My name is Hannah Whittaker and I’m an Event Management student from The University of Central Lancashire. In the summer of 2018 I completed the placement year of my course at Ashfield Meetings & Events.
Born and bred in Lancashire (20 minutes from Lancaster to be precise), I have always been very much a ‘home bird’ as we northern folk say, so close proximity to home was a factor when deciding upon my chosen university. But that wasn’t the only reason I opted for UCLan. The great teaching and amazing opportunities made my decision easy.
I must have changed a lot in the short two years at UCLan, because a moment at university one day last year outweighed these feelings enough to move me almost three hours from home: to Nottingham, not far from the unusually named Ashby-de-la-Zouch, UK HQ of Ashfield.
Why Ashfield Meetings & Events?
During one of our lectures, two members of the Ashfield team presented an overview of the company and what they offer to placement students. I was open-minded about which part of the industry I wanted to work in, so obtaining work experience in a company, specialising in healthcare events that required strict compliance regulations would give me insights into this sector and help me learn a very structured and thorough way of working – skills that would benefit me in the future.
I researched the company thoroughly before my assessment day. Assessment days are the best way for companies to learn the most about potential employees because a range of skills are tested due to the wide variety of tasks. One task involved a presentation about ourselves and why we thought we should be offered a job at Ashfield. I decided to use a little creativity and produced a video of my friends and family saying why they thought I should have the job (I didn’t pay them, I promise!).
Only three days later I received a call from the operational department; I was lucky enough to gain a year-long placement at Ashfield Meetings & Events!
Ashfield has the capacity to deliver full-service events through the diverse number of roles within the company, and my entire first week was dedicated to induction, learning and absorbing information about the company and its culture.
I worked on Business Unit 4, a team made up of 25 individuals, managed by an Account Director who has overall responsibility of the accounts we work on.
My official job title was ‘Project Administrator’ which meant that I was in charge of delegate management – dealing with delegate accommodation, transfers, admin, website building/maintaining and any queries that people may have before, during or after the event. The role certainly kept me busy and I loved dealing with different people and tackling different challenges every day. Once all the pre-event work was complete, we’d go on-site to deliver the event, which could be anywhere in Europe.
Going on-site was the most fulfilling part of my job by far. Seeing something that you have worked so hard on come to life is THE best feeling; not only because reativeit is a relief that it has gone so well, but also because you can look back on how much you have achieved in such a short time.
When all the hard work was done and time permits, we’d get the opportunity to venture outside of the hotel and experience the destination that we were in, and my trips during the year included Zurich, Milan, Vienna, Leuven and Noordwijk.
At the beginning of my placement I had some difficulties managing my work load, resulting in outputs that were not to my usual high standards. My line manager was amazing. She taught me how to prioritise tasks which helped me to manage my time appropriately. As this continued, I became more proficient in my role which then enabled me to support other team members. In this industry, you form very close relationships with your colleagues, especially when travelling on-site because you are together for long periods of time.
But I quickly learned that meetings and events is not just about the delivery side of things - the admin is extremely important too. Learning how to correctly format an email and create folders in my inbox was a real benefit and helped me considerably as I had no office-based experience prior to Ashfield. My writing in general has improved and I find it easier to speak to clients and colleagues in a professional but warm manner.
Obviously not everything has always gone to plan, but what can you expect in this industry? Last minute changes are inevitable. However, learning to cope with changes and quickly correcting any issues has given me a higher level of attention to detail to help me improve on future projects.
Through Ashfield Meetings & Events’ award-winning training programme there were plenty of opportunities to ensure I achieved my full potential during my placement year, and I signed up to various training courses via the business’s internal communications platform. My managers and other members of the team regularly asked if we needed any training refreshers throughout the year also.
At the end of my year I received constructive and invaluable feedback from my colleagues and managers who have given me confidence and made me realise: I can do this!
I can honestly say that if I hadn’t done the placement at Ashfield Meetings & Events, I wouldn’t be who I am today.