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The intern experience at SAP UKI

Over the past year, Mary Anne Shaughnessy Cleary, a student at the University of Bath, has been on placement at enterprise software giant SAP UKI

Why take a year out to work in industry?

For young people nowadays, the pressure to find a job seems intimidating. The standard of candidates has been raised to a new height and with Covid-19 resulting in excess graduates leaving university and searching for jobs, it has never been harder to stand out from the crowd. Also, the pressure of repaying a student loan inevitably motivates individuals to be in the best possible position for employment once they say goodbye to education.

Universities are increasingly encouraging their students to take part in a placement year – often sandwiched in the middle of a four-year degree – as they understand that the experience of working in industry is highly respected and desired among employers across all industries and provides graduates with an edge.

Why SAP?

SAP has an established and respected placement programme in the UK, with close to 60 interns joining the organisation each year. It is a business that understands the value of industry experience to both the students and to its own business, showcased by its ranking as 8th in the Top 100 National Undergraduate Employers and 1st in Tech.

Throughout my 14 months at SAP, I have always felt like a well-respected and – most importantly – trusted member of the communications team, much like my fellow interns within their respective placements. Almost immediately, I began to play my part in ensuring that our 2,500-plus workforce in the UK remained engaged and supported during the introduction of lockdown, a time when consistent communication was key to maintaining employee wellbeing.

My responsibilities grew as I became more familiar with the organisation as a whole and the communications function within it, and quickly felt my work was highly valued.

My time at SAP

With the power of hindsight, I can say I have played a valuable role within the organisation, and think this is truly unique to SAP’s attitude towards young talent and desire for constant innovation. Having discussed the placement programme with many full-time colleagues, they are excited by a fresh pair of eyes, challenging their business processes “outside in” and encouraging innovation within teams.

It is fantastic to know that the arrangement benefits both parties – students gain the experience necessary to confidently leave university and enter the job market, and SAP is constantly challenged, bringing greater value to the organisation, as well as its partners and customers.  

“At SAP, I have always felt like a well-respected and – most importantly – trusted member of the communications team”

Mary Anne Shaughnessy Cleary

Throughout my time at SAP, I have worked on a number of projects, but a couple stand out. The first was leading on the incorporation of greater measurement and analytics into the communications function in the UKI, through which we gained an in-depth understanding of internal engagement and we adapted our communications strategy based on our results to better support employees while they are working from home.

I was tasked with reporting these data learnings to Michiel Verhoeven, our UKI MD, as part of our quarterly business review, and I was thrilled when he appreciated the analytical approach to internal communications.

Secondly, I worked with our PR agency with media and social strategy for the launch of our partnership with The Carbon Community on new scientific forestry research, and I took a lead role on all of our CSR (corporate social responsibility) and purpose-driven communications activities for the SAP Green Team. SAP recognises its role in making the world a better place, and it was fantastic to work on some of the many meaningful and effective purpose-driven projects throughout the year.

The virtual experience

Starting a new job virtually is something I have had multiple remarks on, with colleagues asking how on earth it could be done, and expressing their sympathies for the unusual circumstances. However, I found the work-from-home experience highly flexible and I was still presented equal opportunities to my predecessor.

Having my first experience of work be 95% virtual has provided me with insights into what motivates me, the importance of communicating with my team, and has highlighted how malleable we all are as humans. My learning curve was occurring in parallel with colleagues who have been working in the industry for over 30 years, so in a way it was oddly comforting that we were all entering the unknown together.  

What I would tell my second-year self

  • Firstly, I would highly recommend all students look into taking a year in industry. Not only has it improved my skillset and increased my confidence entering the professional world, but it has also been a great experience and I have met a lot of lovely people along the way.
  • Secondly, when applying for a placement, it is critical to stay true to yourself when choosing a role. If you aren’t interested, it will come across in your application. Stay curious and keep looking for the role that suits you. SAP has a wide range of roles across all areas of the business.
  • Finally, once you are there, make the most of it. Your experience is what you make it. Use every opportunity and challenge yourself. You have been hired for a reason, so be confident in your ability to implement positive change.

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