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Strathclyde Business School

Saltire internship: putting the theory into practice

By Nicole O'Rafferty - Posted on 28 July 2016

A number of Strathclyde Business School students chosen to undertake prestigious Saltire Foundation internships are currently spending their summer with international and entrepreneurial companies in the UK and across the globe. Undergraduate Nicole O'Rafferty is currently in the USA.

It’s now officially been three weeks since I touched down in H-Town (that’s what they all call Houston over here), and I cannot believe it’s come around so quickly!

I’ve been lucky enough to get an internship with Vepica, a multinational company with more than 40 years of experience in engineering, procurement, construction and management projects, all the way across the pond in Houston, Texas.

Although I’m still in the early stages, I’m very excited as I have been put in charge of a completely new marketing strategy for Vepica, and a chance to participate in their next corporate video! In the weeks to come, my tasks will include creating and designing a fresh Global Digital Marketing Strategy for Vepica, which I am so excited to be doing – hopefully I can provide them with real help and insights into the marketing theories and knowledge I have learned whilst studying. Imagine being able to say that content I wrote and ideas I suggested have been implemented within a global company! My mentor is currently in Canada and has been sending me all sorts of useful information to support me, which is another example of the kindness present in the Vepica office.

Work is going great, and I am falling in love with Vepica and its culture and environment. Everyone is so friendly and couldn’t be more willing to help out with any questions I have. However, since most of the office are engineers, it can be difficult to understand the technical stuff sometimes – I sometimes find myself just smiling and nodding, but they are always kind enough to translate into layman’s terms for me.

I was invited to sit in on a Laser Scanning demonstration last week by one of Vepica's talented engineers Victor - it was amazing to see how laser scanning works and how much time and effort Vepica put in to each and every project they deliver to their clients. Although I have zero engineering background, Victor said he was impressed that I managed to stay on track and understand what was going on. So I'm basically an engineer now too (joke - I'll stick to marketing!)

I am lucky enough to be putting all the marketing theories I have learned at University in to real-life marketing situations. For example, I have already worked on a full competitor, client and supplier review report for Vepica across four locations, as well as helping with designing corporate graphics and videos. This has helped me further advance my market research and analytical skills, and learn how to form professional reports using graphical/pictorial information as well as quantitative data.

I’ve also been practicing my Spanish… the thing I worried about most when coming to Houston was that people might not understand my broad Scottish accent, but somehow I’ve been speaking more Spanish in the office than I have English! Because Vepica is a company which originated in Venezuela, 98% of the office are bilingual and can speak both Spanish and English. Thankfully, my Higher Spanish has come in handy and I’ve managed to impress my co-workers with my (basic) Spanish, which I hope to continue to improve whilst I’m here.

It’s not just all work and no play though! On July 4, and being a total newbie to America, I was so excited to be spending the day celebrating like a true American by visiting 6th Street in Austin. Last week, we were invited out for dinner with the CEO of Vepica, and round to my mentor Sofia’s house for fajitas and cookies. What more could a girl want?

In an attempt to fundraise and give back to Saltire for the opportunity they have given us, myself and the three other Scholars I am living with hosted a Scottish day in work, selling some Scottish treats – the shortbread was very popular! We raised $160 for the Saltire Foundation, and hope to do similar fundraising days in future for the charity.

Recently, we were also fortunate enough to be invited round to the home of the CEO of Memorial Resource Development and met his family. They could not have been more accommodating and they helped us in planning the 3rd Annual Swing4Saltire fundraising golf tournament in Houston, to raise money for the Saltire Foundation. It’s still bizarre to think I’m meeting so many influential and leading business people, all of whom are so humble and down to earth.

So far, this internship has exceeded my expectations and gone beyond anything I could have imagined. It’s great to experience a business environment like this first hand, put my learning into practice. In University, they teach you the methods behind how to be a good marketer, and now I have the chance to make a real difference to a global businesses by practising these methods. I am getting more and more opportunities to mix with such great business people and explore what goes beyond Strathclyde and Scotland.

If anyone is interested in the Saltire Foundation, they should definitely look into it. It really is the opportunity of a lifetime.

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