Thursday, October 27, 2016

Mazhar talks us through his experience with the Undergraduate of the Year Awards 2016

Application process
Initially, I dismissed the emails that advertised the Undergraduate of the Year awards on the basis that such opportunities only apply to extraordinary people. A week before the deadline I received a third email which finally encouraged me to investigate further. This time the criteria seemed more applicable and the possibility of me receiving such an award began to germinate. To address a few concerns regarding my chances, I set out to uncover the traits of previous winners through the 2015 blog entries. Many people held the belief that becoming Undergraduate of the Year was unachievable for them, however, the process still promised much to be attained.

As part of the application I needed to answer three non-trivial questions designed by the sponsor, Expedia. I struggled to conjure up anything relevant, leading me to conclude I wasn’t destined for this journey.

Forty-eight hours before the deadline, I received a call from the Undergraduate of the Year team urging me to complete my application. I appreciated the thoughtfulness behind this gesture and the humanity behind the team. So I readied myself to battle the questions. If not for myself, then for people who place their faith in people like myself.

When it came to answering the questions, it proved beneficial to brainstorm potential thoughts or experiences of mine which were relevant to the questions. After this, I took three psychometric tests- what helped me tremendously with these were the multiple examples and tips available on the internet - definitely take a look at them!

Assessment centre
While imprisoned by illness, I received an email inviting me to the assessment centre and detailing the plan for the day. The assessment day was held at Expedia’s London office and involved icebreakers and a group exercise where we designed an AirBnB app highlighting nearby special offers. In the afternoon, I networked with the assessors and current employees. Being placed in groups with strangers to design and present an app in just forty-five minutes made the group exercise a worthy challenge. In short, the day was very pleasant despite its competitive nature. Moreover, speaking to the current employees at Expedia informed me of the work completed at their offices.

Awards ceremony
The final ceremony was the easiest part of the process. I sat down with all the finalists and the Expedia staff members that I had gotten to know, had a delicious three-course meal and listened to Fiona Bruce’s amusing stories. Although I didn’t win, I increased the prospects of me working for Expedia, featured on my university’s website and had an honorary mention during my summer 2016 university’s graduation ceremony.

If you are eligible then grasp this opportunity and apply. Seriously, throughout this process, nothing changed; I was still ordinary Mazhar. I just happened to do that little extra by applying.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Thomas Chalmers Explore Sky Tech Insight Day

The Explore Sky (A Tech Insight) event was a great insight into Sky! It was my first exposure to Sky outside of just looking on their website or online presence. At first I was overwhelmed at the size of the Osterley offices (more like a campus!) that Sky had. This really painted a different picture to what I had imagined life at Sky would be like learning more about the variety of sections that make up Sky whether that be Now TV, Sky Cinema or Sky News the list goes on. Only then can you appreciate the wealth of opportunities Sky has to offer.

As part of the Explore Sky event the opportunity to speak to those running and recruiting for graduate programs was a fantastic opportunity and is what differentiates such events compared to traditional careers fairs for example. Occasionally at careers fairs you may have a burning question that is directed more at someone who is on the exact programme you are interested in and you may not be able to get the question answered instantly at the careers fair. But being able to ask questions that could be answers immediately with those who have been running the programmes for some time in my view is the best way to gain an insight into the company and let's you really understand inside and out what the programme(s) you are interested in entails.

The afternoon session forms an exciting group project challenged with developing a mobile web application. Whilst being an IT student "Agile / Lean business practice” is a term that I hear quite a lot especially so when looking at roles in the IT sector but being able to explore the way teams code at Sky is something I am grateful to be exposed to. Putting into practice some of the techniques Sky uses with undergraduates like myself with the help of the experts at Sky was great practise. They say the best way to learn is by doing and in this case it couldn't be more true.

In short the Explore Sky event not only helped me better my understanding of the opportunities Sky has on offer but also exposed me to developing further my technical understanding of how software is actually developed in a large organisation. If it's not clear already, Explore Sky is a fantastic opportunity and one that you should aim to get involved with to learn more about Sky and the technology that underpins its success!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Toms Experience at Explore Sky Finance Insight Day

I applied to “Explore Sky: A finance insight day” after receiving an appealing email from Target Jobs. I have always been interested in finance, but wanted to see if that really was where my passions were. Being a Sky customer I had a decent idea of the sort of work Sky does, but still had so many questions! After an efficient application process, I was invited to attend the day alongside 50 fellow applicants.

Before the event, both Sky and Target Jobs were extremely helpful, providing me with detailed information about what the day would entail, and also offering to answer any questions I had! Arriving at the Sky campus in Osterley was stunning, almost like turning up at university for the first time!

The day itself started with talks from Target Jobs, Head of Finance at Sky, members of the Sky Starting Out team, and current Sky Graduates who all spoke about their jobs. They all provided valuable information on a range of topics such as Sky Behaviours, the application process, and qualifications earned whilst working at Sky. It really gave me the information needed to make future career decisions. Being in such a fast-paced industry, it was interesting to find out about the importance of Sky’s constant innovation.

Having the opportunity to speak to Sky’s current graduates over a (free!) lunch, we were able to find out the in’s and out’s from employees just starting out in their Sky career. They gave us honest opinions about their experiences at Sky, which really confirmed that I want to build a career at Sky Finance!

A CIMA representative explained to use all about the CIMA qualification you obtain whilst working for Sky. Again, it was fantastic to hear about all the career benefits of gaining a highly respected qualification.

We then had the opportunity to showcase our skills to Serena (Sky Finance) and Amandeep (Sky Starting Out) via a team challenge. This 30-minute exercise involved planning a completely new product for Sky to launch! Despite common themes occurring between the groups, each group had their unique take on what areas Sky should be heading in. Each group presented their idea to both the judges and the other participants, and were then asked on the spot questions. Presenting in front of experts and having the chance to answer questions from them has really improved my business confidence!

The Sky campus itself was simply outstanding. We were fortunate enough to have a tour around a place with fantastic facilities, including filming studios, a gym, and even some rare trees!
I would recommend this event for anyone remotely interested in a finance career for several reasons. Firstly, and probably most importantly, it gives you such an informative, enjoyable and interesting insight into what Sky is all about, in a much different way to usual careers events! Secondly, you will have the chance to meet a wide range of people – from peers in a similar situation to yourself, right up to the Head of Finance at Sky! Lastly, if nothing else, you will have an extremely fun day! I cannot recommend the day enough!

If you attend the day, I would advise throwing yourself into anything and everything in order to optimise your day! Everyone there is in the same situation so don’t be afraid to ask questions, get involved in tasks, and be proactive in your approach!

I would like to thank both Sky and Target Jobs for hosting such a fantastic day, allowing everybody to get exactly what they were looking for out of the event! Due to the event, I now intend on applying for the Finance Graduate Scheme.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Katie tells us about her day spent at Sky HQ and the application process

 In August, I was coming to the end of my placement year and keen to find out more about other companies and the graduate opportunities available. I knew that I was interested in applying to Sky, as I had spoken to several people while on my placement who had recommended the graduate scheme. For me, the culture of a company is particularly important and I feel that the best way to get a feel for the culture is through meeting people who already work there, so when I saw this event advertised on the TargetJobs website, I knew it was a brilliant chance to learn more about Sky’s ethos, while networking with their employees. The fact that this event was held at their Head Office made the opportunity to attend even more exciting, having grown up with Sky, I was looking forward to seeing how things work behind the scenes.

The application process consisted of an initial application, which asked you to explain your motivations for applying to Sky, as well as biographical information, such as your University and predicted grades. This closely resembled the initial process for graduate applications and it was good practice for getting back into the habit of filling out applications, while also giving me time to think carefully about my motivations for working in the tech industry and for wanting to apply to Sky.

I received an invitation to a telephone interview not long after submitting my application – it’s worth bearing in mind that TargetJobs will allocate places nearer to the event date – so if you apply early, it may be a few weeks until you hear back. I booked the interview through an online tool and there were several time options so I could find a time which suited me. Before this interview, I made sure to read Target Jobs’ top tips for telephone interviews, as it had been a while since I’d had an interview and reading this helped me to brush up on my skills.
The TargetJobs interviewer was friendly, encouraging me to discuss my motivations for attending the event, while chatting about any relevant experience I had. As my placement was in the technology industry, I had some knowledge and experience of tech, however my placement was a marketing role, so I was conscious that I perhaps didn’t have the same knowledge or experience that some more technical candidates may have had, such as coding. I think the most important thing here is to make it clear why working in tech appeals to you. For me, it’s because it’s such a fast-paced, exciting industry to be in and I am also eager to learn, be challenged and experience new things. Whatever your reason for wanting to attend, this is your chance to make it clear why you should be given the chance! I received an email a few days later saying that I’d secured a place at the event.

The night before the event, I stayed at a friend’s house in London, to make the journey easier in the morning, as we needed to be at Sky for 9.30AM. It was only a short tube journey to the nearest station Osterley and Sky run shuttle buses from the station to the offices, which is something I may not have known without visiting the offices myself (and it’s always handy to have experienced this journey in case you do end up visiting these offices again). It’s also worth mentioning that Sky will refund up to £50 of expenses, so you don’t need to be out of pocket if you do attend – particularly important when you’re a student on a budget!

On arriving at the event, I was greeted by a Target Jobs representative. I was surprised to find that several of the people who had been on the bus with me were also there for the same event. I decided to introduce myself and we got talking about our journeys and our expectations for the day, which helped me to relax and feel at ease, before registering and making our way to the amazing new building. The first thing we saw in the reception was the throne from Game of Thrones, which made us keen to see what else the offices had in store for us.

The first session took place in a large event space. We were given introduction booklets and pens, plus there were refreshments available throughout the day, so we were well looked after! We also received a lanyard with a name badge attached, these were colour coded (purple for those applying for the Software roles and orange for Technical). The morning consisted of several talks, from a wide range of people, including TargetJobs representatives, some of the Sky recruitment team. We were given post-it notes to write our questions for him on and I was pleased that mine was read out, as it was interesting to learn about Sky’s perspective on emerging technologies such as Augmented and Virtual reality and how these will impact Sky’s products and services.

We then got to go on a tour of the buildings, I think the event organisers understood our excitement, as they encouraged us to take pictures and upload them to Facebook and Twitter (my Snapchat story looked particularly good that day!) For this, we were mixed up into different groups, which meant that I got to speak to some more attendees and hear about their experiences. The tour was brilliant, we got to see the Sky Sports Centre and different caf├ęs, restaurants and working areas, there’s even a rooftop bar. As a dedicated Arsenal fan, the only disappointment for me was not seeing Thierry Henry! (Although there was a picture of him on the wall).
After lunch, the afternoon session consisted of a team challenge. We were allocated to groups, which were split between technology attendees and software attendees and between us we chose roles for each member. The goal of this challenge was for us to develop an app for Sky Cinema, I was the product manager, so my role was to decide which features consumers would want and work out what the priorities for the developers would be. I then worked with the Scrum Master to communicate with the developers to understand which of our priorities were feasible and the time frames in which they could be completed. The Scrum Master and I then worked together to amend the tasks, all the while receiving feedback on progress from the Software team. Although we didn’t have a lot of time to spend on this activity in comparison to what it would be in the real world, the focus was on us learning how teams in Tech work together and the kind of roles available, rather than us creating the most perfect product. After working on this for what felt like 20 minutes (but was several hours), it was time for us to present back to the room. This whole project was good experience for assessment centres, as the day combined teamwork and presentation skills. Our team came second, which marked the end of a great day.
One of the most interesting things from this event was that everyone I spoke to had different experiences and backgrounds. There was not one ‘type’ of person at the event, but rather a mix of degrees and disciplines – I spoke to people who studied subjects ranging from Education, to Maths, to Business, to Cyber Security! This made me feel much more comfortable as a Marketing student and helped me to realise that Sky will look beyond your degree subject when assessing your application, while technical skills are valuable, it’s also exciting to see that they are interested in individuals with skills in innovation and creativity.

Overall, I recommend this event to anyone with even a mild interest in Technology, the opportunities at Sky are so vast and even if you decide a Technology role isn’t for you, you’ll benefit from learning how tech teams operate in large scale businesses, while potentially realising that Sky is a place you want to work in the future!