Internships: Wall Luxury Essentials
When an HR graduate took a Breakthrough Intern placement with a fashion retailer, the benefits were mutual
Founded by Hernán and Judith de Balcázar, fashion retail business Wall Luxury Essentials began life as a shop in London’s Notting Hill before expanding into mail order and e-commerce. Preparing for future growth, the company used Santander’s Internships initiative to source a graduate who could work on an important human resources project. As Intern George Laganas explains, the placement has enabled him to practically use and develop his hands-on experience in retail, and his expert knowledge acquired through a master’s degree in HR.
The Internships initiative was set up to provide ambitious small and medium-sized companies with a means to access the talents of graduates and final year students. The concept is simple: businesses with a specific requirement create a job description, which is subsequently marketed to students and graduates through the Santander Universities global division and its network of partner universities. The initiative enables employers to access some of the brightest minds around, while ‘entrepreneurially minded’ interns have the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and apply themselves to real projects.
The key is to match the skills of the students and graduates with the needs of the company: in the case of Wall Luxury Essentials, George Laganas ticked all the boxes. “It was an HR project and I studied economics for my first degree and went on to complete a Master’s degree in HR,” he says. “In addition, I had experience working in retail. I think that was a strong combination of relevant skills for the placement,” he adds.
“It was very hands-on work, planning for the future of the company, and I was acting very much in the role of a consultant.”
The remit for the placement was divided into a number of distinct but related components. “A major part of the project was looking at the current situation in the company, in terms of the skills available and the skills required for the future. I also looked at the company’s HR processes and its job descriptions.”
George is keen to stress that there was a real opportunity to make a difference. “It wasn’t a junior position,” he says. “It was very hands-on work, planning for the future of the company, and I was acting very much in the role of a consultant. In fact it was a little bit like being an external consultant.”
As George sees it, one of the advantages of the Breakthrough Internships initiative is that it enables companies to bring in people who can look at problems and challenges through fresh eyes, while also offering new ideas. “I had the retail experience and the HR knowledge,” he says, “But I think what I could also do was ‘think out of the box’.”
In return for his skills, the initiative gave George all-important experience. “It was a huge opportunity in that regard,” he says. “I learnt a lot about business and the way it works. Equally, I learnt a lot about working with people and building relationships.”
Wall Luxury Essentials – a relatively small company – was able to take advantage of a very particular skill-set that might not have been available without the Breakthrough Internship initiative. George, for his part, was able to add this important HR project to his CV.