We caught up with Liana about her experience on a placement year with PayPal.
Tell me a little bit about your background and journey to joining PayPal.
I studied Maths, Further Maths and Economics at A Level, and then went to Aston University to study Economics and Politics. I’m currently in my third year on the placement – which is a compulsory part of the course as a business student at Aston. Things were so uncertain when it came to applying for opportunities, but it was important I didn’t just apply for any and every role I came across. I wanted to make sure I had an interest in the industry I was applying to and the job I’d be doing. It’s also really important that I believe in the values of the company, because I couldn’t work somewhere I didn’t share and relate to the company’s mission. Those were my top requirements, and when I came across PayPal, it seemed like a great fit.
What stood out to you about PayPal when applying for placement year opportunities?
The company’s mission is to democratise financial services so everyone has better access to products to suit their financial situation. Online payments are the way forward now, and PayPal want to make it accessible to as many people as possible which is really important to me given the inequality across the globe. The team values also stood out to me – inclusion and collaboration. I didn’t want to just work somewhere that claimed to live by those values, I wanted to see how they put them into practice. Since I’ve worked here I’ve been very pleased to discover the company does embody those values – for example, the CEO recently announced that we’re giving $530 million towards black-owned small businesses in America, just one example of how we’re doing our bit as a big company to support the wider community.
How did you find the application process for PayPal?
It was a straightforward process, the initial application involved uploading some of my basic CV information, then once successful I was asked some additional questions like ‘why do you want to work for PayPal’, etc. Then I had a video interview where I answered around 15 questions, with a minute or so to gather my thoughts before each one. After this stage I was waiting to find out if I’d been successful, and I received a call to let me know that the role had been filled. The team then asked me if I’d be interested in a different role, and after looking at the job description I actually realised this seemed much more suited to me, so after one additional interview I accepted the offer! I initially applied for Large Merchant Sales, but my role now is as an Account Executive Intern.
What does a day in the life look like for you as an Account Executive Intern?
My main responsibility is to look after the pipeline, updating it every week, keeping track of any changes in the status of accounts and ensuring it’s ready to go on Monday morning. Those reports go off to different areas of the business so I might need to populate them in different systems for different purposes, like Excel or PowerPoint for example. That’s been my main task, but I’ve also been working with the credit team who look after the credit merchants that are using PayPal Credit. This team make sure those merchants aren’t breaching any financial regulations that are in place because it’s a regulated product. Part of my role here is making sure the merchants aren’t using any language such as ‘easy’ or ‘free’ to make repayments sound easier than it is. I’ve been keeping a record of this for around 100 merchants, using a platform similar to Excel. I’ve been making sure they’re not breaching any regulations and when they are, reaching out to them over email and keeping track of whether they’ve made those changes.
In addition to this, this year I have had the opportunity to sit in on some merchant calls, usually observing a couple per week. I’ve been able to witness some negotiations and discussions with some big UK names. This has enabled me to learn more about the sales process and how different conversations with merchants can either accelerate or lengthen the sales process. It’s taught me more about communication and this has made me think about how I interact with others- it is one of the biggest takeaways from the year and will definitely be useful within any field.
Finally, I’ve also done some work around our competitors when we were releasing a new ‘buy now pay later’ product. I was going through merchant lists, identifying what payment methods they offered, what products they sold and seeing if they were a sizeable opportunity for the team. I’d also do an account review when the sales team brought a new opportunity to my manager and find out if they had a credit broker licence which enables them to advertise regulated credit products on their website. This work helped the managers decide which product we were to offer the merchant.
It's so hard to sum up a day in the life of my role, I’ve had so much to do! The role has enabled me to work with people outside of my team and branch out to gain exposure to other areas of the business. I’ve been able to collaborate with the marketing and product teams, which has been great.
What’s been your favourite part of this past year?
Probably my work with Amplify, one of the affinity groups we have in the business – this one is for black employees and allies. The aim of the group is to promote diversity and make sure our voices are being heard. We’re not here to make everything about race, it’s more to share information and educate other colleagues on certain matters pertaining to race. The work I’ve done with the group this year has been really exciting. For example, last month I was involved in promoting Windrush Day – we put on a one-hour event, and I helped put together the slides, videos and agenda for the seminar.
In addition to this, we have worked in partnership with smaller business that have been hit by the pandemic and I’ve also been able to support in promoting Black History Month and more. It’s been nice to work with people outside of my main team and to do something extra-curricular which is having a real impact. This is just one of the diversity initiatives at PayPal, there’s also Rise (for employees of Asian descent and allies), and Pride (for the LGBTQ+ community and allies), and more.
How would you describe the culture at PayPal?
In one word: supportive. There’s not been one person that I’ve emailed or message that has ignored me – everyone is willing to help and support me no matter what I might need support with. This ties in really well with the collaboration value; everyone understands that we have one goal, so we need to work together, and even if your question might feel silly, they never make you feel silly about it.
How have PayPal kept the culture alive virtually?
My team has a team meeting every week where my manager gives business updates, but we’ll always take time at the start to catch up and see how everyone is doing. Every Tuesday we also have this event called Sweet Treats – when it was in the office, they’d have actual treats come in every week, but they’ve kept it going virtually. The UK head will give business updates and other people would have the opportunity to share any milestones in their life or work i.e. work anniversary, engagements, etc. This is a really nice way to stay connected, and you feel a sense of unity with everyone on the call at the same time, and you can hear nice little updates on what’s happening across the business.
What advice would you give to someone about to undertake a placement year at PayPal?
Have a think about what you want to do before you get there. Talk to your manager and see if you can collaborate with any teams outside of your own to gain exposure across the business. Find out if there are any initiatives or groups you could join – we created an intern network this year so we all catch up on a Friday afternoon which is really nice. Lastly, take advantage of anything that comes your way because it’s your year so you have to make the most of it. They treat you like a full time employee, and you will be having a real impact on the team, so if there’s something you want to pursue then go for it!