Jessica Banfield is in her final year at Lougborough University studying for a Tech Industry Gold degree. We caught up with her to find out what her plans are after graduating.
Firstly – how are you and how have you been managing during the Coronavirus pandemic?
The pandemic has been an event in my life that I will never forget for both positive and negative reasons. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was at home with my family whilst working from home with Virgin Media. My manager told me it would be three weeks and I would be back to the office before I knew it. This was obviously not the case, and in March I left the Virgin Media office and unbeknown to me I never returned. The pandemic led to so many positives such as I spent a lot of time with my family that I never would have had the opportunity to do so otherwise, the exact same with my university friends, and personally I learned a lot about myself. However, there were times of loneliness, anger, frustration, and missing all of those loved ones that I couldn’t see or lost to the virus.
What was the best experience of your Tech Industry Gold (ITMB) degree at Loughborough University?
The best experience of my Tech Industry Gold Degree at Loughborough University was the South and North events that were held in my first and second year. The events comprised of various activities throughout the day such as keynote speakers from GSK and Jaguar Land Rover, activities to encourage teamwork, a team presentation that was prepared for with other students on my course at Loughborough University, and an opportunity to network with other students but also the organisations that were present at the day.
During the event in my first year, I was able to network with organisations that began the preparation for applications for my placement year. I gained so much knowledge on the application process when the applications opened, what I needed to include, and also the opportunities that were out there. Secondly, the event introduced me to various activities that may occur at assessment centres, therefore, reducing anxieties at the actual centres.
During the event in my second year, a group of four of us participated as a team in finding an artificial intelligence solution to a problem within our society. Our team worked hard preparing for the event and performed well on the day achieving third place. The skills I learned were presentation, teamwork, and innovation. The day unfolded very similarly to the previous years with different companies and different activities to partake in. This again was beneficial for preparing for graduate scheme applications and my placement with Virgin Media.
Overall, the two events I attended provided a really good learning opportunity for life after my degree, a chance to get to know other people on the same course as me from around the country, and really improved my confidence.
How did you secure your placement at Virgin?
I began applying to placements in September 2018 just before my second year had begun. I anticipated that competition would be high and to apply as soon as I could. My university degree had also only just begun therefore, I had more time to focus on my applications. In order to help with finding out what companies were offering placement years and also in the field I was interested, I went to the Autumn careers fair at Loughborough University. It was so helpful to be able to walk away with a booklet of all of the companies and if they offered a placement year, but also to talk to people on the stands who in a lot of cases were currently on a placement or graduate scheme. I applied to the Virgin Media Technology and Innovation Internship Scheme because I had seen them at the careers fair. I applied around October/November and received a job offer in early January. I remember I got the phone call in the library whilst revising for my January exams – it was beyond exciting.
In all honesty, I completed around 30 different applications for my placement, and I had no desire for a particular company or location, but I really wanted a job that involved working with technology. The application process included an online application form, a situational judgment test, a video interview, and then the assessment centre. The application form was very easy to fill out and asked questions about your intentions to apply and why you were interested in the scheme you chose. For the situational judgment test I had practiced and done some for other companies therefore I was used to the format, but it essentially asks you about how you would react in certain situations. The video interview is a funny process, but I think part of an application that gives you the opportunity to really shine through. The assessment centre allowed me to learn a lot about the company, the offices, and the people I could potentially be working with. I actually really enjoyed my day at Virgin Media, and I think this really showed me that I could thrive here.
The team I was put in was called the Wi-Fi Testing Team and essentially, they performed all sorts of technical tests on the Wi-Fi hubs before any new software or hardware was deployed. There was never the same day-to-day because every test cycle that was performed was completely different which meant I learned so much throughout the year. For one project I was able to complete it from start to finish, therefore I was responsible for putting together a testing plan, ensuring I had all of the equipment needed, set up the testing environment, and then performing all of the individual tests. The number of tests was crazy, in that one 3-week testing cycle, I performed over 4,000 tests. Personally, I do not enjoy nor am particularly good at programming, therefore, this placement really opened my eyes to the opportunities that there were in technology without having to programme.
How did you secure a graduate role at KPMG?
As I came into my final year at Loughborough University and with the pandemic at full force, I knew this year’s graduate market would be more competitive than ever. I was beyond fortunate enough to have been offered a place on the Virgin Media Technology and Innovation Graduate Scheme to start in Autumn 2021. I was so appreciative of the opportunity however, I knew that I wanted a new challenge, and whilst my placement year taught me so much, I also knew that the telecommunications industry wasn’t where my technology interests lie. Therefore, in the summer I began preparing for the applications by going through the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers and doing research on each of the organisations figuring out if I was interested in their graduate schemes. This then led to the beginning of the application process in September 2020. I love a good excel spreadsheet therefore, I created one that enabled me to track my progress on each application. In the beginning, there was a lot of red for rejections. But eventually, I started to make progress with a few and began doing situational judgment tests, video interviews, and mathematical tests.
KPMG’s application process was very transparent and cleverly thought out. Throughout the process, I was following a company that KPMG was helping to become more technologically savvy. The first stage was transforming small businesses, and you stated how you would react in certain situations. The second stage was delivering outcomes, again similar but this included video interviews and longer style questions. The next stage was critical thinker, and this was a live mathematical test over teams. The final stage was the virtual launchpad which was an online assessment centre. Throughout the application process, I enjoyed using the same business and helping them overcome various problems. On the virtual launchpad as part of our group task, we were asked about the same business and which opportunity they should invest in. I thought this demonstrated the work that KPMG can do but also enabled the candidates to go through the process with them. The virtual launchpad also included a 40-minute interview and a reflection on your performance. Each of the members of KPMG that I spoke to was so calming and lovely and it put me at ease and enabled me to perform at my best. This was the first online assessment centre I had ever completed; therefore, I was definitely nervous. I received an offer just two days after, and the overall application process took around 2 months to complete.
I am beyond excited to begin working for KPMG in the Autumn and I still cannot really believe I did it! I would advise anyone to apply for any company that they think they would like to work for, you just never know when you are the right fit.
What was the most challenging experience of your degree?
The most challenging experience of my degree is probably my dissertation. It is such an important piece of work and I am really determined to perform well. I am completing it on cybersecurity in connected cars, which is a really interesting and thought-provoking subject. I have never completed any piece of work like this before, therefore, it is definitely a challenge and a big learning opportunity.
What would you say now, to yourself, before you enrolled on your degree?
I would say to myself to take up every opportunity thrown your way. You just never know where something will take you and what new doors it will open up. Any opportunity to meet new people, learn new things or explore a new place should be embraced.
What would you say to anyone considering a Tech Industry Gold degree?
Apply. It was the best decision I ever made, the course is so interesting, and I have really appreciated having knowledge on so many different aspects of both business management and computer science. Tech Industry Gold puts on events every year that really demonstrate all of the opportunities that there are, and I haven’t seen anything like this on any other degree course. Finally, it is a really unique course that provides so many talking points whether this be with friends, family or potential employers.
Who inspires you?
My inspiration all comes from my parents. They have done so much for me throughout my lifetime, and I cannot thank them enough. They are the reason I got to Loughborough, got my placement at Virgin Media, and my graduate job at KPMG without their support, love, and guidance I would not be the person I am today. They are my inspiration and my motivation for everything I do.
Ed: Good luck Jessica in your future career and thank you for sharing your story.