostly attracted to BHP because the role that they were offering seemed really interesting and was suited to the skills I’d gained from my degree. I’m really lucky because BHP has turned out to be a fantastic place to work. There’s a great, friendly environment and a lot of opportunity to take on new responsibilities and add variety to my day.
What do you think are the benefits of working in a small business? When you’re working in an SME your role is far more fluid than it is in a larger organisation. Even though my job is to see the “One Firm” project to completion I’ve been given the freedom to add to the business in other areas whenever I spot an opportunity to do so. This is great for the business but on a personal level it’s also allowed me to experiment to discover my own strengths - this has been really helpful for improving my work here and giving me more focus on where I’d like to take my career in the future.
The most significant example of this for me has been coming to understand the value of my IT skills. I’d always been comfortable with computers but had never made a focused effort to cultivate this skill until I came here. BHP have allowed me to experiment with using IT to improve various existing processes and this has helped to develop my own understanding of IT enormously.
What do you think you have added to the business? My job is all about learning what people do day to day and then offering suggestions for ways they could make their existing processes more efficient. Coming straight from university I had no preconceptions about the way things should be done and this open attitude meant I was able to give impartial recommendations to the business. My job relies on doing this but the “fresh pair of eyes” is something almost every graduate has and it can be valuable for any business to be challenged on the way they do things. It’s also great for a graduate applying for future jobs to be able to give examples of interesting ways they helped to improve a business they’ve worked at in the past.
The second thing that’s really helped me add to BHP are the IT skills I’ve been developing since I got here. I’m learning new tricks all the time and can often find ways to use them to automate a process or make something easier for people to use.
What was the biggest surprise? When I first got here I was expecting to have to fight to be taken seriously. I was recommending changes despite having no real experience working in that sector (or any other!) and I assumed this would make others closed off to my ideas. The biggest surprise for me then was the realisation that people were interested in what graduates had to say. Coming out of university I was nervous that employers would be dismissive and unable to see what I could offer to their business - it’s been great to find that this doesn’t seem to be a problem.
What is the most exciting thing you have done since working for BHP? I think the most exciting thing for me has been instigating real and significant changes in the business. It’s always exciting when you see something you’ve worked on be adopted by other staff but the most rewarding one for me has been associated with a change I suggested in our payroll department. I worked really hard to automate a task that was previously done manually and one of the most exciting (and tense) moments for me came when the program I’d developed was used successfully for the first time.
Based on your RISE experience, are you optimistic about your future career prospects? I left university with good grades but with virtually no work experience and with no idea of what I wanted to do. The prospect of starting work was scary and I was pessimistic about my chances of finding a good job. My experience in the RISE programme has totally shifted my outlook. I feel like the work experience I’ve now got is going to be incredibly useful for securing future opportunities and I’m even starting to develop an understanding of the type of work I’d like to do in the future. I’d say I’m slightly overconfident now if anything which is not something I would have expected to feel 6 months ago!