Meet Lauren (Hi Lauren!) our 2016 People Intern, she'll be giving us the inside scoop on what it's like to be an Intern here at Virgin Media...
Week 1: Starting my Internship at Virgin Media
So I’m writing this first entry on day 10 of working life and already I’m struggling to think back to last week when I first arrived for my internship at Virgin Media, it feels like I’ve been here for a lot longer!
Fortunately for all those lucky starters, the company organises a two day training event which is held at a beautiful hotel near the head office of Hook. Just to give you a heads up, don’t be alarmed when you arrive and find very posh white gates leading onto a long drive, you are in the right place I promise!
The training, although extremely jam packed, is great fun and you get to learn so much about the company, its history, core values and vision for the future. We also had a little evening social organised for us and were given the opportunity to go bowling (which I have learnt is not my forte), but it was a good laugh and gave all the interns the chance to get to know each other really well.
Wednesday was the first day we entered the office, and although I was a little apprehensive I was made to feel at ease even before I reached my desk (which was all set up ready and had my name card on... how cute!), people could not have been more welcoming. So please if you are feeling nervous (which inevitably you will be), relax, it will be fine! Even just being here for two weeks you can tell that anyone, and I mean ANYONE, is more than happy to have a chat with you, answer any questions you may have or help in any way they can.
Your first few days will be a little crazy; there is a lot to learn. My advice is to just get stuck in and involved with anything as soon as you can, for example I was asked to attend a meeting with the GC (Graduate Committee) who are involved with making sure the Graduates here at VM get the best experience possible. This was a fantastic opportunity for me and a great chance to network with others that I may not have met otherwise. I will be working closely and supporting them throughout my year here which I am extremely excited about!
Before I knew it, 5pm on Friday had arrived and my first week was over. Although my weekend was great (you need to make the most of these now...long university holidays seem like a distant memory already), I was looking forward to getting back to the office to see what my second week had in store for me!
Week 2-3: Hitting the ground running!
Talk about hitting the ground running…my second week has been a busy one, but I have absolutely no complaints. I officially feel like a proper grown up!
I started the week by having a good old catch up with my manager (and by that I meant we went and grabbed a coffee and sat on the comfy chairs in the canteen) and chatted about what I wanted to get out of this year with VM. She asked me about my learning style, how I thought I worked best, what I expected from her and what areas I thought I wanted to personally develop. This immediately showed me that she cares just as much about my progression and development over the next year as I do and will really support me with my goals throughout.
Even though I’ve only been here a short time I can already see how diverse my job role is going to be over the next year, which is super super exciting and one of the reasons I felt drawn to HR in the first place. Already I have been spending time supporting the GC (Graduate Committee) and working on designing some key business principles for our apprentices, as well as meeting loads of new people and learning about how they fit into the VM family.
I can’t stress enough how much support and advice I have received from so many different people, everyone is more than happy to help you out or organise some time in their diaries to get to know you, which is so lovely and also really helpful as it gives you a much better overview of the company.
Don’t get me wrong there have been times where it’s been slightly overwhelming and I’ve had a mini panic, but I know there is always support around and all I need to do is ask. No one expects you to know everything… which is good because I DEFINITELY do not! But I am learning, so ask me again in a years’ time!
Week 3-4: It's been a month already!?
Its official, I’ve completed my first month at VM and it’s literally flown by. To be honest I’m starting to feel like part of the furniture and am even remembering how my team members take their tea which is always handy!
These last few weeks have again been a steep learning curve with lots of opportunities to develop new skills. For example I was asked by my manager to pull some data for her regarding apprenticeship engagement through a programme called Zoom (fun fact – did you know that 93% of our apprentices say that they are proud to work for Virgin Media… impressive right). I’d never used this programme before so I watched an online tutorial through ignite (VM’s own learning and development site) and worked out how to find the data I was looking for. I believe this will be a valuable skill that I can develop over the next year and I am excited to see how useful it will be to me.
In addition, I have been working very closely with our external graduate recruitment supplier which has been brilliant. One of my objectives is to be involved in the organisational process from start to finish, allowing me a ‘behind the scenes’ insight. This something I am very excited about as I feel as though I am able to give valid feedback and pitch new ideas to them, having experienced the recruitment process first hand.
I’m definitely starting to feel like I have developed from a nervous intern to a far more knowledgeable team member, thanks to the support of my lovely teamies, which after only one month is more than I could have wished for.
Anyway I’m off to V-festival for the weekend after winning a pair of tickets (I really do love my job) and to top it off I have Monday off to have a lie in, result!
Week 4-6: Learning from the frontline
As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before Virgin Media prides itself in investing in the development of their staff. In order to give their ‘emerging talent’ (yes that’s me) a well-rounded overview of the company it is suggested we visit one of their customer contact offices. So off I went up to Manchester and even though in the time it took me to get there I probably could have jetted off somewhere hot, it was one of the most interesting and informative days of my internship so far.
I arrived at the Wythenshawe office and was greeted by the lovely Donna who proceeded to take me on a tour around the office. From the get go it was clear to see that the culture of Virgin Media really is transferred throughout the business, people were smiling, laughing and genuinely looked to be enjoying themselves.
My first hour was spent in the mobile division where I was lucky enough to listen in to some live calls, and observe how the internal systems allow the team to access the customer’s details and fix any problems they are currently facing. It was absolutely extraordinary to see the amount of knowledge every team member had and the care and advice they were able to offer Virgin Media Customers.
I then moved on to spend some time with the Social Media & Communities team (which was super exciting), and I bet you didn’t know VM have sent around 2million tweets in the last 18 months (and one of those was officially written by me)! The social media team are constantly working to make sure they reply to their customer’s problems, issues or questions on both Facebook and Twitter as soon as possible, it’s a very impressive operation.
Finally (after a nice lunch in the snazzy canteen, which had its own inside secret garden) I spent my afternoon with the complaints department and learnt all about the procedures and policies they have implemented in order to ensure customers are receiving the best service they can.
Not only did I get to meet some more great people during my day in Manchester, I also was able to experience a totally different side to the business which is stuck out on the front line. This has allowed me to have a much better understanding of Virgin Media which I’m sure will come in handy a lot this year!
Snazzy Wythenshawe offices!
Week 7-8: Super Charging my Behaviours
To assist us lovely interns with our development throughout our year we are required to take part in 4 ‘supercharge’ sessions, with the first being focused on ‘how to present with impact’. The day was held offsite in a very picturesque mill house, and as I’ve learnt it’s always nice to have a day out of the office to break up the week! But of course the best bit was that all the interns got to be reunited together again for the first time since induction, it was great to catch up with everyone and learn about how they were all settling in… I think it’s safe to say we are all being kept VERY busy!
After a cup of coffee and a delicious pan au chocolat we all settled down to let the fabulous Kim (Learning & Development Manager) help us to ‘develop’ ourselves. We started the session by thinking about what we personally wanted to gain from the workshop and then went on to learn more about the 4 styles of learning that we touched on during our induction. Everyone is categorised into a Nurturer, Evaluator, Publicist or a Commander, so we split into our appropriate groups and got down to business. Our first task was to come up with designing what we thought an appropriate drink, holiday and animal for our own individual categorisation and present it back to everybody. It was really interesting to see how everyone thought they were best characterised, I myself come under the commander umbrella, so as a group we decided the best representation would be a strong black coffee (straight, to the point, no added extras) an activity holiday i.e. skiing or hiking (where a goal can be achieved), and a lion (the leader of the pack).
After lunch, and a game of catch (which ended pretty abruptly when we managed to lose the ball) we settled back into the afternoon by discussing some top tips for presenting with impact, setting our personal brand and thinking how we plan to demonstrate it to our peers and colleagues in the workplace. Our final activity of the day required us to stand at the front in groups of four and answer questions such as ‘name all the countries in Europe’, while we were doing this our fellow Interns were watching us and identifying our ‘Leaky Body Language’ (basically what you do subconsciously when you are in a situation where you are not entirely comfortable) this was fun when you were observing others but surprisingly challenging when you were being the one put to the test! This activity was probably the most beneficial of all to me as it made me realise how fidgety I can be when I get a little nervous, for example I learnt that I play with my rings and shift my body weight around…so all in all I am a fidgeter and need to make a conscious effort to stand still!
On reflection, I found the day extremely useful and I feel I have learnt skills that will not only benefit me in my year here at VM, but also the in rest of my career looking forward. Roll on the next session!
Week 9-11: Meeting our new teamies!
Exciting times, the Emerging Talent Team has grown even more too now include our apprentices in addition to graduates and interns. This means that our team has expanded and my lovely manger decided it was about time all met up and got to know each other. So off we popped up to Birmingham.
Before the meeting we were asked to complete a ‘Belbin Questionnaire’ which is designed to help individuals and teams understand the behavioural characteristics people can display when working in teams. By understanding these styles it is argued at teams can work together more effectively. I was asked to assess what I believe my positive and negative characteristics are, and then send it on to 4 colleagues to in order to find out how others perceive me.
At the start of the day we were each individually presented with our beautifully bound ‘Belbin Team Role Report’ which showed what our best skills were from our own self-perception, I believed my two strongest roles when working in a team environment are a co-ordinator (mature, confident, delegates effectively) and implementer (practical, reliable, turns ideas into actions). Whereas my team mates actually viewed by strongest skill to be a Resource Investigator (outgoing, enthusiastic, explores opportunities and develops contacts).
This exercise was extremely useful for me as it allowed me to identify a strength that I was not personally aware that I had. It has also helped my manager to tailor specific tasks to my strengths to help me excel even more during my intern year here at VM.
Not only was I able to learn more about myself to help continue with my personal development, it was fantastic to meet all the team and put faces to names as many of them have had the pleasure of my phone calls and questions over the last few months.
See you all soon guys! :)
Week 12-13: A trip to London
So its official, I am now a quarter of the way through my time here at Virgin Media! HOW CRAZY IS THAT?! Its literally flown by, but I have loved every minute of it!
This week I had the chance to visit a Mock Employment Tribunal organised by Travers Smith to see first-hand how employment law works. It was a fantastic experience which helped me to contextualise what I had learnt at uni regarding employment law. Me and Emillie (our lovely new People Graduate) arrived at the very swanky Royal Automobile Club in London and were greeted by a lovely member of staff who passed us a cup of tea and an information pack which included a copy of all the documents that would be referred to during the tribunal.
The tribunal kicked off with the ‘Judge’ outlining the case and what the ex-employee was bringing the company to tribunal for. In this instance it revolved around an unfair dismissal case, where the claimant appealed that he was unfairly dismissed for whistleblowing. We then heard evidence from either side and both the parties were cross examined before allowing the audience to ask any questions and vote on what they believed the verdict should be. To close we heard a detailed account of exactly how the ‘Judge’ came to his conclusion, allowing us to understand how he separated his personal views and the Law.
After the tribunal had finished we made our way over to VM Hammersmith office (which is amazing!) to have a nosey around and meet the lovely Catherine and talk about everything involved in the life of Consumer. This was then followed by a tour of the Liberty Global Floors and a chat with Lieselot – head of LG Talent and Performance, which was fascinating.
Finally, we were lucky enough to get a visit to the Virgin Management Offices in Paddington, this is where they look after the overall virgin brand and ensure that all its values are upheld. Their office, as you can imagine, was insane… rooftop garden, free lunch, funky memorabilia from pivotal moments over the years… what more could you want?! I would definitely recommend a visit if you ever get the chance!
Following my fun visit to London, I thought it would be helpful for me to write a list of everything I have done and been involved in over the last three months at VM…and wow it’s a big list! I’m now even more excited to see what the next 9 months has to offer me!
Week 14-16: Being part of the Talent Team!
Another few weeks have flown by, I can't believe how quickly time goes when you are busy working! Heather (my wonderful manager) has been fabulous at giving me loads of responsibility in working on all things recruitment as we get closer to hiring all our new Interns and Grads (eekk so exciting!!). It's been so interesting experiencing the process from the other side, having been through it as a candidate myself, I am able to offer my experiences and thoughts on the process to try and make it as successful as we can for applicants.
I have also been lucky enough to attend a careers fair in Southampton to help promote the schemes and answer any questions potential applicants might have. This was brilliant to be part of as I was able to inform people of my experience with both the recruitment process and also what it's like being a virgin media Intern. Our careers stand consisted of a massive buzz wire game in the shape of the VM logo- which attracted a lot of attention as you can imagine! But it was great, people would come over to play the game and it gave you a chance to have a chat, and give them some hints or tips for being successful within the process.
Last week I also had the opportunity to go up to London for a networking event organised by Travers Smith (if you've been reading my previous posts you will know this is the same firm who organised the mock employment tribunal a few weeks back). The event was organised to share how different employers handled performance conduct issues. It was a fantastic opportunity to see how 'HR' related issues are tackled in different companies and also to network and chat to different people.
This week the teams have been announced for the Scope Shop challenge- this is where all interns and first year grads have to work together to raise money for Virgin Media’s charity partner Scope. We have 8 teams overall and our target is to raise £1000 per team before Christmas and then we get the opportunity to take over a Scope charity shop for the day, which will be fun! This is just another example of the 'Talent Team' going above and beyond to help make sure Grads and Interns are able to be involved in projects outside there usual remit. So I better get on with fundraising........!!
The giant Buzz-wire game!
Week 17-20: Christmas at Virgin Media!
So Christmas is nearly upon us, and I will tell you one thing the Virgin Media People Team know how to throw a good party! On 1st December we were whisked off to Mercedes Benz World to spend the afternoon learning about VM’s success in 2016.
As always there are always fantastic opportunities for grads and interns to get involved and network with other team members and senior leaders. I had been asked to act as a facilitator in order to kick start conversations and take notes during the group activities. This was a great chance for me to meet new people and improve my all-important networking skills!
December has also been a busy month for the Talent Team, with the start of the assessment centres to find all our fabulous new graduates and interns for our class of 2017! It has been a brilliant experience to help with this and chat to potential candidates on the day.
I have also been busy fundraising with my team for the Scope Shop Challenge (which I mentioned in my previous blog), we have been busy donut selling, organising raffles and nagging our colleagues, friends and family to have a clear out and fill some donation bags for us! This was all in preparation for our shop take over day on the 16th December. Me and my team headed off to Acton to lend a helping hand and try and boost sales. We were lucky enough to have the most wonderful lady running our shop and she couldn’t be more accommodating. We popped on our Christmas hats and jumpers and stood outside shaking charity donation boxes, giving out free snacks and running a lucky dip and you know what... it actually worked and people very generously donated some money or came into the shop for a look around!
Overall as a team we managed to raise over £1,100 for scope coming top of the 2016 leader board… so it was safe to say we were chuffed! But overall the challenge was a brilliant success and most importantly a huge total was raised for such a fantastic charity.
We are now on the countdown to Christmas and I’m lucky enough to have a few days off to recharge my batteries and come back to 2017 ready and raring to go! And with just over 6 months of my placement left I better make the most off it!
The Final Few Weeks
So somehow I’ve found myself only 6 weeks away from finishing my placement. I wish I could tell you where the time has gone… however I’m not actually sure I know myself.
Over the past few months I’ve been stretched and challenged beyond what I thought I would ever be capable of, I can’t say it’s been an easy ride... but it’s definitely had its moments of success!!
Back in March I was given the task of designing and executing a campaign for National Apprentice Week with the aim to raise awareness, showcase current successes and educate the business both internally and externally on apprenticeships. It was a truly jam packed week, our fabulous apprentices went back to school, we ran an internal selfie competition and the #VMNAW went viral! I even managed to get Southampton Football Club involved as well which was awesome! The whole project from start to finish was entirely my own and although it did cause a slight breakdown (or two!) I actually managed to pull it off rather well! This definitely allowed me to not only work on my project management and organisational skills, but also gave me the opportunity get in touch, and engage with different stakeholders from all areas of the business.
I have also been busy redesigning and collecting new content for our apprentice early careers website, to help showcase how fantastic our apprenticeship schemes are, and provide up-to-date relevant information for potential applicants. I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with the newly elected Graduate Committee acting as a pivotal link between them and the Talent Team, supporting and advising where necessary.
As I’m sure I’ve mentioned previously, the variety within this role is so great, no one week is the same as the next. Lately I’ve been working on analysing all Early Career Zoom data (this is an employee engagement survey that VM runs annually), which has incorporated using my analytical skills to make informed recommendations, to help improve the experience of those on our early career programmes. Additionally, I am currently in the process of designing a school attraction strategy which will be implemented to ensure talent is readily available as and when the business demands it, whilst also promoting Virgin Media as a strong apprentice employer.
Our team has expanded again and we have been joined by Becca, our very first HR apprentice who is amazing! We are also entering awards season and it’s just been announced Virgin Media has been crowned the number one graduate employer in the IT and Telecoms sector! This is a huge win for us, and I am really proud to be part of and had input into such a great programme.
With my time on placement now drawing to a close, I am now more driven than ever to make these last few weeks count. I have organised to spend time in different departments within the people team to help expand my knowledge further and understand the core areas of HR. With my end of placement presentation looming, it has forced me to start reflecting back on my year, identifying my biggest achievements and successes, looking at my personal development and thinking forward to my future. Although I am looking forward to living the student life once again, I will truly be sad to leave VM and all the wonderful people I have met along the way. However let’s hope it’s not goodbye for ever… they do offer a graduate scheme after all!