Performing the review of purchase orders, confidentiality agreements and a range of other contractual documents. Providing day-to-day assistance with the ongoing customer requirements of the various contracts managers. Also co-ordinating the progress of your own individual projects, in conjunction with the civil contracts intern and other business stakeholders.
I could not have asked for a better placement year. The year has been amazing and encompassed an enormous range of opportunities, both within my personal learning sphere and for professional development. I have had the most wonderful time at GE, the responsibility given to me at times was immense and I was provided with full support to enhance my learning from University.
At GE, you are not treated like an intern. You are a treated like any other regular employee. I felt like the other colleagues in my team valued my input across various projects and enjoyed being able to introduce me into the world of work. There were many team nights out which enabled me to get closer to the group in a personal sense and I have made some good friends in the team that I will remain in touch with after leaving. This is even with the team’s average age being 20 years older than I am, so it was good to feel valued.
My manager wasn’t directly involved in my day-to-day work, I was more micro-managed by the sub-team leaders, my mentor and the contracts managers whom I worked with on a day-to-day basis. I did, however, have a progress meeting with my manager every three weeks which felt like a good regularity to speak to her about my ongoing projects, areas for improvement and any concerns I may be having.
On a daily basis, my workload was reasonable. It was busier than I expected to be due to the amount of responsibility I had been given, but this gave me an opportunity to improve my time management skills and how I prioritise certain tasks. During the first couple of months, I did have to be visible in asking the contracts managers for tasks or to be brought along to their tollgate reviews. But now, I have so much to do that I have had to learn to say no.
I was given an immense amount of responsibility during my placement. With respect to confidentiality agreements I cannot say too much, but I was placed at the centre of reviewing and negotiating purchase orders with one of the world’s biggest governments. Alongside this, I regularly worked with a range of senior business stakeholders, with one such task encompassing a review and update of our company standard terms. As I have said before, you are given the responsibility of a full-time employee at GE, not that of an intern.
From a University studies point of view, the sheer amount of reading for key details in contracts that I have done this year will have a huge benefit when going back to reading lengthy court judgements and articles in the next academic year. In terms of my career beyond, the confidence and communication soft skills that I have improved over the year will come in handy. The amount of customer communications I sent out, with the opportunity for those to be reviewed by my manager at any stage has shown the key issues within my writing style which need to be changed.
I definitely note that the atmosphere in the office changed several months into my internship, when two people who had not seen eye-to-eye with my manager left the company. Since then, the office has felt more vibrant and generally happy. There are obvious divisions between certain people which, as an intern trying to work with everyone, can be hard to negotiate, but in general the atmosphere has been good. When we went out to Cincinnati in the US, drinking every day and having numerous social opportunities with colleagues furthered our bond together. It really will be sad to leave this group of amazing people.
During my interview I had addressed the question of what training I would be provided with, to be told there was no formal training. Upon arrival, I was given numerous pieces of text and contracts to go through and understand. There was a contracts management simulation which I and the other contracts intern found beneficial, but there was nothing overtly structured as such. In fairness, this is because it isn’t required. Most of the learning is done ‘on the job’ by learning the company standard terms and assessing these within purchase orders, confidentiality agreements and overarching contracts. For an organisation with as many processes as GE, it surprises me that the Further Skills Programme committee, or another group within the company, have not yet established a structure in which the internship will take place.
The company invested heavily in me. I can’t thank my manager and the managers above her for bringing me along to the team business trip to our plants in Cincinnati, Ohio, US. The opportunity to go outside of Europe for the first time was absolutely amazing. I was able to visit New York, see the American culture of working and visit GE’s new additive manufacturing (3-D printing) facilities which are wonderful to witness. There is a large outlay in IT costs for interns, even moreso where the interns overlap each other for a transitionary period. Although I sometimes felt that I may have been distracting the contracts managers from their daily work when I had a question, there was never any hesitation to take time from their work to provide me with the answers I required. The rewards scheme for actions by employees ‘Above and Beyond’ their work is also an excellent idea.
GE typically only hire people for their graduate schemes from their pools of previous interns. Unfortunately, the contracts management leadership programme scheme only seems to take candidates from the US. Unless this changes to incorporate telepresence to enable a UK-based CMLP, I will not be looking to apply for this scheme. However, several previous interns are currently employed within the contracts team which makes me feel confident that if I ever wanted to return following graduation, I would be welcomed back with open arms as a contracts manager.
Being an intern within the contracts team and not living with any other GE interns, I feel that I have not had much of an interface with the rest of the interns socially. We went out once at the start of the year, but not since then which is disappointing. There is, however, a good social scene within the team that I work. We have been to various events, from horse racing to cocktail making. One of the newly appointed sub-team leaders has also established her own monthly night out which will be a great opportunity for the new military contracts intern to adjust to the team personally.
Cheltenham is known for being like London, expensive. It is a horse racing town and, as such, the bars are costly. Nights out can bring up high entrance fees. There is not really any ‘cheap’ supermarkets like Aldi or Lidl around, with only Tesco and Waitrose in walking distance from my house. The on-site restaurant isn’t too expensive, but the sandwiches in the shop do feel extravagantly priced. Prices at the local football team are on par with most other teams at their level of the football pyramid and hospitality prices there are very cheap so it’s nice to head down to the ground with a spare evening. Restaurants are pricey here too, but with a wide range of restaurants to choose from and the very pleasing wage which GE pays its interns, this isn’t too much of an issue. As Cheltenham is only served by one rail line, ticket prices can be extremely costly and you only save £1 by booking in advance, which makes it pointless if you can’t guarantee the train time you will get.
As I have mentioned, Cheltenham is a horse racing town. Therefore, it has more restaurants, bars and pubs than you can remember. Even going to a different one every night during my placement, I doubt I’d have got through them all. In the heart of the Cotswolds, cider is the beverage of choice. But Cheltenham also plays host to the Sandford Park Alehouse, CAMRA Pub of the Year. This is a nice venue to start the night, with Wild Beer also down the road there a number of pubs with craft beers that feature all kind of weird and wacky flavours. No mention of Cheltenham nightlife can avoid talking about MooMoo Clubrooms or Fever. There are many more exciting clubs in Cheltenham, two Wetherspoons and the famous Lounge 72 and Bentleys, all fantastic bars!
Too many. From a work perspective, I was able to travel the country to represent GE at various careers fairs and Open Days. As a result of the student pride careers fair that I was the sole representative of GE Aviation at, we have been invited by law firm Clifford Chance to sit VIP at a Take That concert in several weeks, which I am sure will be a fantastic evening. My University, Aston, also shares an Executive school relationship with GE UK which enabled me to attend various networking and training events which will certainly help me in my future career and, I would like to hope, has enabled me to give back to my fellow Astoners. Being an Aston Villa fan, there is a coach of people that leaves from Cheltenham to EVERY home and away game, so it was great to meet those people. They also helped me to connect with Cheltenham more, enhancing my knowledge of the nightlife and becoming great friends for life. Unfortunately, I was desperate to volunteer for the Cheltenham Guardians but due to their poor communication, I was rather let down and let myself forget about volunteering. I will definitely change this in the final year of Uni.