Maddie Hanson aged 19, from Buckinghamshire heard about Penguin’s yearlong scheme via Twitter and is now on their marketing programme. We spoke to Maddie to find out more about what's involved...
Q:What made you decide uni was not for you? A:
I originally applied for uni, and had a place at Aston to study English Language and Business. However two months before results day I was offered a yearlong position as part of The Scheme at Penguin Random House, to work in their marketing team. Now I’ve been exposed to the working world, it’s made me realise that uni isn’t for me. I love being part of a team and getting hands on experience in a real business, something I feel uni won’t be able to offer me.
Q:How did you find out about the Penguin Random House programme? A:
I was just in bed one night when I saw it re-tweeted on my twitter. I think it said something along the lines of ‘If you want to work with books, we want to work with you’. I was currently working part time at Waterstones, so was intrigued about working with books from the publishing side. I clicked on the link and when I started to read, I realised it was aimed at anyone; you didn’t need any experience or a degree, so I applied!
Q:What was the interview process like? A:
Very long! I applied in March, and it ended in June. For the first stage we had to answer 7 questions online. They were really open questions e.g. ‘tell us your favourite story’ ‘give us an example of when you’ve been most creative’ ‘what marketing campaign has stuck you recently’ and ‘who do you find influential on social media’. For the next stage, we were given a task to complete via an online interview platform called HireVue. We had to come up with three campaign ideas for the Alice in Wonderland anniversary and present them back online. For the last stage, 20 of us were invited to the offices for 2 days, on the first day we met with all the marketing teams and asked questions, and on the second day, we had one interview, two individual tasks and one group task. Then from 800 applications, it was whistled down to 4 finalists. It was very intense but such a great way of interviewing.
Q:How long does the programme last for? A:
It lasts one year, but is split into two six month placements across the Penguin Random House divisions. For my first six months I worked at Transworld, known for the likes of Paula Hawkins, Bill Bryson and Lee Child, and I’m currently at Penguin Press, who publishes Own Jones, Daniel Kahneman and Michael Lewis. Both extremely different divisions, which is great as I’ve had a brilliant overview of the marketing teams.
Q:Are you guaranteed a job at the end? A:
There’s no guarantee, but the HR team are giving us so much help and support. They’ve helped me look over my CV and given me advice on how to structure a cover letter.
Q:What are your day to day responsibilities? A:
Every day is completely different. There are things I have to do on a weekly basis, like spread sheets, but some of the things I’ve done includes partnering with different companies for campaigns, creating social media assets, helping out the team with various presentations, hiring two models for our annual conference, writing newsletters, organising a Women’s Fiction Week and social media campaigns!
Q:What do you like most about your job? A:
I love working with something which I have a genuine passion about. It makes work so much easier knowing that I care about what I’m doing. Also, seeing such a great response to campaigns I’ve run is amazing, I had great feedback from consumers about my Valentine’s Day campaign, and people really engaged with it. Seeing something you’ve worked hard on come together is pretty special.
Q:Why is Penguin Random House a good company to work for? A:
There’s so much going on here, and so many things to take part in. The HR team are really great at providing opportunities to learn more and improve certain skills. I’ve done a Photoshop training course, a copywriting course, a presentation course and productivity course, all which have really helped my development. I love that it’s such a huge company; I really enjoy meeting people from around the business and finding out what they do and learning about their jobs. The opportunities are endless.
Q:Would you encourage others to look at the alternatives to university? A:
Definitely. I really admire people with degrees; however there are so many other opportunities out there. I’ve learnt so much this year, way more than I would have from going to uni. I was going to study business, but I’ve actually been working in a business. Instead of learning about marketing and marketing theories, I’ve been working on my own marketing campaigns. The experience of working gives you so much insight and knowledge. I’ve proved to myself that you don’t need a degree to work at the leading publishers – something I never thought was possible!
Q:What’s your advice to someone not sure about uni? A:
Don’t go if you’re not sure. It’s impossible to know what you want to do when you’re 17/18, but if you’re not sure than there’s nothing wrong with taking a year break to figure things out. I think there’s so much pressure on young people to decide what you want to do and have a career set in stone. I think so many people go to uni as it’s the ‘right’ thing to do, but if you’re unsure, I’d say get as much work experience as you can, as it will give you an idea of what you’re interested in and what you’re good at. Just because everyone else is going to uni doesn’t mean you have to.
“I love working with something which I have a genuine passion about. It makes work so much easier knowing that I care about what I’m doing.”