I was very shocked when I received my offer from AstraZeneca. Although I was excited about such a great opportunity, I was definitely apprehensive about having a full-time job for the first time and moving away from all of my uni friends for the year.
The placement was in full swing very fast. I was in the lab within the first few weeks starting to learn new techniques and getting to know everyone. I found having a 9-5 job surprisingly difficult for the first month or two. Managing my time and travelling on weekends to see people was very tiring! But after a short while, it became normal and I actually came to enjoy the element of routine and how productive I managed to become.
Starting to feel like a scientist
In terms of the lab work itself, the placement has been completely invaluable. I have noticed in particular it has improved my confidence in myself massively.
My supervisor has been incredibly supportive and is a big advocate of independence; ensuring I was planning and executing my experiments on my own. This really made me start to feel like a scientist and made me twice as proud when I produced good results knowing that it was all my own work.
Something else that was new was learning to interact with and befriend colleagues of all ages and positions within the business. It was definitely a learning curve being introduced to work politics, business models and development plans. It really gave me an insight into what work life and being involved in an organisation is really like.
My placement highlights
Specific to AstraZeneca, there have been some big highlights of the placement:
The social side
On the last Friday of every month, our building had ‘Friyay’. This essentially involved all staff congregating in the main break room to catch up and eat bacon butties and sausage sandwiches!
The work Christmas party was astronomical! It was located in a ginormous tent with about 10 different themed rooms, with free food, sweets, music, dancing and themed cocktails and drinks! It was so nice to have fun and dance with all the colleagues and friends I’d made. We also had a work Christmas lunch and a team Christmas lunch. These were great to help to get to know people better and strengthen relationships within my team.
Every couple of months AstraZeneca have networking days. They aim to connect people from different departments and may otherwise never meet, and to showcase work from other departments to everyone. These can involve talks, poster sessions or other presentations which are often followed by a team-building event. Our first one was held in a local cinema and included a range of presentations while we were provided with free popcorn and drinks, followed by a buffet and bowling!
AstraZeneca also has a strong network called AZinspire which includes all of the graduates, interns, apprentices and IP students. There have been many social events through AZinspire such as quizzes, murder mystery nights, and pub crawls. We even planned to visit the AstraZeneca site in Sweden (although COVID-19 got in the way of that!).
Although my placement has been interrupted early and things have changed quite a bit, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at AstraZeneca. I can tell I have really grown as both a person and a scientist.
I have made some really good friends who I will keep in touch with and have made invaluable contacts who have given me so much fantastic advice and guidance. They’ve really encouraged me to aim high and be determined to succeed. With the support and enthusiasm they have given me, I have decided to peruse a PhD straight after university. I’ll start applying for those as soon as I return to York for my final year in September.
For anyone unsure about doing a year in industry, or anyone nervous about it, I cannot recommend it enough and I promise you will definitely learn so much from it.
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