James long

James Long

James Long studies Mathematics MMath, BSc and undertook an industrial placement year at Converse UK.

Industrial placement year

There were several reasons James wanted to take a year in industry. He said “The first was that I knew I wanted to do something in my third year away from Leeds. I wanted a refreshing change from the university lifestyle, so I could come back with a more determined and revitalised attitude toward my work, not to mention get some real world experience in a prestigious and well known company, hence I deemed a placement the more practical year out.

I also knew that a placement would be an ideal way to experience ‘the real working world’ and wanted to test myself in that environment and get a taste for it so I could hit the ground running upon graduation and get a bit of an insight into the corportate world. It’s no secret that the student lifestyle can be difficult financially, so the prospect of earning a salary for a year appealed to me as well.”

James’s placement year was at Converse UK, in the heart of central London, as a Data Analyst. Converse UK is an American-based footwear and clothing company headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. They’re known globally for their iconic and ubiquitous ‘Chuck Taylor All Star’ shoe, but despite having such a unique heritage and history, they have firmly cemented themselves at the forefront of the music and contemporary fashion industries, with a huge production outlet of shoes, apparel and accessories through 160 countries worldwide.

James had a range of duties while on his placement year. He said “My duties varied throughout the week, but mainly revolved around compiling reports to monitor how Converse was performing in the UK through its main revenue-driving accounts such as JD, ASOS etc. I would send these reports on to the wider business to provide a clear and concise insight into how Converse was selling in the UK marketplace. Other duties I had would be any ad-hoc reporting for some of the managers in the office, helping set up the various sample sales and events we’d have throughout the year, and even liaising with members of the European headquarters to run them through how I was building my reports.”

Typical day

We asked James to give us some insight to a typical day on his placement year. He said “At the beginning of each week, I’d receive sell through data from most of our revenue-driving accounts. I’d then work with this data to extract the vital information that Converse needed and update it onto a master Access database, which then feeds it into various other reports and Excel spreadsheets I would use.

From this, I’d construct my weekly sell through report, where I’d provide a clear and concise breakdown of sales, along with a brief statement from account managers. This process usually took about two or three days. The rest of the day was then used to work on any other projects/ad-hoc reporting I’d be tasked with, or to train myself by using Linda, an online training website that Converse had company access to.”

Opportunities on placement

I really loved the idea of working at Converse because it wasn’t the typical approach to a mathematician’s placement. I think there’s a common misconception that if you do a maths degree then you are limited to enter finance or academia.

James Long

Industrial placement years can provide you with the opportunity to get involved with lots of different and exciting tasks and projects. James said “I really loved the idea of working at Converse because it wasn’t the typical approach to a mathematician’s placement. I think there’s a common misconception that if you do a maths degree then you are limited to enter finance or academia. This was not only a chance for me to hone and develop my analytical skills in a business, but it was an area I’m interested in outside of academia which is the fashion industry.

During the launch of one of our new products, the Chuck Modern, I was tasked with creating a report that would monitor the progress of its sales. There was an extensive marketing campaign that was coinciding with the launch, consisting of launch parties and seeding events, posters and advertisements in some of the trendy areas of London like Shoreditch and Camden etc. I worked closely with the marketing team to create a timeline identifying any spikes in sales alongside the key events of the campaign. It was a unique insight into how the marketing team worked with their strategies, whilst also allowing me to provide key statistics for the business and for the marketing team to see how effective their campaign was.”

Experience gained

We asked James what the most important thing he learnt from his year in industry was. He said “I feel like I have developed myself massively through my time at Converse and have learnt a multitude of skills and knowledge. Through the role itself, I was fully trained and became proficient in Microsoft Excel and Access, two powerful tools for data analysis that are becoming more prevalent in businesses today. I had regular business meetings and 1 on 1’s with my manager to go over my development in the role, and this really boosted my confidence and knowledge of the job.

I picked up general business etiquette and how to conduct yourself in the workplace. This sounds quite trivial but I think without exposure not many people know what it is and it’s a brilliant skill to have. Working with deadlines improved my time-management, and a year of 9-5’s in London has given me a focused and determined attitude toward my work.”

Looking forward

We asked James if he felt his placement year had given him a better idea of the career path he wants to take. He said “Absolutely. I think the most important thing I took away from my placement is the insight. It’s quite a privilege to get that exposure and be able to see the inner workings of a huge company whilst still being a student.

Again, it’s like getting a glimpse of the real world before you actually get there. Prior to the placement, I had an idea of what it was going to be like and what I was going to do after university but having this experience and insight has really helped cement my ideas of what I want from my degree and where I want it to take me. The end goal is to work in the financial department of a high-end contemporary fashion company, and then work my way up.”

Find out more about our Mathematics MMath, BSc here.