Case study

Ryan Kershaw — Operations management trainee

British Sugar
ryan image

Ryan studied MEng Chemical engineering at Loughborough University before becoming an operations management graduate trainee at British Sugar

How did you get your job?

I carried out a student placement at the company after my second year at university. I was successful in an assessment centre for a graduate position at the end of that placement year and started the job after graduating from university.

Describe a typical working day…

Upon arriving I hand over from the previous shift manager and discuss issues that have happened over the last 12 hours. We then do a team briefing where I hand out any jobs or processing ‘steers’ that were handed over to the rest of the team. From there, if on days I will prepare for the morning technical meeting with management by understanding how the factory is operating and understand any pertinent or underlying issues with the factory which we then discuss in the morning technical meeting. After the meeting I will distribute any required actions to the team and then it’s a case of ‘firefighting’ and dealing with problems when they arise which can sometimes take me to the end of the shift. When it’s quiet there is an opportunity to walk round the factory and either do some process learning or just check that everything is in good working order. Quiet periods are also an opportunity to do paperwork. At the end of the shift I write the shift logs and then hand over to the next shift manager.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

The first year was a lot of learning and also involved a period of adjustment and tempering where graduates were encouraged to move away from the academic ‘book’ style of learning to a more hands on style. The second year is much more focused on the shift performance manager job role. I work very closely with the existing shift performance manager to learn as much as I possibly can from him about the role. The learning has developed from being very process oriented in the first year to being very people oriented in the second year.

Career ambition wise, I want to make sure I keep challenging and developing myself by moving into different roles with different responsibilities. I do however think it’s important to maintain integrity with the people you work with in all areas of a business and not forget where you came from and the people who helped you to get to where you want to be.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The different challenges that I am faced with on a daily basis and the people that I work with are the best part of the job. A 12 hour shift can absolutely fly by because there are so many different challenges every day and you can be dealing with various different problems all at once, working closely with all the members of the team to support and facilitate their needs where required. The people make the job so much easier, firstly because they are always making me laugh and secondly because they’re always there to help.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

There is a lot of pressure to learn a lot of information about various different aspects of the business in a very short space of time. The job also requires a change of learning style from university which can be a tough transition. Additionally, the role of shift performance manager involves a lot of people management, which is a skill that is difficult to learn.

Finally, what advice would you have for other students and graduates who would like to get into this career?

Just because you have a degree, don’t think you know it all. Like driving you learn the most after you’ve passed the test. Gain the support of the team you work with - offering to make the teas goes a long way to building relationships.

Find out more

Take a look at the opportunities on offer at British Sugar.