Interviews – Telecoms – Anthony Hedger

Anthony Hedger, 22, is a graduate finance trainee with Vodafone Airtouch – the world’s largest mobile telecoms company. He says he gets a buzz from the commercial side of the business – looking for areas where the business can develop and grow. He told us how figures can be fun

Graduate trainee scheme

Why did you decide on a career in finance?
I started out studying chemical engineering at UMIST, but gave up the course after a year because it wasn’t quite what I wanted to do. I’ve always had a background in numbers and numerate skills and after talking to other people, family and friends I decided to do accounting and finance. I changed course and went to Lancaster University, which has a good business school.

What steps did you take to get the career you have now?
I applied to about 12 companies while at university. There was no preference initially – I just wanted a job in accountancy. At the time I had no idea how large Vodafone was, but after doing some research and finding out their growth was over 30% I realised the company was going places very quickly.

How tough was it to win a place on Vodafone’s graduate trainee scheme?
Competition for the finance programme was very fierce. I had a phone interview initially, followed by a group test. Five of us were given a selection of tests, including a psychometric test and team building exercises.

What does the traineeship involve?
The training lasts three years. The length of each placement varies depending on the amount of work that needs to be done – it could be five months, or 13 months.

I’m currently working for Vodafone Limited. Before that I worked in Value Added and Data Services, which deal with recall and SMS(Short Message Service) traffic. The idea is to get a full background of the business.

I also get time off to prepare for my chartered accountancy exams.

Rewards

What does your typical day involve?
I don’t think I’ve had one yet. We report the transactions at the end of each month – forecasting, looking back, pinpointing where revenue is coming from and bringing it to the attention of others. Finance is such a huge area – I’ve only seen a fraction of what is to come.

What is most rewarding about you work?
There are two sides to accounting. The old, numerate side where you’re recording what’s gone on in the past, and the more exciting part, the sexy side of accounting, where you look for target areas to see where the business can develop and grow.

That’s where you get the buzz – taking the numbers at their real basic level, interpreting them and then giving a clear focus – setting out your targets and objectives and following them.

What opportunities are there for finance graduates at Vodafone?
The graduate way is the best way for the sheer amount you can learn in a short space of time. For me it was the best way in, because when I finished my degree I knew a lot of theory, but had no idea how that could be of any practical use to anyone.

I have been here about nine months and am still on a steep learning curve. Each new move is a great new step. They do build on each other, so it is a progressive thing. It’s constantly challenging and demanding.

Within each department I’ve generally been moved around so I’ve seen the full area and started with the basics, doing all the purchase ledgers, accounting, forecasting and budgeting – the full range. Each new placement goes into that area in a bit more depth and I get to see the full range behind it.

What skills do you need to work in finance?
It’s important to be able to handle numbers and to be numerate. But there’s much more to it than that. You need good communication skills and know how to handle people.

It’s a case of not being too fazed by responsibility – being able to take it and run with it. You will be given a lot of opportunities. It is up to you to try to do the most you can with them.

The world’s largest mobile telecoms company

How caught up are you in the changes in the company?
The talk is always rife in the office about what is going on within the company and we’re kept fully up to date with it. We feel we are all caught up in a big adventure.

There isn’t a day that goes past that Vodafone is not in the newspapers – whether it be a new product, a new takeover or record profits. Our profits were just released recently and we had a 37% increase on turnover. This company is huge as it is and is growing at such an incredible rate. The possibilities are endless.

Is there a danger the company will grow so large it will loose its sense of identity?
It’s certainly not losing it at the moment, especially being based in Newbury where there is very much a small town atmosphere. We quite regularly all socialise together. We know each other quite well as a finance department. The company’s growing, but it’s growing in other countries.

What’s the corporate culture like at Vodafone?
I find everyone very approachable. Coming straight from university I thought it would be quite regimental and Victorian, but it’s not.

Everyone I’ve ever met has been on first name basis and warm handshakes. I get very well paid for what I do here and the holidays – 28 days a year – are great. Vodafone really does look after its staff well and really makes an effort.

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