'I only had one intention - I needed a placement at Jaguar Land Rover.'
Chand Jethwa is the poster-boy of Aston University. Quite literary. His image was plastered over Birmingham last year as the face for Yours for the Taking; a campaign demonstrating the determination of Aston graduates and their ability to excel in the world of work.
‘At first, it was surreal seeing my face on the side of a bus,’ says Chand, ‘but it was a very proud moment for me. My friends would message, sometimes in the middle of the night, saying “mate, I’ve just seen your face.” I was convinced that this is what fame felt like.’
The marketing world has been good to Chand. At times, while on business for Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), he has felt like a celebrity; staying in fancy hotels and welcomed as a VIP by Armani-clad managers. He’s 22.
Working hard from hotel lobbies
‘I remember sitting on a cosy sofa in the hotel lobby, working on my laptop. I felt like I had arrived. Knowing that I worked for JLR, and that the company was a regular at the hotel, I got amazing treatment.’
Make no mistake, Chand has worked hard (6:30am – 11pm hard) to create this sort of lifestyle. He describes the work culture at JLR as intense, yet fun.
‘My colleagues are great. We work long hours, but we always have a good laugh while doing so. It’s important. If you don’t like the people you work with, then work’s no fun.’
Chand is the first to admit that his ‘talkative’ nature didn’t go down well with some of his teachers in college, ‘Yeah, I wasn’t always perceived as the hardest working of people’ he says, ‘a lot of subjects just didn’t interest me and I didn’t learn by sitting and listening. I prefer doing stuff.’
Chand is not alone in experiencing this. The teen years of School are often a blur of theories, stuffy classrooms and sleepy mornings – but that’s not the heart of the issue. The problem is that there is little in the curriculum on the use of knowledge in the workplace.
A deep love for marketing
Chand discovered his love for marketing when his teacher gave the class a project of launching a new product. Whilst the more academic-natured members of the group cringed at the thought of a presentation, Chand jumped right in.
'We had to market a new range of alcoholic drinks, so I suggested we build on an existing brand with new flavours. We chose Jack Daniels because it’s widely known, but crying out for innovation.'
It didn’t take Chand long to emerge as the leader of the group, 'I remember delivering our pitch and everything just coming together,' he says, 'It was a real turning point and showed me what I was made for.'
Let’s quickly compare how relevant this task was to the world of work; working in a team – tick; creating and delivering a presentation in front of a difficult audience – tick; assuming a leadership role when everyone else around you is losing their head – tick.
This experience set Chand on the path to JLR. Just like in college, he did things his own way. This landed him his placement.
‘All my friends were firing off applications and CVs to multiple companies, but I just focused on one thing. My job at JLR. I didn’t care what the job was, as long as I worked for the company. My expectations were low.’
This is in stark contrast to the Chand working in classy hotel lobbies, where managers bend over backwards for to fulfill his breakfast order.
Best. Moment. Ever
‘One of the stand-out moments on my placement was when I had to launch the new Jaguar XF. I was the presenter in a promotional video, talking about the car’s features and why it was special. I originally wanted to work in TV, so talking about JLR (my favorite brand) in broadcast quality was a dream come true.’
Chand entered Aston with his eyes wide open. His expectations of placement were low, but ended up shaping his graduate career.
‘Some say it’s over when uni finishes… I say it just the beginning. I’m flying out to Vegas in a couple of months – there’s no way I would have ever been able to do that without the job I have.’
University should be a platform to process. It doesn’t matter what route you take. From billboard to the boardroom, Chand has set his own path. One year after graduating, and whatever his upcoming journey, it seems like it will be behind the wheel of a Jaguar.