UK Business Development Executive, Sierra Support Services Group
Briefly describe your career to date:
I graduated from the University of Stirling in 2009 with a 2:1 BA (Hons) in Business Studies. After working in estate agency in London for 12 months, I joined a 2 year graduate programme with an Irish plc. in Dublin. After one year in Dublin and one year back in London, I was offered a full-time position. I am now Business Development Executive for the whole of the UK, the only member of the Commercial team on the ground in the UK, answering directly to the Commercial Director.
What attracted you to this career?
My role as UK Business Development Executive is a well-rounded one. It encompasses a range of different skills and activities. Most importantly, I reviewed my own personal abilities and attributes, and they matched up well to the position.
How did you get into your current job?
I successfully applied for a Graduate Programme with parent company, Siteserv plc. (now ‘Siteserv’). There was a gruelling Dragons Den/Apprentice style recruitment process in front of six Company Directors and two Managers. The Programme itself consisted of four, six-month placements, taking on different roles in each placement. It was intended that we would switch between subsidiary companies every six months. However, after spending the first six months in Holgate where I essentially took on the role of marketing manager, I moved to Sierra for my second placement and never left. Upon completion of the Siteserv Graduate Programme after two years, I was offered my current role in Sierra.
Describe what your current job involves:
As part of the Commercial team (and the only member of the Commercial team on the ground in the UK – the rest are based in Dublin at head office), my role involves all aspects of business development. This means I am involved with marketing, bid writing, market research, relationship building, and project management. I have also been heavily involved in the setting up of two new UK offices.
Describe a typical working day:
A typical working day will see me reviewing tender websites for any potential new opportunities. These sites often give ‘contract award’ information, so I compile reports on who has won them, contract length/value etc. just to keep an eye on the competition. I will have new clients/potential clients to contact, with the intention of arranging an introductory meeting with them. Our business is contract/strategic relationship based, so there is no hard-sell. I tend to have a piece of market research going on all the time, for instance at this moment I am producing a report on the UK Telecommunications market. These reports are just like my University coursework, I have to introduce the piece, discuss the main players, outline the market position and come to a conclusion on where the opportunities lie for Sierra. Whilst all this is going on, I will usually have a section of a tender to write, as well as completing ad-hoc tasks such as creating presentations. Throw in the occasional current client meeting, and you have my normal working week.
In what way did your time at Stirling shape your career to date?
As mentioned above, the skills learned whilst successfully completing my coursework have been invaluable when it comes to report writing. The dreaded tutorial group presentations taught me a very important lesson for when it came to presenting to people at Managerial and Director level. If you know what you are talking about in great detail, then you have nothing to be nervous about. In any job, personal organisation is key. I believe that the time management skills developed through juggling a number of modules, coursework deadlines and exams at once, are extremely important. Having completed a number of business modules during my degree from Operations Management, E-Commerce and Entrepreneurship, through to International Business, Finance and Marketing, it gave me an excellent overview of business. It’s great to have the skills and natural ability, but truly understanding the business you work for is the one of the most important factors in being successful.
List three things that you love about your job:
- I love the variety. Whether that is the variety of the tasks that I am undertaking, or the variety of location (I have lived in Dublin, London and Glasgow since joining).
- I enjoy writing reports, particularly market research. I was one of the sad people that actually enjoyed writing reports and essays at University, so getting to apply this to real world business is enjoyable or me.
- I am lucky enough to be given a certain degree of autonomy. This means that I can develop my own ideas and feed them back to the Commercial Director, whom I report directly to.
(A fourth one for luck! I just love my job too much…)
- I enjoy getting in front of people and presenting to them. It is fascinating how many different characters you meet and how you have to adapt.
List three things you dislike about your job:
- Sometimes it can be very difficult to contact new people. Often they will just presume you are trying to sell them something, so will not take your call.
- Due to my traveling around all the time, it can be difficult to see friends and family. But it does mean that quality time spent with them is greatly appreciated.
- The autonomy can be tough sometimes. I am expected to make things happen, so this can carry a degree of pressure (from myself as well as the boss!)
What advice would you give to current students in terms of preparing for life after graduation?
The best piece of advice I can give you is to make yourself stand out. A degree is an excellent start, but a degree alone would not have got me onto the Graduate Programme to begin with. I had gained managerial experience in my part-time job and completed a Management Entry Level Programme, and I took up a number of positions on the committee of my sports club at University including Club President. Showing a willingness to learn and improve, as well as taking on responsibility are all very appealing traits to employers. More importantly, it gives you the confidence to go out there and sell yourself. Do not rush into anything. It can be tempting to take the first job that you are offered (and graduate recruitment consultants can often make you feel like it’s the only job you will EVER be offered!) but my advice would be to make sure it is right for you. If not, keep looking and stay positive. You may have to take on the dirty work to begin with, but if you find the right company, it will all pay off if you stick at it.