A lot of the teach-ins and Q&A sessions were educational, but not particularly "enjoyable", since there were so many back to back just sitting in one place on Zoom. This wasn't helped by sessions always over-running so the timetabled breaks happened I think only once in the week. But the games/simulations and team projects were a lot better, as well as the bank wide development sessions when we went into breakout rooms. It's sort of a classic case of the real life interactions being fun, and the classroom stuff being important but not particularly "enjoyable".
Everyone was very open to questions both in timetabled Q&A sessions, and follow-ups over email. The coffee chats we had were also treated very well by the employees, as in they treated us like any other employee and so worthy of their time and attention. I never felt looked down upon as an intern, and the sign offs by some of "hopefully see you in a year" was a really nice touch, even if things don't work out!
While I didn't feel I needed much guidance and support during the internship, since everything was explained so well and questions were welcomed constantly, this is in itself a better form of guidance and support. It's more empowering and makes the interns feel more like part of the team, as opposed to feeling out of the loop and like they're the only one with a certain issue that they need a specific follow up to. Despite this, I feel I could have asked for guidance from anyone I have met over the course of the experience and they would have answered me, or sent me in the right direction to get a better answer.
I sadly don't think I have developed many new skills, other than zoom etiquette and how to use the online portal. It was more just exercising the skills I already had, which, due to COVID-19, have been a little out of use recently!
What will help me in life is the knowledge and understanding of banking as a sector, as well as more specifically corporate financing solutions. This has enabled me to feel more empowered when exploring career options.
The structure has been great. There has been a good division between more chill bank-wide sessions, with more intense business-area specific ones. Within the context of it being online, I think there is only so much one can do without signing an NDA, and so I am glad the SF specific week was only that - a week. I would love to do more of it, but, having done the spring week as well, my superficial, non-experiential knowledge is reaching the point where I just want to get on and do something.
I think it is hard to make zoom particularly "fun" - it's that weird thing of no matter how much is going on over the call, if your internet cuts or your computer crashes, you're just alone in a room at home.
Despite this, there were some speakers that really made the atmosphere great. Their enthusiasm and the use of breakout rooms really transformed the experience.
Outside of the Zoom calls, the atmosphere among interns was good, although many are not as proactive as I would have hoped.
The personal training and development was done as well as it could be. We have a whole week devoted to skills that we, as a cohort, voted on. This, so far, has been really great.
It is sad that we haven't had any actual training on how to do the/any job. As a result, a lot of material was just repeated from the spring week - some materials had not had a single change since March 2019. As a result, it felt a bit more could be done to actually invest in our development.
I found the virtual experience really helped me to understand what it would be like to have a full-time role in the firm from the questions we were able to ask. The general talks were quite high level, but when I was able to ask, most often in the one-on-one coffee chats, what the analysts were actually doing on a day to day basis it became a lot clearer. It makes sense why the talks were higher level though. A lot of what needs to be done when introducing young people to banking is teaching them about the actual subject matters. It's not like a café job where one knows what needs to be done, it's just how to operate the coffee machine etc. Here, we need to know what needs to be done, before the specifics of how that is done.
Being able to have private conversations with employees was very helpful. Some were more honest (/or just critical?) than others. It was therefore nice to hear a range of views on the culture. Not so much as a deterrent for me working at NatWest, but as an appreciation that every culture will have its upsides and its downsides. My job is then to weigh up which outweigh the others. I am glad I can now do that with more information at my disposal.
The content was very valuable in deciding on my future career path, as far as NatWest has power over. The context that the information has will, though, be more important in actually deciding on that path. I know very little about jobs other than banking at this point, and so to be happy in my career choice, I need to do my own research of other careers in order to make an informed decision about which I would prefer. I feel I have enough to metaphorically tick the box of banking career knowledge, I just need to tick the others before I can see the relative pros and cons of careers.
We were paid for the full 10 weeks work, despite the experience being reduced to 4 weeks online. This was very generous. The salaries of NatWest are not as high as some other banks, but this was known long before attending the experience.
Paying us has definitely been an incentive to stay on for the grad program if I am offered it, since it shows the care NatWest has for its employees, even those just starting out.
There were so many opportunities for meeting employees. The virtual coffee club chats were perfect for this. They physically put us in front of a wide range of people, but also because it was a chance to meet people who knew other people that we could talk to about our interests if we so desired. They were all very open and happy to introduce us to others. The bank-wide session have also been good to give us a broader perspective as well, beyond our specific area.
The social events and networking were probably as good as they could have been virtually. The virtual escape room was fun, although it was hard to communicate with our teams after the free 40 mins were up, so we lost a couple of members. Meditation was good too! Networking was as good as it could be, although definitely one of those things where you get out what you put in. It takes a little time to build up the confidence, but then it's all good and facilitation of it was excellent.
Yes - I am looking forward to the annual SF softball tournament! The work of the CSR council was also interesting to see and get involved in. The 2.6 Challenge has been quite enjoyable and has made life feel a little more normal, working with others to achieve goals with actual, real-life outcomes. Some employees also talked of their gym-goings and football, which is nice to know can still be done while working at NatWest.
If they have a choice between a virtual experience and an in-person experience, I would definitely suggest taking the in-person one over this virtual one. But if they are choosing between virtuals, I might recommend it. I think it has been a good general learning experience, but I am disappointed we were not able to get more technical training and involved in real projects like at other banks. In applying for other graduate jobs it almost feels like we've been put at a disadvantage so that we cannot leave NatWest.