Catalina: my placement year at Pfizer

For the past six months, I have been working as a Marketing Undergraduate for the Lung Oncology portfolio at Pfizer. My placement year has been an incredible experience and I would like to share with you how it all started, how I secured a role and what I am currently doing:

Discovering the concept of a “placement year”

Three years ago, when I was selecting which universities to apply for, my counselor strongly advised looking for courses that offered a “placement year”. At the time, I was unfamiliar with the concept, but after some research, I understood this was a unique opportunity to enhance my employability skills and obtain real-life work experience between the second and third year of my undergraduate degree.

Excited by the opportunity, I started filtering universities down and searching for those that had strong relationships with employers and a proven track record of successful placement experiences. I was immediately impressed when I discovered all the big-name employers that the Business School at Leeds had worked with before (including Pfizer, Apple and Unilever) and the vast amount of support that they provided to students. Among other factors, this further strengthened my desire to apply and study at the University of Leeds.

Finding my placement year role

From the very start of my undergraduate degree at Leeds, I was equipped with the tools required to successfully obtain a placement role. During my first year, I had to submit a CV and Cover Letter as part of the graded assignments for the Academic and Professional Development for Studies in Marketing module. This experience was invaluable as I had never created either document before and I was able to understand what employers were looking for in applications. Similarly, during my second year, I was able to enrol in the Study to Work elective where I got further advice on interviews, assessment centres and placement applications. Notably, during this module, a range of employers came to the University to deliver lectures and give us the opportunity to network with them.

Both of these modules increased my knowledge about employability and with further support from the Career Centre and a good dose of resilience (which I cover in my blog, 5 tips… more detail here), I successfully secured my role as an Oncology Marketing Undergraduate at Pfizer in early 2020.

What I do as a Placement student?

My journey as an Oncology Marketing Undergraduate started with a few weeks of virtual training where I learned how to use the software needed for the role and became more knowledgeable about the pharmaceutical industry. With all the compulsory training signed off, I soon started to get involved in projects and to be given a lot of responsibility.

To this day, I am still surprised by how much responsibility I have been given and the fact that I have been able to lead multiple projects of my own during my time at Pfizer. Having this ability to take on different tasks and come up with my own ideas, means my placement is extremely varied, enriching and no two days are the same. I would run out of space if I listed all the activities that I have taken part in, but to name a few, I have:

  • Produced a series of social media posts to support Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November.
  • Created email campaigns and worked with agencies to send these out to health care professionals.
  • Performed financial forecasting to evaluate the feasibility of an indication launch.
  • Set up internal colleague sessions to encourage the sharing of business solutions and tools among Undergraduates and Apprentices
  • … and so much more!

My placement has provided me with so many new experiences and opportunities- all while being virtual! Despite working from home since the start, the company has provided ample support and ensured our experience is as enriching and amazing as it would have been in the office. Even social and company-wide events like National Conference have gone ahead virtually and the real-life experience has been closely recreated with the help of some hampers and company merchandise. At the same time, every colleague in the business has been incredibly open to network with students and allow us to learn about their roles, career and journey.

What’s next?

The past six months as an Oncology Marketing Undergraduate at Pfizer have given me the opportunity to apply what I learned in the first two years of my degree in a practical setting. Simultaneously, I have learned what it is like to have a corporate job, I have discovered a wide array of business processes, systems and tools, and I have developed and strengthened multiple employability skills.

I look forward to the remaining months of my placement and all the new experiences that it will bring. At the same time, I am excited for my last year of University where I will utilise my increased business knowledge to enhance my academic performance. I also look forward to being back on Leeds and the University campus: early-morning visits to the Edge, fun society events with free pizza and my weekend walk to Leeds Kirkgate Market to buy ripen plantain!

I hope you have learned a bit more about placement years and all the opportunities that they can open for you. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to get in touch with me or any of my fellow ambassadors!


Catalina Cepeda Pena
Hi! I’m Catalina and I am a third-year International Business and Marketing student undertaking my placement year at Pfizer. I come from Colombia, where I did the IB programme before coming to...
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