A day in the life of… Nicole Smith, Port Management Graduate, Cardiff

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Can you tell us more about what you did before you joined ABP?

I spent four years studying for my degree in French and Russian, during which I gained the invaluable experience of living abroad in two different countries. I graduated from the University of Leeds in 2015 and since then I have primarily worked in the travel industry. For three summer seasons (and two winters) I was lucky enough to see most of Europe as a tour leader, leading coach trips for 18-39 year olds. Once I put my suitcase away I worked as a travel agent for 18 months, experiencing the challenges of the Thomas Cook collapse and the beginnings of Covid-19 before deciding to make a career change and applying for ABP’s Graduate Scheme.

What did you find most appealing about a Graduate role at ABP?

I was looking to move out of the travel industry and take on a new challenge. I wanted to kick start a new exciting career where I could develop professionally and take on responsibilities in a dynamic industry. I was attracted to the ABP’s values - putting safety first and foremost, giving back to local communities, pushing for environmental responsibility, and encouraging women and girls into the industry and into STEM in general. ABP seemed to tick all the boxes.

I was attracted to the idea of the Graduate Scheme because of the development opportunities it offered - gaining valuable experience in placements all around the business in different departments (Marine, Operations, Strategy, etc.) and in different regions. It seemed to be the perfect way to get the most out of my first couple of years in the industry and position myself for future success.

I found the role advertised on a job site whilst looking for new career opportunities.

What does a typical day at work look like for you? Has the current Covid-19 pandemic impacted your activities in any way?

So far I have mostly been spending time in the Operations department and every day is different. The most important thing for me in my first few months was to gain as much understanding as possible of what we actually do in the port and how the different elements of the operations run. So each day I might spend my time at the weighbridge learning about the operating system, or I’d spend a shift at the steel terminal, or be involved in meetings discussing new developments at the port. I’m also involved in projects that cross regions, which is exciting as I get to see things from a wider perspective of ABP as a whole.

Covid has definitely presented some challenges, with training courses and meetings postponed or conducted virtually, as well as being unable to meet as many people as would be ideal since many are working from home. On the other hand though, given the wider use of Teams now, projects are spanning ports and regions more easily so I’m seeing elements I may not have in ‘normal’ times.

What’s the most exciting project you are currently working on?

I have just been involved in the first phase of assessing agribulk terminal operations across Newport and the Humber. So far this project has involved generating process maps for the operations at the agribulks terminals in Newport and Immingham and identifying opportunities to better align processes and improve productivity across the two regions. A key part of this project is the assessment of potential suitability and benefits of implementing a new terminal operating system for bulk products.

So far we have really only scratched the surface on this project but it has already been a great experience and I have learned a lot about the terminals themselves. I have also learned from liaising with individuals across departments and regions. I’m excited to get stuck into the next stages of this project over the coming months.

If you could give some advice to young people interested in pursuing a similar career path, what would it be?

The main piece of advice I would give to anyone wishing to pursue a career in this industry would to not be afraid of putting yourself forward. From what I have seen so far in ABP, people across the business have come from all types of backgrounds and always value a fresh perspective in any discussions. In that respect I have had a very positive experience so far at ABP, having had the opportunity to be involved in discussions with individuals from a wide range of perspectives within the business, from port operators to port managers, and from engineers to the CEO.

I would also recommend being as curious as you can. Ask questions about everything and take every opportunity to see different departments work, participate in meetings and get out and about in the ports. The more you can be exposed to, the more effectively you can put the puzzle pieces together as you progress, work on projects and move around your placements.

Applications for ABP’s Graduate Training Scheme are open until Sunday, 28th March 2021. Find out more and apply here.