A work placement at the crossroads of technology, politics, and corporations

Politics student Joanna in front of the Headquarters of medical tech company B.Braun where she did her placement
Joanna Turnbull
Employment experience at B. Braun
BA International Relations and Politics
"Experiencing that entrepreneurial, innovative environment within a company the age and size of B. Braun, in which everyone involved had such a drive to push for change and solve complex problems was fantastic!"

Why did you decide to do a year in industry during your course?

After finishing my first year at uni, I had realised two things:

  1. I was fascinated by the crossroads of technology, politics and corporations; and
  2. My IR and Politics degree was a great foundation but on its own might not be enough to really understand all three areas and be employable in that field.

So, as soon as my second year started, I used my department’s employability talks and the Career Service to start looking for potential opportunities. They also helped me find a mentor for further support and provided guidance and resources to update my CV, set up a LinkedIn profile, and practise aptitude tests. In my free time, I read up on different types of technology, historic and current challenges and completed a python course with Enactus Sheffield. All in all, I felt well prepared for the application phase and I was looking forward to the first interviews

B. Braun manufacturing site in Germany. Large metal industrial building
One of the B. Braun manufacturing sites in Germany, which I was able to visit during my stay there.

Where did you do your placement?

In July 2021, I started my Business Technology Placement at the UK subsidiary of the German, family owned enterprise B. Braun. The company manufactures medical devices and is evolving into a medical technology business. It covers 16 therapy areas with over 5,000 products and services, ranging from needles and syringes to surgical instruments, pumps, dialysis, and sterilisation services. 

What sort of tasks did your role entail?

Throughout the year, I have been working on software roll-outs, improving the digital literacy and skills of colleagues, as well as supporting the management and high-level strategic communication within the UK subsidiary and in collaboration with the global headquarters. What that looked like in my day to day varied a lot. Some days would be packed with meetings, others would be more focused on delivering training sessions and collecting feedback, which can be translated into software changes to improve the users’ experience. One of the main projects I have been working on, was the implementation of our next-generation customer relationship management system, Salesforce Sales Cloud. Here I also invested a significant amount of my time into learning about the system, its capabilities and limits, as well as keeping up to date with roadmaps and enhancements. This meant that sometimes we as a team participated in local exchanges to learn from other Salesforce customers and attended Salesforce events, which were very fun and super interesting!

What was a big highlight of your year in industry?

One of my placement highlights was a business trip to the German headquarters to be part of the first B. Braun hackathon. My programming skills are not as developed so I wasn't able to participate myself. However, one of my colleagues was and I was able to meet some fascinating people, and learn loads about ongoing innovations and the different parts of the business that I usually don't have contact with in my day to day. Experiencing that entrepreneurial, innovative environment within a company the age and size of B. Braun, in which everyone involved had such a drive to push for change and solve complex problems was fantastic!

Group of employees stood at the front of a room giving round of applause
The first B. Braun internal hackathon - this was the closing and award ceremony with our CEO Anna-Maria Braun in the front left.

How do you think your placement will help in your final year of university and in your future career?

Continuous learning played a big part in my placement. I not only read a lot about the NHS, their programmes and roadmaps, the government’s funding policies and public health goals, but I also took the opportunity to attend webinars on multiple topics, such as public health challenges, the role of tech in healthcare provision, project and change management, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and personal growth. Additionally, I have been able to learn loads about Salesforce as a company and its products. I even passed the exam to become a certified Salesforce Administrator!

Did you get much free time while working for B.Braun, what did you get up to?

During my placement, I used my newly found and highly cherished free time to pick up the things I really enjoy but didn't have as much time and mindspace during uni to do. The biggest one probably being reading books unrelated to my modules. I also love dogs and being outside, so I started walking a dog from my neighbourhood and used the chance to explore the Peaks more. For one of my bigger weekend trips, I went camping in Snowdonia and hiked up Snowdon.

Politics student Joanna covered in green powder paint during a celebration of Holli in Sheffield
Staying in Sheffield for my placement meant that I could also easily meet up with my friends who were at uni and do fun things, like celebrating Holi together and going out for food.

What are your plans for the future?

Up next for me is my final year of my undergraduate and I am going to continue working one day a week at B. Braun. Overall, this placement opened my eyes to opportunities and job roles which I had previously not considered because I thought I did not have the right skills. I am still fascinated by the crossroads of technology, politics and businesses, so I am going to try and let this inform my dissertation as well. Career wise I am still unsure what exactly it is I am wanting to do but I think getting more involved in digital evolution and its opportunities, challenges and impact on various actors would be very interesting.

Joanna's advice for your placement year

Be compassionate with yourself

Not everything will go smoothly and you might miss a deadline or after an interview think ‘Gosh, I could have answered that question better!’ but at the end of the day, putting yourself out there requires courage and that deserves credit. Also, you’ll be juggling uni, your social life and any other commitments you might have at the same time as applying and trying to secure a placement. So, chances are you are doing your best and that is all you can expect from yourself.

Read more student profiles

Explore the University

Discover what sets Sheffield apart at our next on-campus open day.