I worked in Business Change and IT where my work involved gathering requirements from people in the business and working with people within the department and outsourcers to establish, test and deliver solutions. I would be working on average on about 5 projects at a time covering things such as testing and rolling out applications across all UK Life Laptops, being the UK contact for the development, testing and implementation of a new global resource management tool and creating an estimating tool which will be used to estimate the costs of all future projects in the department.
1. To what extent did you enjoy your work placement or internship?
The work was interesting and I was given a lot of responsibility, whilst the Zurich culture meant I always had support when it was needed.
2. To what extent did you feel valued by your colleagues?
My team and people I worked with in the department always said when there was a job well done. Comments about not wanting me to leave and the quality of my work in their eyes made me feel a valued member of the department.
3. To what extent were you given support and guidance by management/your supervisor(s)?
I had weekly 'Keep in touch' (KIT) meetings with my day-to-day manager to check I had enough work and the progress I was making with projects. I also had weekly KITs with my manager to check I felt I had the right level of work, whether there was anything else I wanted to experience whilst I was here and generally how everything was going. There is a great buy-in to the scheme by senior management and directors to whom we (the 6 interns) gave two presentations, and they provided feedback on.
4. How busy were you on a daily basis?
Working on approximately 5 projects at a time meant the work load varied depending on what stage each of the projects was at. Largely I had a good workload that kept me busy without being stressed.
5. How much responsibility were you given during your placement?
None of the work I was given was just to fill my time. Every project I did would have been done by a permanent member of staff if I had not been there. I was given a lot of responsibility being the only manager to all but one of my projects (the global one); with my manager keeping up-to-date with a weekly meeting to check each project was progressing.
6. To what extent did/will the skills you developed, and training you received, assist you in your degree studies and beyond?
I was given the opportunity to attend several 'away day' courses involving looking at Personal Brand, and Facilitation Skills. I also attended courses within the business such as MBTI, e-mail and feedback training. Everything was tailored to my experience and career stage and it has greatly improved my self-awareness. Day-to-day activities have also greatly increased my communications skills (both verbal and written), confidence, prioritisation and time management and secondments to different areas of the business have given me a great insight which will give me a new perspective when I return to university.
7. What was the general atmosphere in your office?
There was a great balance between doing work and being relaxed. There is a large 'cake culture' where everyone brings in cake for anything that happens - e.g. birthdays, moving house, Christmas, holiday etc. which keeps the atmosphere light and cheerful in my department. It also means great networking opportunities because people are always moving around.
8. How well organised was the overall work placement or internship set up?
There was a clear structure of the scheme with main training days, secondments etc. spread throughout my time here. As it is a new scheme this year there is a lot of interest to ensure it is successful for both the company and the student.
9. In terms of personal training and development, to what extent did the company or firm invest in you?
We went on several courses at hotels, and had 3 days official training at the business (2 of induction; one including MBTI, e-mail and feedback training). Everything planned was appropriate and relevant to us and our stage of career and feedback gathered will no doubt be used to make it even better in following years.
10. What were the perks on your work placement?
11. How appealing are future employment prospects within the organisation?
Zurich has a well established and respected graduate scheme which after experiencing the company and the investment they put into their people, is very appealing. It is clear through the placement that they hope you will come back to join the graduate scheme and that acceptance onto it will be almost guaranteed following a successful placement.
12. Was there a good social scene amongst any fellow placement students/colleagues?
There are approximately 25 graduates taken on in the UK Life business each year, meaning that there is a large population of younger employees in every department. They were very welcoming and going for a meal out at lunchtime and a drink after work was almost a weekly occurrence. There were also 5 other interns with whom I shared most lunch times.
13. What was the cost of living and socialising in the area you worked in?
Relatively cheap. I lived with 3 other interns and rent on a 3 bedroom house with a garden within a mile of the station (the office is opposite the station) was £650 a month. Night's cost about average with several Wetherspoons to choose from as well as more up-market options.
14. What was the Nightlife like in the area you worked?
There is a good nightlife and there are slightly more up-market bars and clubs in the 'Old Town' area of Swindon.
15. Were there many opportunities to get involved in activities outside of work?
There are lots of opportunities such as working with Zurich Community Trust (Zurich Cares) on the department 'challenges' (raising an amount of money and then spending it on a local need. For example I took the Swindon Limbless association for a day out in London, while other interns sold Crispy creams around the office and created a garden for a local Alzheimer’s house. There are also things such as phoning a care home for a chat with one of the patients and of course lots of 'drinks after work' style gatherings.