By the second week of our internship, following an initial week of introductory training sessions with our line manager (who, I must say, is an incredibly motivated and determined young female who has become somewhat my role model), we really got stuck in. We were assigned to work on GSK’s “GSK6 Supplier Categorisation” project which GSK intended to have completed globally between 2014-2017. At first, it was difficult to understand what an internship in Procurement was really about, but as a Business Management student, I knew it was going to concern the supply end of the chain rather than the demand side.
The project required us to categorise GSK’s suppliers in LATAM (Latin America; 17 countries), which collated into a total list of over 5000 suppliers. This was a huge project which the Procurement Manager here in Argentina had initially proposed to GSK Global, so I can understand why GSK wanted three interns to get the project moving here in Argentina. Even between three interns however, it still seems like a lot of work, but it’s such a great experience so that isn’t a downfall. Not only have myself and the other two interns bonded as friends, but work colleagues also. We work together as a team on the project daily, but also as a team in all other aspects of our lives here, such as making decisions based on travel, expenses, food etc. What to have for dinner, what to do on the weekend and what codes to apply to a controversial supplier are all decisions that we have learned to make together as one productive, effective and strategic team. We call ourselves the Dream Team here at GSK (yes, they love it, they don’t think its cringe at all!), and we really are making sure that we stand out, representing UoB but also British too.
So more on the project itself – firstly, all of the work is in Spanish. We predominantly use Microsoft Excel and Google translator in order to do our job. First, we worked on Argentina’s supplier database (majority of which are based in Argentina or surrounding LATAM countries), followed by Peru, Chile, Venezuela, etc.
The task entails researching the supplier, the purchase orders made by GSK to that supplier, followed by an assessment of the business relationship between GSK and the said supplier. We then apply a “GSK6 code” to that supplier, which is a code that places that supplier into a particular category (e.g. a marketing agency used by GSK may have the code “MAAA09” (for example) which translates into “marketing agency” on Excel). After coding every single supplier for the country, we then have meetings with the local and regional category managers to confirm and validate the codes we have applied.
All the staff, including the senior directors here at GSK are available and more than willing to help us at all times, which is great. However it’s important to note that GSK not only promotes but really does implement a strict 70:20:10 framework/ work ethic policy for learning and development within the company, similar to many other multinational companies. Employees, including ourselves as interns, have 10% of our learning derive from formal training (which we saw in the first week), 20% from developmental relationships (which we have from our American line manager who is our coach and mentor), and a hefty 70% strictly from our own individual on-the-job experiences. I initially assumed that we would receive far more training than we have actually received, but the benefits of being placed in a situation whereby you have no choice but to figure out and tackle the problems yourself (because others may be too busy) and use your own initiative has been the best aspect of this international work placement thus far.
Everyone (including our line manager who has her own manager) is expected to create and manage their own weekly itinerary at work, setting up their own meetings and managing relationships themselves. We haven’t had anyone hold our hand throughout this experience which is great. I strongly urge anyone interested in working for GSK to be prepared to grow, develop and have real freedom within the workplace to manage yourself, particularly your workload and on-the-job learning, because that really is the case for us here at GSK. We have been provided with all of the necessary resources to tackle the project, such as laptops, a mobile phone, travel advice and even an on-site doctor (who is always available in case we feel unwell), but in terms of progressing and impressing the company, it’s all down to us to take initiative, make proposals for changes, implement those changes and stand out as employees. For example, we have been asked to deliver a PPT presentation on our progress with the supplier categorisation project in the 5th week in front of senior regional managers and directors for Procurement across LATAM, and of course we are petrified and a bit nervous as we have received minimal advice on what to present. We’re expected to propose some kind of footprint to leave behind which will come of use to GSK in the future. Luckily, we happen to be thriving off the pressure and our brainstorms thus far have been great.
This has undoubtedly been one of the best work experiences and opportunities of my life so far and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to develop as a young professional in a multinational company. I’m excited to see what the placement brings over the next few weeks, and a couple of light perks to mention as an end note, is the fact that we arrive each morning to have free breakfast and free lunch. The lunch is absolutely 5* (think of an Argentine buffet, a selection of egg and potato-based sides, meaty mains and dulce-de-leche-filled desserts – and if you don’t already know about dulce de leche, you need to find out!), and yes, I do think it’s possible to gain a lot of weight here as the food is so great. The upside is however, that Buenos Aires is beautiful and one of the best places to go for a run, so it’s a win-win situation all round!
By Farzana Miah