Liam_Willett_IBM placement

Liam Willet, a Mathematics with Economics BSc(Hons) student, did a 12-month placement with IBM as a Public Sector Operations Analyst. We asked him about the experience and about his time at the University of Brighton.

Why did you choose to study maths?
I did maths, physics and chemistry at A-level and decided on a maths degree as it’s relatively well regarded. I thought it would help me stand out and give me a different approach and angle when it came to looking for a graduate job.

Why did you choose University of Brighton?
I applied to five unis including Liverpool and Manchester, but I felt like they were only really focused on getting good grades. Whereas here they talked about getting a good job, building work skills, supporting me in doing a placement. For my placement, the support I got was massive compared to friends at other universities.

What skills have you learnt on your course that have helped with your employability?
Information analysis is obviously a big skill in general and you get tested on that a lot during interviews for grad jobs. They stress test you to analyse important data and information within just a few minutes. Pretty much all employers, especially in business, tech and finance, are looking for the ability to do that.

My course has really emphasised the skill of processing information logically – looking at a problem, breaking it down, analysing what’s important, using the relevant information – which is required in all kinds of jobs.

How have you found the course?
I’ve enjoyed the course. I’ve found some of the subject content difficult, but overall I’m very happy with my decision to study maths at Brighton. I’ve enjoyed it and I don’t think I would have had the same experience if I had gone elsewhere.

What kind of support has been available to you?
Our principal lecturer, Will Wilkinson, has really supported me. He isn’t my personal tutor, but he is more than happy to help. He helped me get clear on the modules I wanted to do and has been a massive help to my degree and to getting my placement.

The placements office was also a massive help. They helped me with my CV, did run throughs of face-to-face interviews, gave me access to psychometric tests, and gave me tips for how to approach an assessment centre and stand out from other people.

Tell us about your placement
I worked as a Public Sector Operations Analyst within IBM’s Sales & Distribution unit, based in London’s South Bank for 12 months.

My day-to-day role included tracking the key deals we were working on, creating forecasts and reports for senior management, managing our team’s social media footprint through Twitter, LinkedIn etc. and supporting the marketing team at events. On top of that I got involved in some pretty interesting stuff like demonstrating IBM’s Artificial Intelligence and Security capabilities, working on a landmark healthcare bid with international teams, and running my own project to create an internal conversation-bot to be used by our team.

I got to work with some interesting people both internally and externally, such as IBM’s Chief Medical Officer Kyu Rhee, as well as various CIOs and CTOs of hospitals throughout the UK.

Do you recommend doing a placement?
I absolutely recommend doing a placement. Grad jobs are so, so competitive. A lot of them have tens of thousands of applicants for just a few hundred roles. So how do you get in that top 0.5% percent? Having that professional experience is really what’s going to help you stand out and get the job you want.

I didn’t have amazing grades, I didn’t have amazing work experience before IBM. But having that year in industry has meant that I now easily get through that initial application stage. If I hadn’t done the placement, the process of trying to get a grad job would be a lot more difficult and stressful.

Are you involved in other aspects of university life?
I am a member of the pool society and we go to play pool in a snooker club in town. Getting involved in these social things is important at uni. You basically pick up your life and drop it off in another place, so having that ability to meet new people outside of your course is important.

Have you enjoyed living in Brighton?
I really like Brighton and it’s definitely been an enjoyable, unique experience. The difference from Essex, where I’m from, is massive. There are so many places to go on nights out, so many restaurants, plus the beach. All these different places and things to see and do. There’s nowhere else in the country quite like it. I have been very, very happy here.

If you are a University of Brighton student who would like to share your placement or work experience story, please let us know by emailing Marianne Halavage on