Interviews – Telecoms – Andy Hazel

Andy Hazell, 24, was taken on as a marketing graduate trainee by Vodafone in September 1999. Over the next two years he will be working across four different divisions to get an overview of the whole marketing process

How to get ahead in marketing

What steps did you take to get into marketing?
I studied French and management studies at Nottingham University and really enjoyed the marketing modules.

When I graduated I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Through a family friend I got three month’s unpaid placement in the events department of a sports marketing company which then led to a five month contract.

What appealed to you about marketing?
The advertising side of marketing interested me. I want to work at the frontline, not behinds the scenes, and produce something visible to the general public.

Getting into Vodafone

What made you choose Vodafone?
I knew telecoms was a fast growing industry so I applied to a number of blue chip companies, including Vodafone. At that time I knew relatively little about Vodafone but did quite a bit of research to prepare for my first interview.

How tough was it to be accepted as a graduate trainee with Vodafone?
It was tough and very competitive. There was an initial application form, followed by an interview and a psychometric test.

I then went to an assessment centre. The evaluation lasted a whole day. Although it was quite relaxed and informal, the pressure was on to see how you can communicate and get on with others.

We had to prepare a presentation in the morning and present it to a group later on in the day. That was quite stressful as you were thinking about it all day. They asked some very awkward, tough questions about the presentation.

Some of the group exercises were very unusual, for example, our group of seven was blindfolded and told to arrange some shapes into a triangle. They wanted to see how well you could work as a team when some of your capabilities were taken away.

Working for Vodafone

What does the graduate training scheme involve?
The marketing scheme lasts two years and you get to work across four different marketing divisions so you get a good overview of the whole marketing process.

I worked for six months in the Business Division, where we developed tariff structures targeted to our small business customers. This involved working closely with the market research team to find out more about small businesses and work out the best tariffs.

I am in my second six month placement in Marketing Communications where I work on the marketing material that you see in our shops.

When the two year scheme is over, you discuss your strengths and weaknesses with your mentor and line manager and then decide on a sector.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
I’ve learnt an awful lot in the last nine months about how to communicate with customers to help make a product they want to buy. It’s also very satisfying to see a project through from beginning to end and produce something tangible.

Forging the direction of the company and working on its image brings you into close contact with the top people at Vodafone and you have the opportunity to influence the direction of the company. You feel highly valued.

Which sector of marketing interests you the most?
I enjoy developing strategies to create better products for our customers. I like to have an input into all aspects of the project rather than to be given one function to perform. Working with our small business customers is satisfying for that reason.

I’m looking forward to the next few years and the possibility of working for Vodafone overseas, perhaps Australia.

What skills do you need to become a good marketer?
You need to be both creative and organised. People think marketing is exciting but there’s also a large element of market research so you have to be analytical and good with figures. You also need to develop a good understanding of what the public wants so you can give them the products they want.

What are the perks of the job?
Vodafone pay graduates very well, which goes a long way when you’re based outside London. Other benefits, such as five week holiday entitlement, health discounts and a pension scheme, are very generous.

What’s the company culture like?
It’s a very young and lively company. They’ve also introduced ‘dress down Friday’ in the department, so it’s becoming more relaxed.

What advice would you give to graduates who want a career in marketing?
You need to be a natural communicator – something you can’t be taught. Ask yourself if you like and understand people. Try to put yourself in other peoples’ shoes.

On a practical level, try to find out as much as you can about the day to day job of a marketer. There are many different aspects to marketing, not all of them obvious.

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