Marianna Zacharia and Myles Wood joined Ashfield Meetings & Events almost one year ago - along with four other students - after securing placements through our university undergraduate scheme.

In the last year they have been combining on-site and office-based work in addition to being enrolled in our comprehensive in-house training programme. As their placement nears an end we caught up with Marianna and Myles to share their personal experiences and find out what they have learnt about the live events industry.

Tell us about your experiences and opportunities with Ashfield Meetings & Events.

Marianna: During my placement year I have been a part of so many opportunities that have helped me grow and mature as a person. For starters, working on events that have ranged from eight to 750 attendees has been invaluable to me as I have expanded my knowledge, particularly when putting my university theory into practice, as well as being able to display some leadership skills. I have also travelled from country to country and had the opportunity to visit Rome, Zurich, Paris and many more. How many jobs take you around Europe? Don’t get me wrong, it is always hard work and definitely not a holiday, although it just seems so much nicer working from different locations and having the opportunity to travel.

Myles: In my time here I have been able to work on events in Budapest, Barcelona and sunny old Birmingham. These experiences allowed me to learn about the different types of events that Ashfield deliver, as well as learning a little more about myself.

What can the students expect in the real world?

Marianna: I was asked to attend this year’s assessment centre for the imminent intake of the new student placements. I really enjoyed this because I could totally relate to how the students were feeling because I remember being sat in reception, feeling sick to my stomach and being just as nervous as they were feeling, so I wanted to make the students felt comfortable and reassure them that there was really nothing to be scared of and that they were about to meet the warmest and friendliest group of people.

Myles: Don’t be scared as to what may lay ahead and just embrace all the opportunities. Looking back at my first week with Ashfield I remember cautiously approaching the opportunity, however it was clear from the outset and the thorough induction training that you had to stand up and be counted. Ultimately you will get as much out of the experience as you put in. I also had a buddy assigned to me that was from the previous placement scheme. She not only helped me settle in the business and learn what I needed to know but was able to give personal advice from experiencing the same situations. I am not sure how other companies manage their induction programmes but Ashfield have certainly got theirs right.

What are some of the valuable lessons you have learnt?

Marianna: That hard work really does pay off. From my very first day to my last day (at the end of this week) I have given my all into everything. I wanted to show my determination, drive and motivation and have been honoured to be nominated for employee of the month three times as a result. I have also been nominated for the inspirational student of the year award at my university, Sheffield Hallam. I have also learnt the importance in team work. I feel so lucky to have been a part of a crazy, kind, warm and just outright awesome team! They have taught me so much, they have never failed to make me laugh every single day and they have made me feel a part of their family from day one and they have given me the most unforgettable memories that I will treasure forever. Thank you to everyone at Ashfield.

Myles: I knew from my first two years at university that the events industry was dominated by women, but I had no idea just how much this would translate into the real world. For all those who say that women do not hold high positions within organisations, I invite you to come and visit Ashfield. So how does it feel working within a woman’s industry? No different than anywhere else really. If anything it is better for men as we are a rare commodity and more valued if only for our heavy lifting and ability to travel light. I was also lucky to be given the opportunity so spend time within my placement working with the finance team. It allowed me to gain an appreciation for following the financial procedures correctly in order to keep an event flowing (correct invoices, payment times and complete budgets) which gives you different insights into the different types of careers available within an event agency.

Are you ready to go back to university?

Marianna: As I approach the end of my placement year mixed emotions are beginning to kick in. I’m feeling excited about being reunited with my friends yet at the same time sadness to leave my fabulous team of friends at Ashfield. I feel petrified to begin the final year stress however I feel hugely better equipped having spent the last year gaining practical points of reference. I just wanted to say to anyone that may be reading this and considering a placement, that my year at Ashfield is one of the best life decisions I have ever made.

Myles: My time at Ashfield Meetings & Events has been enjoyable and extremely valuable for not only my career progression, but also my personal growth (and not just my waist due to the number of treats laying around the office on a daily basis). I joined the company as a nervous (but excited) student with very limited events experience and will be leaving with knowledge and understanding gained from first-hand experience that will allow me to become a more rounded events professional. I will be sad to say goodbye to my colleagues – who have made my time here so memorable – but I am looking forward to going back to university and will take my learnings into my final year and onwards into my future career.

My year with Ashfield Meetings & Events