The virtual experience from Natwest Group was very useful - they provided us with multiple talks from high ranking seniors, graduates and early careers members, all of which focused on promoting our development.
The sessions from high ranking seniors were very eye opening about their experiences within the company, especially hearing from those who had worked throughout the financial crisis and seen the industry change - there was also ample time to ask them questions.
The sessions from graduates were informal and interesting - allowing us to find out their personal experiences on the graduate scheme and answer any questions we had about the job.
And the sessions run by the early careers team were useful, and focused on our personal development, such as learning how to network. The sessions were interactive, with breakout rooms being used so we could discuss our ideas and complete activities with other interns.
We also had more relaxed and fun sessions, like a virtual escape room and a meditation session!
Their constant emphasis on how they never considered cancelling their internship because of the COVID-19 pandemic really showed how valued we were as interns. They were always there to answer any questions we had and there was a real focus on the fact that everyone was very receptive to helping us and our development. I felt very comfortable to message any of the graduates from my department to ask them questions about their experiences after we were introduced on a very informal Q&A session.
In the run up to the virtual experience, there was not that much explanation of the way the programme would run - I did not realise how little of my time would be taken up! But once it all started it became very clear and there was a lot of support from the early careers team who explained the process very well. Throughout the programme I felt very comfortable to ask questions as they were very welcoming of that.
The information I received would help me in a future career at Natwest Group - the sessions were about the company, and partially about the industry, mainly the information would help those progressing on to the graduate scheme. In terms of the skills developed, such as how to network and gaining sponsorship in the workplace, these will be very useful in the future no matter where I work, and also at university in terms of extra-curricular activities.
The experience was quite well structured, however we only had 1 week in our chosen business areas. If the experience had not been virtual and gone ahead as planned, we would have been working in our business areas for the entire 10 weeks so it was very surprising that we were only exposed to these areas for 25% of the placement. I would have preferred more time in my division. Other than that it was well structured with introductory talks, then development talks, then fun sessions.
There was a great atmosphere from all! All the early careers team were very kind, the speakers were very engaging, and graduates very friendly. Whenever we had sessions just talking to graduates and interns there was a real emphasis on the session being informal so we felt comfortable to ask any question and that no question was a stupid one! This really fostered a great experience. Despite it being online a good atmosphere was generated.
The ability to talk to graduates was very useful to hear their personal experiences and compare that with that of their friends and peers. There was also a lot of emphasis on the fact that the company encourages their employees to do volunteering work through the fact that we had a charity project to work on too! This showed us that there is a friendly and caring atmosphere fostered in the workplace.
My only worry was that I didn't hear many negative things and worry that I only really saw one side of the story as I wasn't in the workplace to experience it all for myself - we were only talked to by the people who wanted to talk to us and share their great experience.
I would say the content was rather useful for deciding on a future career path as some of it focused on the industry as a whole and the changing patterns and trends, such as the rise of technology and the use of AI and the rise of Fintechs etc. - so in this way this would help people to think about whether this is the kind of industry they want to be going into for the long term as thinking about people's perspectives of how they think jobs will change is very important and hard to get outside of these kinds of experiences
We were paid the same amount that we would have been paid if the full 10 week programme had gone ahead as normal, despite the fact that this was only a 4 week programme. This was very generous of them and proved that they really care about their employees and are committed to investing in their future employees and their development. There were no funds to be reimbursed as we were conducting the work from home.
There were a couple of sessions for my division (Risk), but compared to other divisions this was not a lot as I heard others had coffee catch ups quite frequently. As a division we therefore organised more of these ourselves to discuss how we were finding the programme.
We were each given a graduate buddy who we could network with in a sense that we could frequently contact them and ask them questions. We had some informal Q&A sessions with graduates too, where we could ask them questions.
In our various activities too we were also put in random groups, such as our CSR challenge, so this meant we could network with fellow interns.
But generally it is very hard to network on a virtual programme.
I would recommend this experience to a friend, but definitely emphasise to them that it is a skills development programme, not an internship. Obviously as our internship was cancelled due to the pandemic this impacted us more because were were expecting an internship with work and projects to be involved in - but as all plans were changed this did not happen and it was much less time consuming and relaxed and informal than a normal internship would be.