“Sink or swim”: The growth journey as a Graduate at Arla

Hello. My name is Nadine and I am coming towards the end of my F15 journey at Arla as I soon complete my 3rd and final rotation.  Perhaps you are reading this whilst in your final year of University, or not long after Graduation and you are wondering if this programme is the right fit for you. Whilst there are many exciting things you can read about on the other Graduate’s blogs from travels and adventures in far-away places, to the fun trainings weeks we have, I want to share my view on what I think is the best part of the programme: the overall development journey as a person and young professional.

To do this, I will share my three key observations of how taking part in this programme, requires you to jump in and embrace what I call the "sink or swim" moments. You will see I love a good analogy, so I apologise in advance for those who don’t, because this swimming and water related analogy will continue.

1. The first rotation

From your very first rotation, you will most likely be moving out of your home country, joining a new team and working in a function you may have little to no experience in. This was definitely my first "sink or swim" moment. How do you get through it? A healthy level of naïve optimism, combined with curiosity and willingness to learn from others around you is what I relied on and it is something we can all do even before any training or real professional experience.

Everything is so new in those first few weeks, it is natural to start to feel like you are drowning in moments. But, with the support of your colleagues and other graduates who are all going through the same thing, you will undoubtedly find yourself progressing one day at a time.  By the end of the first rotation, you can look back at the work you have delivered, skills you have learnt and impact created for the team you are placed in. Overcoming this first rotation gives you such a strong foundation to tackle the remaining two. Ultimately, you prove to yourself that you can swim, and swim very well! All you need to do in rotation 2 & 3 is swim in slightly different waters.

2. The "big" moments

The second "sink or swim" moments for me are actually re-occurring and these are the important presentations, or meetings with senior stakeholders in the organisation. If you are human, you will likely find these slightly daunting at first. But these are the BEST moments for development as you can get instant feedback from how they go and take away so many learnings, whether it be about your communication style, dealing with conflict, or influencing people. To succeed here you do need good preparation and also determination to see them through confidently. But, when you do that, your resilience and ability to keep going whilst facing tough challenges will grow to new levels. So, just like you proved to yourself you can swim on the first rotation, you also find out that you can keep swimming even when it gets a bit choppy and high-pressured out there.

3. The leap outside your comfort zone

Finally, the third kind of "sink or swim" moment that all the Graduates have faced is when you actually choose to push yourself into completely unfamiliar territory. Whether that be a Finance graduate working in Supply Chain, a Food Scientist working in Marketing, or an Engineer trying E-commerce (all real examples). You quickly see how this is one of the most effective ways to challenge your own perspective and accelerate your development.

Not only can it be an unfamiliar area functionally, but you will almost certainly experience new countries, languages and cultures that you have never been immersed in before.  Currently I am in Saudi Arabia, working in our Commercial Operations team implementing a new promotion planning tool and go-to-market strategy – which are three new things at once including a culture very different to the one I grew up in in the UK. When you consciously chose and feel excited about taking these risks, that is how you realise the extent of your own development and the capabilities you have to deal with anything life may throw at you.

So, all I can say is that if you are the kind of person who enjoys taking the plunge and seeing how you can adapt in new environments, knowing that in moments you will fail, but in the long run you will learn more than you can anticipate, then I can only encourage you to take the chance and apply.

Nadine Wilkinson

F15 graduate

Period: 2021-2023

Nadine Wilkinson