Cass Business School student on the transforming benefits of a work placement

20th November 2018

I am Yushi Chen, a graduate student at Cass Business School in MSc Management. During the last term, I applied to join the Cass bespoke Corporate Responsibility project to complete my dissertation with a work placement. And that’s how I met Placer, spending a demanding yet rewarding two months of the year. 

At the time I joined Placer, the team was seeking partnership and engagement with regional infrastructure organisations to mobilise enterprises, universities and colleges preparing for the official launch. My responsibility was to conduct a feasibility study of Placer’s business model and carry out research on product popularity with some end users - SMEs, students in universities and colleges in London. The whole project adopted a qualitative method which meant I had to conduct intensive in-depth interviews with stakeholders, to understand the market better. 

It was my first time to undertake field work in the UK alone. I worried what if I could not find an adequate sample to collaborate with me; what if I could not fully understand my interviewees; what if my results were not valid; what if I could not live up to my project supervisor’s expectation; what if I let the Placer team down. With tons of worries and pressure crowding on me, I took my first step. Thanks to the Placer family, all my worries turned into my motivation.

Placer is such a warm family, with project director David Barker steering the boat and client service manager Tracey Phillipson depicting the route map, meanwhile, backed up by employees and enterprises with shared value to address social issues. Until now, I still owe my sincerest appreciation to David and Tracey who gave me trust, encouragement and continuingly helped me to fulfil my tasks. 

There were three stages of my placement. Initially, they shared Placer’s background stories, mission and vision with me. I attended internal meetings, joined their pitch presentation, visited colleges and was offered the chance of a business trip which all helped me to be familiar with our business and design my project scope. However, I found that I often missed key points during the meetings which would affect the mind mapping, so I bought an audio recorder for better memory and understanding. At the beginning, a twenty-minute meeting consumed a whole afternoon for a completed verbatim transcript. But with my practice, gradually, I became more effective. With the research objectives settled, I started my market research. It was quite challenging to find the target population and to ask for their permission for an interview. Sometimes, it was really daunting when you sent stacks of invitation emails waiting for ages while only several of them replied, and one or two of the “several” expressed their interest. Nevertheless, with time passing by, I found myself more resourceful in locating the right person and collect constructive data. Besides, David invited me to meet with an officer from Greater London Authority. Tracey signed me up to an event taking place in the DfE on skills and education. All these exposures helped me to gather first-hand information on latest policies and research findings, contributing to validation of my study. At the third stage, to further test my hypothesis and bring forward recommendations, they helped me to set up meetings with charitable and infrastructure organizations, giving me inspirations for proposing instructive recommendations. 

I didn’t expect that I would have so many opportunities to meet such inspiring people or visit those amazing places. There were many “first time” memories happening during these two months. But it is more than that, I had played a role in facilitating social mobility. And the sense of fulfilment and achievement will keep me engaged in social causes. 

Before, I was a typical student like any of you, wondering how a work placement in a small business could be conducive and inspirational for our future careers. Anyhow, Placer, as a social enterprise offered me this platform and it turned out to be an experience that I talked about most frequently, a lesson I acquired intensively, a journey I accomplished so far, and a business that may impact the marginalized deeply. Placer itself is one of many offering valuable opportunities. The difference between you and me may not be about age, about nationality, or gender, but whether we grasp this opportunity, to be on board, take an action and make an impact slowly but everlastingly. I have been there, what about you?

Yushi Chen, graduate student at Cass Business School, MSc Management

“Cass Business School believes in the value of learning and developing skills through practice and working with Placer also builds our students’ understanding of social enterprise. We’re delighted Yushi both enjoyed and learned so many valuable skills during the placement and trust this experience will be valuable in her working life.”

Rob Compton, Corporate Responsibility and Ethics Manager, Cass Business School

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