The Kickstarter to my Career in Illustration

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Tomoko Nishida undertook an internship for Ying Adviser (Linkelite) as a Creative Marketing Intern.

The UWE International Talent Scheme has been a great opportunity for me. It was formative in kickstarting my career as a professional illustrator. My tasks were realistic and achievable, and I was able to make a real difference to the company. I learned how to conduct business in the UK, and developed marketable skills.

Pale pink Chinese lanterns in the background with the outlines of two pandas in the foreground, with the title Ying Advisers

I was placed at Ying Adviser, a start-up consultancy. Ying Adviser provides information about China and its culture, to businesses wishing to expand their presence in China. Prior to my assignment, their online presence was under-developed.

My brief as a Creative Marketing Intern was to help develop an online brand to their specification. The brand would demonstrate their business’s understanding of China. 

Following a successful video interview: the supervisor and I arranged to meet in a cafe to discuss the placement. She was one of the company’s two directors, and told me the story of their company. We were interested in each other’s culture, and so I was excited to draw Chinese illustrations for use on their website. My working hours were flexible: I would work 3 days per week, for 4 weeks. 

I characterised the company’s directors as pandas. I worked on the general idea of pandas having fun, and provided a range of sketches. I had a lot of freedom to decide what to make and how to make it. The brief specified that I would work in red and greyscale watercolour, to evoke a traditional Chinese style. 

Tomoko talking to other students at the Celebrating UWE Talent Awards

The use of humour was the core theme of the illustration. For example: pandas being fried in woks, or riding paper planes or hugging one another. I had to develop techniques for Chinese watercolour in a short time.  Adding elements of Chinese calligraphy helped me to give my illustrations an authentic feel. I tried to depict humour and a sense of momentum by using strong brush strokes. Combining these new techniques broadened my perspective of painting and brushwork.  

This work experience gave me an opportunity to develop Photoshop skills, which directly improves employability. I have gained confidence in using Photoshop in a professional way. 

Once a week, I would work with my supervisor at her house. The rest of the time, I worked from home. This developed my self-management – a skill essential for any illustrator. I would write a daily report on what work I’d produced, and what my plans were for the next shift. The directors emailed me regular and useful feedback. 

I recognise that I would benefit from pursuing experience in a creative team, to complete my professional profile. It is important to learn from a teacher or fellow professional. 

The creative techniques and organisational skills that I honed during this internship, are already proving useful for my 3rd year personal project, and I have confidence that they will help me toward my dream of illustrating children’s books professionally.


The International Talent Internship Scheme provides you with a paid short-term work opportunity over the summer. Internships are a great way to experience the professional workplace and develop your skills.  

If you would like to find out more about International Talent Internships, then do get in touch on InternationalTalent@uwe.ac.uk.

Learning Science Ltd

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Ryan Cornwell, Biomedical Sciences at UWE Bristol, reflects on his internship for Learning Science Ltd as a Learning Resource Development Intern.

My work varied from Beta testing learning science resources, to reading and expanding my knowledge on scientific techniques and even creating my own learning science resource that will be seen in multiple universities across England. 

This is one of the best things I could have done to support my degree. I was met with interesting and varied work daily with the added benefit that no two days were the same. Work was never overwhelming as I had a solid support network provided by my work colleagues. I can’t recommend Learning science enough and the same for the internship scheme.

“We have gained hugely from having a student on the team who can provide real insight into learning needs and challenges.” Ryan’s manager found his knowledge and support invaluable. Following his internship, Ryan has been asked to continue working for Learning Science on an adhoc basis.  

You can read more about Ryan’s experience on the Learning Science Blog


Taking part in the UWE Bristol Undergraduate Scheme 

The UWE Bristol Undergraduate Scheme 2020 has now launched and is a brilliant way to gain work experience for your CV and earn some money over the Summer. This year internship opportunities will be offered online. For more details visit the Internships website

What Happens After Graduation?

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Opus Talent Solutions share their insights on how to get your first graduate role

You’re finally a graduate. You’ve completed your studies and, as someone’s bound to tell you, the world’s your oyster. Yet oysters can be tricky to get into, even if you’ve done your research and come to the table prepared. 

Finding your first graduate role can be challenging. Whether you have a highly specific career path in mind, or you’re simply overwhelmed by the options available, it’s not unusual to feel a little lost at this stage. 

Fortunately, once you find your feet, the prospect of searching for your first ‘proper job’ will quickly become a lot less intimidating. Ultimately, you need to play to your strengths, be proactive in your search, and be prepared to acknowledge and challenge your weaknesses. 

Focus on what makes you uniquely suitable for the role in question – don’t be afraid to talk yourself up!

Your degree will form a huge part of your CV, so it’s important to highlight the key elements of your studies that will showcase your skills, particularly those that may not be immediately apparent.  For example, a mathematics degree may demonstrate your ability to handle complex problems with abstract reasoning, while pharmacology might imply attention to detail and a methodical approach. 

You probably have a limited work history, likely in unrelated areas to your studies, but if you can write a few lines that show development in each role, i.e. “I learnt how to X, Y and Z, and took on extra responsibility for 1, 2, 3”, you’ll be setting yourself apart from the competition. 

Honesty about your ability and achievements demonstrates that you’re capable, forthright, and confident in your strengths; all attractive attributes as far as employers are concerned. 

From my experience of talking to thousands of grads, I’d say 90% of them never once visited their university careers office… why?! 

Trained professionals are sat, waiting for someone to knock on the door, so they’ll be super keen to impart their wisdom and point you in the right direction. Make the most of them while you still can!

While you’re at it, don’t forget to toggle-on “open to new opportunities” on your LinkedIn account. You can find this under the privacy tab of your account settings. To make it easier for recruiters to find you.

Seek out your ideal opportunities and directly approach organisations – even if they’re not currently advertising for graduates. 

Critically, you should not expect a graduate role to simply fall into your lap. No matter how talented you are, employers also want to know that you are passionate, driven, and independent. Show your initiative by actively pursuing internships and placements.

Your ideal role may not exist at the time you go looking for it. However, this does not mean you can’t create it. By taking control of your search, and being open to a range of options, you give yourself a far greater chance of getting your foot in the door. 

Then you can begin to accrue industry experience, build trust with your employer, and crucially begin to carve out a niche within the organisation. Over time, this may enable you to develop your role into one that is more in line with your ambitions, or use it as a stepping stone to the next stage of your career. 

The confidence, professionalism and sense of achievement you feel after completing a placement is incredible. It gave me an insight into opportunities and inspired me to reach my highest potential.
Eleanor Jayne Elizabeth, OPUS placement student.

The fundamental thing to remember is to tailor your communications to each individual company, showing you’ve done your homework, have a clear understanding of their business, and are serious about making a good impression. 

Foster Connections 

Not every application can be a success. However, every attempt is a learning experience, and a chance to add to your professional network on LinkedIn. 

For example, if you’re turned down due to a lack of available opportunities, or your role is only temporary, encourage these connections to get in touch if something suitable comes up in the future. Similarly, you might ask them to recommend you should they hear of someone else looking for a graduate with your skillset. 

Don’t be afraid to give something new a shot

Remember, this is just the first stage of your career, so don’t lose hope if the perfect role doesn’t immediately materialise. In the meantime, everything you do will increase your experience, enabling you to develop new skills and expand your portfolio.   A varied background demonstrates your versatility, and willingness to adapt. Plus, you may even discover a new calling along the way. 


Why not check out the international graduate scheme offered by Opus Talent Solutions? The two-year intensive training program provides opportunities in London, Bristol, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, New York, and Sydney. 

My Volunteering Journey into Public Health

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Whilst studying Biological Sciences at UWE Bristol, Emma Sheeran has used valuable volunteering experiences to shape her career goals

My experience with the Royal Voluntary Service as a Befriender has been invaluable, not only due to the friendship I have formed with my client Gwen, but also by developing my skill set and helping me to focus my goals towards a career centred around improving healthcare services. 

I was drawn to working with the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) when I learnt about the history of the organisation, which was previously known as the Women’s Voluntary Service. They are committed to tackling social challenges by supporting hospitals and communities nationally.

How did your volunteering journey begin?

I initially supported as a Home from Hospital volunteer with Gwen, an elderly woman to support her re-adjustment to life following one month in hospital with Pneumonia. I then moved in to a Befriender role so I could continue visiting Gwen, as we had developed a strong bond. We have been seeing each other weekly ever since. 

Gwen lacked confidence to go out alone on shopping trips, or to doctors appointments. My visits ensured she would leave the house at least once a week to get essentials, lift her mood, and exercise.  Her health was a common obstacle to her independence, on one occasion I had to call an ambulance and remain with her in hospital for the day as she became suddenly unwell before making it to the shops.

Especially around the time of her poor health, my support gave her reassurance and encouragement to leave her home. Working with Gwen improved my communication skills, as well as emotional resilience as I learnt not to dwell on or take home concerns about Gwen from our visits.

My experience of the NHS with Gwen, like the consequences of their successes and failures in her particular case, inspired me greatly to commit to pursuing a career in public health. 

Where did your volunteering experience take you next?

The RVS was the first organisation I had volunteered with in Bristol, so taking encouragement from the impact and enjoyment of my work with RVS, I began furthering my volunteer experiences.

I became a mentor for refugees and asylum seekers with Borderlands. I designed and conducted a study into student experiences accessing sexual health services with Healthwatch. And I wrote strategy plans for the African Health Organisation. 

I had a long time ambition to learn Arabic to aid my career in global health; focusing on Middle Eastern regions. Last year I was accepted onto an Arabic course at Tel Aviv University. To fund the course fees and accommodation, I applied for, and was granted, the WRVS Benevolent Trust Youth Bursary. (Volunteering over 50 hours with the RVS meant Emma was eligible to apply for this fund towards her career development.)

This greatly contributed to further opportunities, including a successful application to a Global Health Summer School with IPPNW/Charité in Berlin:  Health Between Ethics and Economisation.

What’s your next steps?

Both by building my skills for the future and experience within my own community through volunteering, my role as a Befriender and the Arabic course work as examples of my commitment to a career in improving health. This has now led to an opportunity extended to a position on the organising team of the next Global Health Summer School: Migration and Health 2019. 

Celebrating UWE Talent Award winners on the stage
Due to her fantastic efforts to develop her career goals Emma was runner up for the ‘Volunteer of the Year Award’ at Celebrating UWE Talent 2019

So, you’re studying towards a career in construction…

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UWE Student, David Slade, talks about his placement experience at Midas Group

Whether you’ve found it to be a weighty decision or you’ve always known that it’s for you, there’s no better way to refine and gain confidence in your short term career plan than securing a promising work placement with a reputable company. 

David talks about the experience he’s gained so far at the Midas Group, one the UK’s largest independent construction and property services companies. 

Midas staff and students sitting around a table doing a training exercise.
Midas training session, photo by Neil Phillips

“My time at Midas has been a great experience where I feel I have learnt a vast amount. I’ve found it really beneficial to have worked at different stages within a project that I may not have had exposure to elsewhere. I’ve also been lucky enough to work for different companies within the group, including Midas Construction and Mi-space.”

“I recently visited the site of a new Jaguar Land Rover dealership in Bristol and I got to see the scale of a large project with more than 200 people on site. I am currently working for Mi-space, where I have been able to gain insight into the residential and property services side of the business. This included a recent visit to our award-winning Primrose Park project in Plymouth, where I learnt a great deal and got a glimpse into the future of housing schemes in terms of sustainability.”

“I look forward to learning more in my role at Midas.” 

Joe Exley, University of Plymouth student, is also completing a work placement year with Midas: “For me, this first-hand experience has been invaluable. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and I look forward to continuing my placement and applying what I’ve learned so far in the workplace and in my final year of uni.”

Midas placement student learning the role, photo by Neil Phillips
Midas placement student learning the role, photo by Neil Phillips

“I’ve visited five sites and completed a lot of practical training so far, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet colleagues in health and safety, operations and HR.  I’ve gained good insight into how Midas operates as a company.”

Many students who complete a placement year with Midas have gone on to be offered a graduate trainee position upon completion of their degree, providing the confidence to return to university with the security of a job offer with a company they work well with. 

Midas is always looking for graduates to join its growing business in fields such as Quantity Surveying, Site Management, Estimating, Planning and Design Management.  Look out for work placement opportunities on the Midas website.


If you are inspired by David’s experience come find out about your placement options .

Confidence, Coding and Challenges: My NMI Placement

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Rob Barclay, Computer Science student from UWE Bristol, talks about his placement year at NMI

Throughout university, we are constantly told by tutors and professors that a work placement offers the most valuable experience of working in the ‘real world’, along with all the invaluable industry knowledge it brings. I’m happy to say that they couldn’t have been more right!  

I was aware of the close links NMI had with our university via previous students having had both fun and successful placements there, so it was highly recommended as a great place for me to get this valuable ‘real world’ experience. I saw that the company was creating real impact within the payment industry, processing millions of transactions yearly. 

How I went about finding a placement

First and foremost I had to show the company I wanted to work there. I sent in my CV and completed an online ‘code challenge’. The final stages of the process was a phone interview followed by a face to face interview.  

I would say that the best tip for an interview is to be as prepared as possible, this shows that you have a genuine interest in the company and learning new skills. I did loads of research and made sure I could really express why I was so keen to seize the opportunity!  

When I was offered the placement I immediately accepted the offer. Like all new jobs it seemed daunting at first. However, the company couldn’t have been more welcoming.  The team made me feel really relaxed along with a buzz that made me feel I wanted to work there.  From being able to dress casually to free fruit, and breakfast on a Wednesday.

What I did at NMI …

I joined the platform team, a group of 6 people; a team lead, four developers and one tester. All focusing on developing the central processing layer which is the fundamental server powering all our products and services. 

After some initial training, I was assigned my first task. This involved setting up the CI (continuous integration) for one of the company’s new flagship products. This is widely used within the software development industry as a whole is not touched at university. This experience has shown that it is necessary to have for my future career.  

I always felt in control of my workload and whilst the work was challenging, I always knew I was only ever expected to work to the best of my ability and I was able to ask for assistance.

Working life at NMI… 

Being surrounded by industry professionals helped increase my coding skills exponentially and complemented what I learned at university. I felt extremely supported by the team. It was also satisfying to be able to work on other projects where I could take the skills that I had picked up in my lectures and practicals, adapt them to the scope of the problem in front of me and create a solution that will potentially be used by thousands of people. It was an unexpected but great experience to know that I was making such a difference from the get-go. 

I have also had the chance to partake in company-wide presentations, cross-team meetings and representing the company to future candidates at UWE careers fair. All helping me increase my confidence and communication; both vital skills required in any industry.  

By adapting to a full-time job, focussed specifically on the field that I study, has given me a massive confidence boost for my final year, and future jobs to come. As previously mentioned, doing a placement is an invaluable experience and I’ve really enjoyed my time at NMI so far.  

I thoroughly recommend anyone considering doing a placement year to just go for it! 


Click here for 2020 NMI placements currently live.

Or sign up to hear from NMI.

Placement Life at the Green Party

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By UWE Bristol Geography Student, Monique Taratula-Lyons

I debated about doing a placement for most of my first year of university. When I began my second year, I was determined to find one. There is a mix of reasons why. I wanted to throw myself into a new experience to give myself time to research ideas for my future.

My first day…

The first day of my placement at the Brighton & Hove Green Party was very special as I meet Caroline Lucas, the only Green MP in the UK. When I met her, I felt very honoured and excited. I supported her and the Young Green society at Sussex university fresher’s fair. It turned out to be a very memorable first day.  
 
Not such a typical day…

The most unexpected event that has occurred was the sudden rush of organising for the General Election. We only had five weeks to prepare so there was a lot of work to be done. I mainly helped out with a Crowdfunder campaign, in which we raised over £18,000, and organising volunteers for polling day. Both of these tasks were integral to ensuring that the general election went smoothly on the day. The importance of the task was exciting, but also required patience as they were time consuming and therefore required a lot of focus. 
 
My learning curves…

Pretty early on in my placement I was given the responsibility of drafting and sending our monthly update email to tell our members and supporters what we had been up to. This was a great responsibility and an opportunity to represent the party in the best light. I did research for the content, chose the layout and selected the pictures. I made sure to have my draft email reviewed by colleagues and took on board any advice or comments they had. Once the email was approved it was sent to roughly nine thousand people! I was definitely out of my comfort zone in doing this task but ended up really enjoying it in the end as it taught me to have confidence in my writing and research.   

I would say the biggest challenge is answering the office phone. It sounds like such an easy task, but I am not used to speaking on the phone in a professional context and the phone typically rings when I am not expecting it. I have not had previous experience of this kind of work, but with each new call I am overcoming my fear and increasing in confidence each time. 

Finding my placement..

At first, I felt overwhelmed about applying for placements; I was not sure if I would be able to find one or not and was uncertain in which sector that I wanted to gain experience in. I decided to try researching and applying for a variety of roles before I decided whether to commit to a placement year. I started my search by speaking to lecturers, doing research online and emailing any companies that worked in areas that interest me and hoped for a reply. In January I received a reply from The Brighton & Hove Green Party asking questions about what sort of placement I was looking for. This for me was a turning point. However, the whole process of actually confirming my placement didn’t happen until summer as it was important to ensure that the role the party offered me would fit with the requirements of a placement year.   

I sent over my CV and offered to send over any university work I had done. I also had two telephone interviews. I was asked a few questions about what skills I could bring, my passions and also a general conversation of what the placement may look like. Before my placement began, I popped into the office to say hello and ask any questions. 

My advice would be

It is worth trying and exploring placements as an option. Just send out a few emails; you never know what could happen. If you really want a placement, don’t give up. Speak to lecturers, ask about what past students have done and if you can speak to them. Remember not put too much pressure on yourself as trying to balance assignments with placement searches isn’t easy. Most importantly, you aren’t alone in the search so never be afraid to ask. 

There have been many times which I felt daunted by the prospect of doing a placement but now I am very glad that I went for it; sometimes it is important to take a different path to enjoy the reward of that experience. 


If you are inspired by Monique’s experience come find out about your placement options .

51 Months Later – back in the life with Zircon…

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By Juan Acosta Fisco, Graduate and Software Engineer at Zircon Software

My name is Juan and I am a software engineer at Zircon Software. The title of this post is related to my previous blog post for Zircon (Ten Months in the Life …, available on the company website). As one might expect, a lot has changed in that time, not least my academic progression from undergraduate to graduate and making my way back to Zircon. The focus of this post will be to compare my perspective from back then with the one I hold now. 

As a placement student at Zircon, you spend a lot of time learning. Concretely in my case I learned the languages Python, JavaScript, HTML, CSS and SQL; got to grips with object oriented programming and threading; and acquired skills in web development and database management.

As a graduate, the training-working balance is shifted somewhat towards the latter, but I am pleased to report that I am still learning, having now also added Java & C# to my repertoire as well as developing experience with messaging patterns and Xamarin Forms. Furthermore, Zircon takes a proactive approach in ensuring you are continually improving your skillset, building in time for training and suggesting development routes. 

The cohesive and supportive work environment at Zircon continues. Some faces have changed, due to the period of time I was away to finish up my degree. However many are still here and the office culture that has proved so conducive to Zircon’s success prevails, curated and maintained by all those privileged to form a part of it. 

In my previous post I touched on Zircon’s tangible ambition and hunger for success, well it seems like once you have a taste for it nothing else will do. Zircon has roughly doubled in terms of staff numbers and turnover since then, and continues to aim higher. Regular in-house communication and coordination ensures that we are all striving for, and ultimately achieving, this common goal. 

Coming back in a graduate capacity has offered up fresh new challenges which I didn’t experience as a placement student. I work much more closely with clients, auditors and project managers to deliver high quality software. I have had excellent guidance in navigating these new challenges and have not just acquired new professional skills, useful in any context, but have also become a more complete software engineer. 

As a placement student I discussed the excitement and motivation that comes with the opportunity to work on a product to be deployed and used regularly in the real world, by real users, for a real application. Upon graduating I wanted to return as Zircon is always keen on acquiring new customers and breaking into new markets. I have also had a chance to do something I didn’t predict; revisit a past project. 

The product I worked on as a placement student is live and stable, with continuing enhancements as new requirements come in. The opportunity to revisit this work was very gratifying, like catching up with an old friend. As I come to the end of this post, I feel like this is perhaps the best and closest metaphor to how I feel about my experience here as a graduate versus a placement student, a feature enhancement. 

How Nursing Changed my Life

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By Emma Powell, UWE Bristol Alumni. Emma is now District Nurse Team Lead and Single Point of Access Clinical Lead at Sirona care and health.

Nursing.  What can I say?  It is not easy, not glamorous but it is very, very rewarding.  A cliché maybe but true nonetheless!  I feel very proud that I have some fantastic experiences to reflect back on, some not so fantastic but they in turn proved to be important learning curves, not just in nursing but in life.  And I knew from the beginning of my training I wanted to be a community nurse.

Back in 2004, I began my Adult Nursing degree as a mature student and I was terrified.  I was the mother of three with a husband who worked shifts and I also have Crohn’s Disease; as I stood in the reception of Glenside Campus at the UWE Bristol, I asked myself – more than once – what on earth was I doing?  I had loved my Access to Health college course but university … well, that was completely different.  It made nursing real.

And so began my nursing career, something I had aspired to since I was 14 years old. It was a completely different world. I cannot express enough how it will change you as a person and how you view the world, life and people. I remember being told this in a lecture early in the course and it has never left me.  My first year was a raw mixture of shock, horror, speechless wonderment and gratitude. I was tired, excited, happy, sad and enjoyed every placement I had – there is always something you can take from your experiences.  I’ve helped to clear all kinds of bodily fluids, comforted, cajoled, supported and listened.

As the course progressed, I knew from my first community placement, that that is what I wanted to do.  I found my niche, as they say.  I discovered I could communicate well and adapt to whatever scenario I found myself in; I had a particular passion for End of Life Care and feel very privileged to have some fantastic reflections in that discipline.  Nurse training gives you experiences and opportunities available in no other career and working as a registered nurse is a privilege and honour.  The bad days are there, I won’t dress it up – times when you want to just walk away and scream, both in nurse training and working.  I nearly left my course at the end of the second year; I was tired, fed up, drained, poor and for the millionth time, wondered why I was doing it.  A tutor told me this feeling was common, and after all the support from my family I knew I had to finish!

Two student nurses in a hospital setting are practising their skills on a dummy.
A simulation exercise with students at Glenside Campus.

I was lucky enough to get my first job in trauma and orthopaedics.  Although I knew I was a community nurse at heart, typical of many students, I wanted to work on the ward to develop myself with confidence.  Three years later I began community nursing and although I had confidence, there were so many different skill sets to learn.  You never stop learning with nursing – even now, with a career as a District Nurse Team Lead and Single Point of Access Clinical Lead with Sirona care & health – there is always something to learn.

Which leads me to Sirona care & health’s Taking It Personally which is at the heart of our organisation.  There are very good support systems for staff, whether you are struggling or doing something well, everything is recognised. There are policies in place within Sirona to support those times when life throws curveballs. I am also an author under the pen name of Louise Wyatt and was able to adjust my hours when my first book was published.  My History of Nursing book has been supported by Sirona in their newsletters and communications; in fact, all employees who have another skill or achievement outside of work are supported.  There are wellbeing, Continuing Personal Development and personal support systems – community nursing is hard and becoming more acute with a wide range of skills needed – and Sirona will support you all the way.

Taking It Personally for people in your care?  Well, you are in a person’s home and you need to respect that; all you have to do is imagine it is the home of someone you love.  That alone will guide your practice, even those visits that can leave you pressurised and emotionally challenged.  The clinical, communication and personal skills that Sirona will help you to develop will prepare you for the future and allow you to thrive, both within yourself and for modern, highly skilled community nursing.

Three students in a simulation hospital ward care for a patient.
UWE Bristol students practising Community Nursing skills.