Paige Buckley | School of Mechanical Engineering | University of Leeds

Paige Buckley

Paige is a Medical Engineering (Industrial) MEng student from the University of Leeds. Paige has undertaken an industrial placement year as part of her degree working as a Supply Chain Executive at L’Oréal. Choosing to do an industrial placement year gives you the opportunity to develop your own skills, and gain a real insight into working life in a particular company or sector.

What was the name of the company you worked for and what do they do?

I am currently working at L’Oréal. L’Oréal is the largest Cosmetics and Beauty Company in the world; suppling makeup, skincare and fragrances across 130 countries in 4 key divisions: luxury, consumer, active cosmetics and professional hair. During my time here, I worked in the luxury division, giving me an excellent insight to the luxury products, as well as how to liaise with the high-end retailers that sold them.

What was your role within the company?

I worked as a supply chain executive at L’Oréal ensuring that the premium retailers maintained a suitable level of stock across all of our luxury products, as well as helping place orders during peak promotional periods (e.g. Black Friday, Christmas, Valentine’s Day). I was the first port of call for 4 of the top 7 retailers (Harrods, Selfridges, House of Fraser and John Lewis) helping resolve any issues coming from either our side or theirs. I was regularly in touch with L’Oréal’s National Distribution Centre to make sure that our products were available for our customers to buy, and if not – why not. This role allowed me to get a full view of a products lifecycle; from the product being made in France, it being sent to our distribution centre in Nottingham, on to our retailer’s warehouse and then finally in to stores.

Can you please give me an insight into a typical day?

A typical day for me revolves around sending out communications to the retailers - keeping them up-to-date with out of stock products, recently discontinued products that should no longer be stocked and ensuring orders for upcoming promotions are placed before internal deadlines. I also calculated weekly, our main KPI in House of Fraser. This is known as the on-shelf availability and looks at the percentage of our products currently in stock in their 55 stores. I regularly visited the House of Fraser head offices to set up meetings with the online team and merchandisers to ensure everything within the business ran smoothly.

What did you enjoy the most and did you get involved in any interesting projects? 

One project I got involved with whilst at L’Oréal was called the Retail Excellence Project. This involved surveying beauty advisors working in stores to find ways of improving the ‘Final 50 metres’ of our supplying lifecycle. It was interesting to learn more about the stores at the end of the product lifecycle and talk to the advisors selling our products first hand.
Another project I was involved was called ‘Don’t Touch It’. It involved me creating a more automated procedure for cleaning the catalogues in House of Fraser. This meant a way of checking all the products that are currently live and being sold in House of Fraser were actually available to buy from L’Oréal as a supplier and had not been recently discontinued or substituted to another code.

Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?

Doing an engineering degree, the experience you obtain is sometimes more valuable than the degree itself. It was nice to get a break between years at university to give me an insight of what sort of jobs are out there for when I graduate and think about what root I would like to take. I also wanted to earn some money to help fund myself through my final year.

What did you hope to get out of this experience? 

My first couple of years at university have helped develop both my maths and physics skills, however I felt that I was lacking in business skills that would be vital for when I graduate. This is why I opted to go for a placement slightly different from my degree to make me more employable after I graduate and open more doors for me if I was to change what I would like to go in to later.

Do you have any tips and advice to current students thinking of undertaking a year in industry?

Do your research! Companies love hearing you talk about how much you know about their company as this shows you’re interested in the company itself rather than just the role you will be undertaking - especially if there is an area you are particularly interested in as they will see your ambition come through. Also don’t spread yourself too thinly when it comes to applying for placements; instead apply for fewer placements but each more thoroughly. Some of the application processes can be exhausting, so don’t become demotivated by applying for ones you aren’t interested in.