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Cheyenne Polius

University of Sheffield

MPhys Physics and Astrophysics
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The Big Picture

Cheyenne worked at the Department for Work and Pensions as an Operational Research Analyst where she provided analytical support for the HR division, focusing on diversity and inclusion as part of the People Analytics team.

The Application Process

Cheyenne had to complete a competency-based application form, a problem solving test, and an interview.

“It was time-consuming but I found that I was given a lot of prompts in the interview which definitely helped.”

The Learning Curve

“I had previous experience in using Excel but I learnt new features that allowed me to use it more effectively for large data sets.”

Cheyenne’s Impact

Cheyenne worked on many small projects throughout her placement with the vast majority of them being focused on Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) but Cheyenne believes that she made the biggest impact to DWP’s People Performance System and their Reward System.

“I provided analytical insight into whether D&I characteristics affected people’s chances of getting rewards (voucher & cash bonuses) and their chances of having a high performance rating. The results of my analysis helped HR to enhance both systems and the changes have been made across the whole department (~80,000 staff members)”

She became a very valued member of staff and developed renowned expertise in D&I.

“So whenever new D&I work was commissioned, I was always pulled into the conversation/meeting to find out whether the work would be possible or meaningful with the data available.”

The Physics Connection

Cheyenne found the problem solving and analytical skills that she learned during her degree very beneficial on this placement. In giving updates on her progress during team meetings, Cheyenne became adept at presenting data in such a way that everyone in the HR department could understand it, and her written and verbal communication skills carried over and improved.

“Being able to look at a large data set and decide which variable to analyse to get meaningful results is something my physics background helped with…It also helped me present my analysis in charts that were accurate and intuitive to the audience.”

The Professional Skills Stuff

“I gave multiple presentations which gave me a unique opportunity to focus on refining my presentation skills. This includes how I present verbally as well as improving the visual impact of my powerpoint slides”

Cheyenne worked as part of a team but was given a lot of autonomy and had a say in what she participated in and how she did so. 

The Company

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is responsible for welfare, pensions and child maintenance policy.

“Everyone was approachable and always willing to help. It was very friendly and most people were sociable so it was easy to build a good rapport and I never felt isolated at work.”

Work-Life Balance

Work wasn’t the only thing Cheyenne did on her placement. Her team ensured that they all had plenty of time together after hours to socialise and enjoy living in what could potentially be a new place. 

“I had a very lively social life outside of work since my division provided a strong social aspect which was layered on top of the friends and family I already had in London and Sheffield.”

The Final Word…

The Year in Industry allowed Cheyenne to become aware of the skills that she had gained from a physics degree and develop confidence in using them in real world applications. 

“Work provided a different setting that made me more aware of the skills I was using, I probably would not have noticed it as much if I didn’t do a placement because you get so used to doing it everyday and everyone around you doing it that you don’t see it as a strength.”

…and the Next Step

Cheyenne’s experience helped her to narrow down her career choices in ways that she didn’t expect and led to her identifying that she would like to take on a more technical role in the future.

“Although the results of my analysis were interesting, using Excel and Powerpoint for most of my projects got dull towards the end of my placement. I got the opportunity to do a more technical project but noticing my desire to be challenged is something that is helping me out when reading job descriptions now.”

Despite finding it dull towards the end, it was her Excel skills that helped Cheyenne at the assessment centre to land a graduate role at FinTech, so her Year in Industry was very valuable to her search for a graduate job.

Skills Learned;

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