Mithila Poshakwale

Which company do you work for?

Navigator Terminals (Formerly Vopak)

What is your job?

Graduate Engineering Management Trainee

Tell us about your experience of working with Discovery Graduates

It was so straight forward! I applied online, and then following a telephone interview I was asked to head to Birmingham for a Discovery Day. I thought the Discovery Day was going to be much more stressful than it was! The team were professional but relaxed and seemed genuinely interested in us doing well. Completing the Parallax profile was a real bonus and I used it when preparing for all of my interviews. I was told pretty quickly that I had been invited to the final interview at the company’s headquarters and was delighted when I got the job.

How easy/challenging did you find searching for a graduate job?

If I’m honest, it was difficult. I feel so lucky to have secured the job I did. I did what every graduate does and applied for 50-60 jobs (some of which I had no desire to get!), went to about 10 different interviews, but realised it was actually about finding something that as right for me. It was challenging and I feel very lucky that Discovery gave me this chance with such a great company.

Is your job the kind of job you anticipated doing when you left university?

No. Not at all actually! Having studied mechanical engineering, I automatically thought I’d end up in the automotive industry. However, I’m actually in a totally different environment now in the oil and chemical industry. I was really intrigued to find out what went on within the industry. I actually found that the jobs I thought I’d be suited for didn’t really have the right vibe. It’s so important to not be narrow-minded when job-hunting; otherwise you could end up doing something you don’t enjoy.

Are you earning more or less than you expected, or about the same?

I’d say I’m on par with what I expected and things seem to be heading in the right direction!

Tell us about your experience of starting work

Like everyone, I was pretty nervous on day one. The university to work transition is a complete lifestyle change! Nothing can quite prepare you! But the people here are so supportive that settling in was easy. It didn’t take long to settle in, both socially and professionally. During my first few weeks I was stationed in Safety which I definitely feel is the right place to be at the start. I was given good, solid foundations here that have enabled me to feel confident about being at work and in this environment.

Did it differ from what you expected? If so, how?

I didn’t know what to expect really! After visiting the site during my interview, I was intrigued and keen to learn, so I went into the company with an open mind!

What have you learnt in your first 6/12 months?

I have learnt the basic processes of how the business works and how important it is in our everyday lives (providing fuel). I have also learnt a combination of soft and hard skills. Learning business etiquette, professionalism and networking have been just as important as adapting to the company’s culture and adjusting to how people think. The world of work is so different from the academia we’re used to that you really do have to absorb the ‘ways of the working world’ like a sponge and just keep working on your professional persona. In terms of technical skills, I’ve learnt a lot about process and chemical engineering which I’d not really touched upon during university.

What was the steepest learning curve for you?

Probably my shift work rotation! Working 12 hours a day and trying to meet all of the shift workers was quite a challenge. But it was great to have the opportunity to see how things work operationally, and to meet more people who are key parts of the business. That was my second rotation, (the first was safety), and now I’m in engineering.

What support have you had along the way in terms of training and development?

I have a mentor – another female engineer – who has loads of experience and is great. She doesn’t always focus on work related issues and it is great knowing that I always have a go-to person when I need some support. I also have a great manager, who puts me forward for relevant training and development opportunities.

What do you enjoy most about work?

It may sound cliché but I love that every day is different. Because of nature of the business things can go from 0 to 100 in seconds and I love that! Everyone appreciates that this happens, which means that no one puts pressure on you to get things done at these busy times. At the moment, I’m really enjoying travelling to different sites, networking with the people at those sites and training with them. The overnight stays in hotels and company hire cars are all a part of that which is just something that personally, is a nice little perk that I really enjoy and also the ability to manage my own time.

What do you enjoy the least or find the hardest?

I find it hard keeping up with people who are more experienced than me. I’m constantly trying to learn so that I understand others and all the industry-specific language. When it gets tough, I know there are always people there to break things down for me/reassure me. Having a mentor is great for this.

Do you feel that school/university prepared you for work?

Not really, no. I can apply academic things I’ve learnt but practically I wasn’t as prepared. The level of safety required in this industry is understandably very high and without a solid introduction to safety, I would have been lost! I definitely think an industrial placement would have been really beneficial to me, especially in this industry.


Take us through a typical day in your role as Graduate Engineering Management Trainee

I’m in at 8am, at my desk, planning my day. It’s important that I prioritise the many projects I’m working on but also remain aware that if something really high priority comes in, I will need to rearrange my priorities and focus on the urgent needs.

I’m working on several projects including installing metering and pumping systems to improve efficiency at the terminal. I’m communicating with external suppliers and contractors which is something I’ve not done before and is another essential skill I’m developing.

An example of a project I’m heavily involved in at the moment is human factors. It’s highly management related and I’m working in a support role, but it’s a huge thing in the industry now and I’m planning on specialising in this area in the future, so gaining experience and exposure in this area now is very exciting for me.

What would your advice be to students or recent graduates who are looking for a job?

People tend to be hard on themselves and are desperate to get a job, any job, after graduating. But it’s really important that you don’t end up doing something you don’t like.

It’s worth taking a step back and thinking about what you value, what your degree has given you and how you want to further that. As an engineer, you know that you have to specialise eventually – so it’s worth taking a long-term view and thinking about what experience and training you need to gain in order to become that specialist.

Finally, money is not always the right motivator! Nowhere is worth not being happy. It’s about finding something that is right for you – not what’s right for your friend, or your parents, but you.

How would you describe the culture at Navigator Terminals?

It’s friendly, sociable, professional and generally a nice place to be. Everyone can talk to anyone and I even feel comfortable talking to the MD!

There are more and more women coming into the business which is great for the industry. I am enjoying having more female company and female perspectives shared – it just provides a good balance.

In simple terms, it’s a positive culture where everyone enjoys their job and understands the importance of their role.