Buckingham palace

From student digs to Buckingham Palace

Written by Danielle Smith


Danielle Smith is on the Communications Graduate programme and joined GSK in 2012 after graduating from the University of York. Her first placement within the two year programme was in our Global Brand team working on GSK’s partnership of the Coronation Festival.

In July 2012, I had just graduated from university and was looking forward to the summer before starting my graduate career with GSK. If someone had told me then, that a year later the company’s CEO would be introducing me to Her Majesty The Queen in the gardens of Buckingham Palace - well, I would have thought they were mad. But that’s exactly what happened.

The Coronation Festival in July was a four-day event held at the Palace to commemorate 60 years since the Queen’s Coronation. Organised by the Royal Warrant Holders Association, the event invited over 200 companies with Royal Warrants* to be involved and celebrate the innovation within Britain over the past 60 years.

GSK stage at Buckingham palace
The GSK stage at the Coronation Festival
GSK stage at Buckingham palace

When I joined GSK in September I was given the opportunity to be the project lead for the festival. I assumed there would be someone closely overseeing all aspects of what I was doing across the project, but in actual fact, I was largely trusted to get on with it, which made me feel hugely valued. I was given a huge amount of responsibility from the start and my thoughts and opinions helped shape GSK’s whole involvement with the festival.

Working with a cross-functional team, there was support from across the business but the project was firmly owned and led by me. From running an internal employee recognition programme for all of our UK sites, to supporting an in-store promotion in Waitrose across a number of our consumer brands, I was directing it.

A big focus of our involvement with the festival was the exhibit that we created for the event. This exhibition needed to encourage visitors to come in and learn about GSK and make sure they took away a better understanding of what we do.

When the big day finally came around the sun was shining and the exhibition was up and ready. The Queen and Royal family were given a Royal Preview, where they had the opportunity to visit the Festival and our exhibition.

Our CEO, Sir Andrew Witty, was there to greet The Queen and escort her on to our exhibition stand. Everything was running smoothly and I had my phone at the ready to stand in the background and subtly take photos. Then I was ushered to the front and had the honour of being introduced to Her Majesty, The Queen, by Sir Andrew - not bad for my first year in full-time employment!

Queen and Andrew Witty
Danielle pictured right whilst Sir Andrew Witty guides her majesty the Queen

The opportunity I was given to be part of such a unique and exciting event still blows me away. I can’t believe what a huge success it was and that I was so heavily involved with making it happen. This experience will stay with me for a lifetime and I have no doubt it will remain a highlight of my career for years to come.

*A royal warrant is a mark of recognition to individuals or companies who have supplied goods or services to the households of the Royal family. We hold a warrant for Macleans.

IR Manager, Communications and Government Affairs

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