Graduates of Global Distinction Part 8: Alison Aylward: Procurement Lead at Nestlé

Alison is our latest “Graduate of Global Distinction” and she has gone from strength to strength since graduating in 2014 with a BSc Business Management to join global giant Nestlé. Nestlé is the largest food company in the world and ranked 66 in the Fortune 500. With annual revenues of 90 Billion Swiss Francs (£70+Billion per annum), Nestlé is the type of organisation that the very best graduates are targeting. Alison demonstrated great potential at NBS when she led her team to victory in the very first NBS/Natwest Employability prize in 2014. After joining Nestlé as a buyer, she has won a further award and landed a promotion as a Procurement Lead. Alison’s next step is to work towards her PRINCE2 qualification. Nestlé are also in the top 10 in the annual Gartner Global Supply Chain rankings. Alison is a true inspiration to any student at UEA or a prospective student who is making their mind up about which university to choose. Alison tells her story in her own words:

Nestle Logo

I applied for Nestlé during my last term at UEA, I was drawn to the job description straight away and the profile of the person they were looking for really resonated with me. After reading lots of positive reviews about Nestlé as an employer I decided to apply. After completing my initial application, various online assessments and a Skype interview, I was invited to attend an assessment day where I faced other undergraduates, master’s students, and postgraduates. The competition was fierce! I was offered a role as a ‘direct entry’ in the Procurement Team as an Operational Buyer. During my time in my first role I developed behaviours and skills, involved myself in projects above and beyond my scope of role and successfully moved into a new role as a Project Lead. This required a brand new mind-set, strong communication & people skills and ability to see the ‘bigger picture’ so that my work as an individual is aligned with the overall business vision.

My greatest achievement so far at Nestlé is receiving an award in the Supply Chain Town Hall for my work on applying the Nestlé Continuous Excellence principles over a 6 month period in my Operational Buyer Role. The principles are a set of tools and strategies for improving areas of the business, allowing us to move towards a leaner supply chain. I took the initiative to find an expert in this field to train me and share their knowledge, to help me build the confidence to lead and involve myself in projects. This was a challenge as I quickly learnt that you will face and overcome obstacles before reaching the end result. This taught me resilience, perseverance and the power of teamwork. The award I received was an iPad mini and a bottle of champagne – thanks Nestlé!

When searching for a job, I visited the UEA CareerCentral on campus for support with the numerical and situational judgment tests. The centre were really friendly and helpful, they gave me examples of the type of questions to expect in the tests and practice tests to complete – these helped me to feel prepared for the real thing!

I also attended a few open evenings at local companies. This gave me an insight to various working environments and an opportunity to network with a breadth of experienced people and learn about their career paths.

A standout module for me on my course was  Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management, as it really taught me the value of teamwork. In this module I gained experience in working as part of a project team, where it became clear to me that each individual has their own strength, and if you leverage each of these the team becomes stronger as a whole. This is crucial for success, and the first step we took as a project team competing for the NatWest Employability Prize was identifying the strengths of each person in the team so that we could manage the roles and responsibilities accordingly.

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Alison receives the NatWest Employability Prize 2014 on behalf of her team from NBS Head of School, Professor Paul Dobson.
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Alison (centre) with her team.

This module also taught me about the ‘entrepreneurial mind-set’, something which is really attractive to companies when recruiting new candidates, even if the job is not entrepreneurial.

Business Ethics taught me the theories of situations in the workplace which test your moral judgement in the real world. Awareness of politics in the workplace was extremely useful as this is not something that is taught to you by the company, and managing politics positively can be very beneficial to your career development.

Networking is also important in every aspect of my career, whether it is to share and generate ideas, for mentoring purposes or to seek new opportunities coming up, it is a great way to understand the business environment I work in.

I chose UEA, as it ticked many boxes for me – a strong ranking, great accommodation on campus, the amazing Sportspark, within the lovely city of Norwich, and the lake was a bonus – I instantly pictured myself there in the sunshine having a BBQ with my friends! At the open day I felt so welcomed by the student reps and they made me feel like I was part of the community already. My gut feeling told me that I’d be very happy at UEA… and it was right.

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UEA Campus

When searching for a job, I strongly recommend getting in touch with the company before applying – this shows that you have great initiative and is an ideal opportunity to ask questions about the role and the company. Ask them what the key things they are looking for in candidates – this will help you tailor your application to their needs! Consider the overall package the company offer rather than just the salary.

If you are successful and reach the final interview stage, well done! Always be prepared & do your research. Remember that this is your time to shine – show what you can bring to the company and most importantly, show your passion!

Good luck!!

With thanks to Alison for contributing to the NBS blog.

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