Headshot of Gemma McLay

Focussing on my future through Employ.ed on Campus: Gemma McLay

We hope you’ve been enjoying our spotlight on the Employ.ed on Campus internship programme over the past few weeks. In today’s blog, the fourth in our series, Gemma McLay, fourth year MA Geography student, tells us about her great experience with Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI)

What prompted you to apply for an Employ.ed on Campus internship?

This summer I was the EFI Project Assistant/Building Move Intern. I initially heard about Employ.ed from a previous student who spoke very highly of their experience interning with RACE.ED. With the majority of my experience being in retail I was keen to do an internship in a professional office environment. I felt this would provide a gateway into exploring different career paths as I prepared to go into my fourth and final year of my Human Geography degree. Scrolling through this year’s internship opportunities EFI jumped out at me. Further research revealed it as a newer addition to the University encouraging challenge-led research, facilitating collaboration between scholars across schools within the University, as well as local and global communities and organisations. I was hooked and wanted to be a part of the process of building this institute, a home within the University and Edinburgh.

What did your role within EFI entail?

My role sat within the Building Operations team preparing to move EFI into the sensitively restored Grade A Old Royal Infirmary. This involved putting systems in place for the two phase opening, beginning in September 2023. I was welcomed into the team at such an exciting time in the move and, therefore, was lucky to be involved in a wide variety of tasks. These included researching and correlating policies and guidelines, summarising technology support protocols and building an event booking spreadsheet to support the diverse needs of various actors outwith and within the University. The majority of work required learning new skills, such as becoming proficient in using Adobe Acrobat to navigate and edit floor plans, as well as software specific to the role like a specially designed Workplace Management System for which I collected and inputted data.

Looking back Gemma, what are your reflections on your internship experience?

Participating in the Edinburgh Award alongside my internship allowed me to designate specific time to developing skills and reflecting. Through this, I chose three skills: networking, virtual oral communication, and seeking feedback. Identifying how I could improve and reflecting on my progress throughout, gave me the opportunity to learn more about myself and build confidence. Completing the regular reflection entries allowed me to clearly see and celebrate progress, as was the case when I noted an improvement in my virtual communication from initially missing opportunities to ask questions, to being able to offer suggestions in meetings. I hope to transfer these skills into my final year to seek out opportunities and support my studies. I feel this experience has also allowed me to prepare for post University by introducing more realistic ways of working outwith University structures. For example, acclimatising to the process of actively seeking feedback throughout projects rather than automatically receiving it at the end.

The award also required me to reflect on the impact my work had. This served as a useful motivator and reminder of the importance and wider implications of my work. For example, my research into ensuring the building caters to different people’s needs particularly in terms of neurodiversity should hopefully make the space more accessible. Having the option to work either from home or in the office, I strived for the latter as often as possible to be more immersed in my internship, involved in the team and have a greater positive impact on my colleagues.

This led to building strong and memorable relationships with my team, especially my managers. I was also able to meet colleagues from the various factions of EFI, including the other interns. Through this, we were able to support each other in navigating a new environment and learn about one another’s work.

My biggest take-away from this internship was confidence; I have already found myself thinking back to this experience and using it as a bank of evidence of what I can do! On the last week when I was sitting in the very room that I sat in on my first day along with all the other interns, I realised it was no longer so scary and I think that goes to show how much we can learn and develop in such a short time.

What was your internship highlight?

My highlight was definitely getting kitted out in safety gear and going into the building to see the floor plans I had been working on for so long come to life and to participate in testing the fusion teaching rooms.

Thanks Gemma.

Catch up with other inspiring Employ.ed on Campus blog posts we’ve already published by using the Employ.ed Internships tag.



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