Why bigger isn’t always better: my post-graduation SME experience

Having previously completed an industrial placement year for a large corporation based in London, I can fully appreciate the benefits working for such a big business has to offer: I enjoyed my time there, learned and developed a lot, and loved being able to associate myself with such a large brand.

Move forward one year to graduating with a First Class Business & Management degree from Bath Spa University, I decided not to jump right in and apply for the ever elusive big- city grad scheme, but instead saw the potential value in joining a smaller business.

Yet another year (and a few months) on, I can look back on my time spent with Cloud Direct and confirm that working within an SME was absolutely the right choice for me when starting my graduate career- and I cannot emphasise enough why It should be more strongly considered by others.

Variety is the spice of (work) life

SMEs can offer a varied work environment, giving the opportunity to work on a multitude of tasks and discover areas where you excel (and those that need development) as well as areas which you enjoy (and those that you don’t!), all in all providing a wealth of experience which may take years to develop at larger companies.

I initially started my time with Cloud Direct as a Finance intern, a position I found through the Santander Universities SME Internships programme (a mutually beneficial scheme I would highly recommend to both businesses and students).

Within Finance I was involved in data analysis for various mini projects across departments. I then moved to a longer-term position in Change and Product Management where I pretty much had a finger in every pie from portfolio maintenance, product trialing and on boarding, to process planning and project management- a skill which I had recognised by gaining my PRINCE2 Foundation Certificate. I was able to work closely alongside every single department including Marketing, Sales, Support, and Development to name a few.

Family feel: SME social benefits

Like many others in my generation, company culture is important to me. This is something that Cloud Direct has spot on. The ability to walk up to anyone in the business knowing they would always be happy to lend a hand when needed gave a real “family” feel. From paint balling, BBQs, fun funds and 4pm Friday beers, there was always a great social side to work- something that was maintained even throughout three major acquisitions, more than doubling the workforce.

Making a real contribution

From relatively early on, I was given great autonomy and responsibility over my own work, seeing projects right through from start to finish. Actually being able to see my ideas implemented in everyday processes showed that I was making a real contribution to the business.

It’s a matter of opinion

In contrast to how it may sometimes feel within a larger corporation, at Cloud Direct I didn’t just feel like a small fish in a big pond trying desperately to get noticed. Everyone knows everyone, and my work is always recognised. The opportunity to work so closely with senior management, including a CEO who genuinely values your opinions can be a real confidence boost.

Bath: the start-up city

I am a strong believer in ‘love where you live’ and supporting local businesses. I am in love with the city of Bath with its great community spirit and it’s quaint country beauty yet big- city feel, so I relished at the opportunity to work right in the heart of a place that I adore.

The ongoing development plans for Bath City Enterprise Area, and the much needed additional office space to come with it, offers great opportunity for more local start-ups and SMEs to flourish within the city, providing greater employment opportunities for local graduates.

I appreciate it may not be the right choice for everyone, but I would strongly urge graduates and undergraduates alike to consider working within an SME. Regardless of your future plans (or even if you don’t have any yet) you are guaranteed to gain experience that any future employer will find valuable.