What is it really like working at high profile sporting events?

In our latest blog post final year student, Laura Hobday, BA (Hons) Accounting and Finance, tells us about her placement year, what she gained and why taking a placement year was the best decision she’s ever made.

In May 2013 I was just about to give up looking for a placement. I’d applied for a few online though MMU’s placement vacancy system  but hadn’t received an interview for any. I then received a phone call from a Manager who I worked for the previous summer. Sodexo Prestige is a Global catering company and I was lucky enough to work the London 2012 Olympics/Paralympics with them. Here I worked hard to make great contacts. When a position in the Commercial Department at Ascot Racecourse became available, they called me to offer me the position for my placement year.

I became Assistant Commercial Manager with an immediate start date. I was terrified. I explained I still had exams to finish so I went down to Ascot for a training week and came back up to finish my exams and move out of my house. Two weeks later I was starting my role and had moved into a house share in Reading with six lads whom I had never met. I found the room online and was very fortunate with the house I chose. It was all part of the journey I was about to take.

My first shift was the Sunday before ROYAL ASCOT 2013. To say they threw me in at the deep end was an understatement. I remember feeling way out of my depth but I had a lot of support around me to carry me through my first week.

The Queen and Prince Philip arriving at Royal Ascot 2014

The Queen and Prince Philip arriving for Royal Ascot 2014

I was working in a role I’d never thought about as a position: Cash Office Manager in the Royal Enclosure. During operational days, my commercial team were in charge of all the money, tills, cashier training, credit card machines etc. Each till was issued a float, and with over 200 tills for Royal Ascot, this was a lot of money before any customers even came in. We bank money throughout the day working with a security team to ensure accurate and precise cash handling under high pressure. It was hard long days but it was a great atmosphere.

During the summer at Ascot, the race days are quite full on. However, after 3 months, September arrived and my role was more office based. I looked after the Retail Account which is all the on day purchases. I did a lot of analysis on sales, finding which products sold the most, which products made the most money, And which outlets made the most profit by doing a profit and loss analysis, something I had learnt about in lectures.

I also had to process invoices, bill our client (The Racecourse), and complete Month End reports. I could relate this Management Accounting back to my lectures.

By October time, I finally felt settled. It had taken me 3 months to feel confident to answer my desk phone. And, about 4/5 months to feel like I was doing a good job. I had become less dependent on my manager. I was able to prioritise tasks on my own and look beyond my job specification to help other departments. My personal development was becoming clear to me and my improvement was more than I could have asked for.

The New Year came; I then became the contact for our B&E team, who book events outside of race days. I became Level 3 First Aid Trained by attending a 2 day course. And I had been nominated for Employee of the Month.  When I started the role I felt under qualified, shy and very unconfident in myself. In my final month at Ascot I volunteered to run training sessions for all the Retail Managers to show them how to use the tills and how to cash up following our procedures.  This was the biggest achievement for me personally.

“Working hard” setting up a till in the VIP Sponsor's Lounge

“Working hard” setting up a till in the VIP Sponsor’s Lounge

They asked me to stay on to close down the monthly accounts after Royal Ascot and I then went on to work the Summer Events with a different Commercial team for Sodexo. I travelled to Liverpool for The Open Golf Championship 2014 and then went straight off to Glasgow for The Commonwealth Games 2014.

It was the best decision I made to have a year in the industry. I made great contacts which I intend to use throughout the year when I am applying for graduate schemes.



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