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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Applying for Future Business Leader of the Year

Alasdair Drennan, 2013 finalist of the Future Business Leader of the Year award talks about his experience.

‘Future Business Leader of the Year’… sounds far too impressive… I’ve definitely got no chance. Well, that’s what I thought. In spite of this, you’ve got absolutely no chance at winning unless you apply so one night, on the train from London to Edinburgh, I filled out the application form and sent it off. The questions were reasonably straightforward and were honestly quite interesting. After sending away the application and completing the online tests I put it to the back of my mind, once again I thought, ‘I’ve got no chance’. I study History and I’d been the editor of The Student (the newspaper at Edinburgh University), although I’m really interested in business, I didn’t think my experience was enough to be considered for such a prestigious award. In the coming weeks I was in for a very pleasant surprise.

I was invited to a first round interview at the Mars Petcare Headquarters near Melton Mowbray. The first round consisted of an interview and a case study. The case study was challenging but it was an excellent way to demonstrate to Mars, and myself, that my interest in business translated into skills. It was also a genuinely fun day with plenty of Mars chocolate supplied! As well as interviews, it was a great opportunity to find out more about how Mars operated as a business from its current grads – who were all lovely and incredibly welcoming. On the drive home I received a call to tell me I’d made it through to the final stage – I was over the moon.

The final assessment day, less than a fortnight later, took me back down to Melton and was simultaneously nerve-racking and great fun. The day began delivering my pre-prepared presentation and before taking part in a group exercise and final interview. Once again, it was a great opportunity to demonstrate and develop what I had to offer. Additionally, it was great to meet the other finalists from across the UK. Back at home there was nothing else to do but wait until the awards ceremony in April.

Reuben Ayley, Sir Trevor McDonald and
Alasdair Drennan at the UGOTY Awards
The whole day of the ceremony was a great experience we were first given a tour of the enormous M&M World on Leicester Square (which smells amazing) before heading out to Canary Warf to the champagne reception and lunch. Here we met the finalists from the 11 other awards and loads of other people from Mars who had incredible stories to tell from their very varied careers. The awards were presented by the one and only Sir Trevor McDonald, which was incredibly exciting for my inner news geek. It was a fantastic day which allowed me to meet so many interesting and inspirational people – I won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. Although I didn’t win (congratulations Giovanna), the entire experience was incredibly rewarding and I would do it all again at the drop of a hat.

So if you’re reading this thinking the awards aren’t for you, that you don’t have the right experience, or that there will be too much competition, I would say apply anyway. The initial application questions are focused on what you think as opposed to what you’ve done, so you’ve got every chance and it’s such an amazing opportunity that you don’t want to miss. Good luck!