Fast Track: A-Z of Employers Guinness Plc

Age: 239

History: The company was founded in Dublin in 1759 by Arthur Guinness, who bought a brewery at St James's Gate and whose "stout porter" sounds today more like a bouncer than a pint. Nevertheless, Guinness Stout - Ireland's "dark secret" - became the base around which the company grew, and is still served in 150 countries, with a third of these brewing the drink locally. Meanwhile, the Dublin brewery is still exporting around the world, while the company's London brewery takes care of pubs in the UK. Guinness has also built up other brands, including Cruzcampo, Harp, Kilkenny, Irish Beer and Red Stripe - as well as its sister companies Johnnie Walker, Bells and Gordons. It also came up with the popular "widget" in the Eighties.

Address: Headquarters are at Park Royal brewery in north London.

Ambience: The company is reputed to favour movers and achievers, rather than those who are good at politics or know the right set of people. There has been an emphasis on recruiting people in the 25-to-30 age bracket, as well as recent graduates. Ambience depends which bit they end up in. There's no one single thing to say. Some departments have dressing-down days.

Vital statistics: Guinness is now part of Diageo plc, after a merger with Grand Metropolitan in December last year. It now employs 12,500 people world-wide, and has seven operating regions. Last year's pre-tax profits amounted to pounds 254m, which also heralded the company's fifth consecutive year of profit growth. In addition, it won a Queen's Award for Export two years ago.

Lifestyle: As in many other international companies, trainees are expected to be mobile and will probably get to travel. Some are based at the London headquarters, others in the regions. The company insists that future "business leaders" have international exposure.

Easy to get into? Competition is fairly stiff, with only around a dozen graduates taken on annually - preferably with an upper second degree - and 1,000 applicants last year. But there are other opportunities for those with talent, including a "business insight" programme for undergraduates to get involved with key projects, giving input into such areas as recommendations on how to sell the drink, and how to market it to contemporaries.

Glittering alumni: Brendan O'Neill was well versed in the art of brewing before he left Guinness to head up ICI. The Guinness family itself has enjoyed its fair share of notoriety, although it's not known whether Ernest supped stout in his cell.

Pay: The company says that, owing to restructuring, there are no starting salary figures available just now. Unusually, pay is not performance related, although all employees are entitled to a share of the profits.

Training: There's an emphasis on managing your own training, not just leaving it up to the company. Coaching, feedback and mentoring are all methods used, but the whole thing is left deliberately unstructured, and there is no set training period. Those who want to go in for formal qualifications - such as chartered accountancy exams - may be granted study leave.

Facilities: The staff restaurant serves free food and there's also an in-house gym. Meanwhile, for those who can't get enough of Guinness, a staff shop sells discounted beer and merchandise. In addition, there's a rather nice (but taxable) benefit for all employees - a product allowance including 12 cases of Guinness annually.

Who's the boss? Colin Storm, who joined Guinness in 1961 as an under- brewer, has risen to the top and is now chief executive. As a spokeswoman put it: "He's a shining example of how far you can go within the company."