Interviews – Telecoms – Carol Armstrong

Carol Armstrong, 24, graduated in 1999 with an MSc in Natural Sciences. As a result of a twelve-week work placement in the summer of 1998, she was offered a job at BT when she graduated

What is your role?
I work in a business innovation team, which advises companies on how to exploit technology, both in terms of the way they work now and the way they’ll work in the future. This involves knowing about technology and being able to communicate its potential, understanding the customer’s business and the market they operate in, and creating propositions for customers based on their business.

How does this relate to the rest of the company?
My team sits in BTexaCT – the advanced communications technology arm of the company. Many of our propositions are based on work going on in the rest of the company as well as outside. We’re also involved in finding routes to market for new BT products.

How did you get the job?
As a result of my student placement – I was offered a job working in the same team at the end of it, so I must have been doing something right! The normal entry requirement is a degree at 2:1 class. I’ve now worked here for 16 months.

How many positions are there for graduates?
There are 500 positions for graduates each year across BT as a whole, and around 200 in BTexaCT.

What training did you do?
There’s a two-year graduate programme, comprising on-the-job training and courses in basic management skills, presentations, what BT does, problem-solving and commercial awareness, as well as things like safety and security. There are lots of opportunities if you want to do other training – either related to your job or to try something new. Work shadowing and secondments are also a possibility, and they are a good way to find out about other parts of the business.

Is there much client contact in your role?
My job has a high level of customer interaction, which I enjoy, but it depends on where you work and what you do – some roles have very little contact.

Did you know what to expect when you took up the role?
Although I had worked here before, things change so quickly that when I came back I was doing something very different. The telecoms industry is changing so rapidly, that anyone working in it has to be ready to change direction at any time – that’s what makes it an exciting arena to work in. We work very flexible hours too, which I like.

What achievement are you most proud of?
I’ve been involved in writing and presenting two schools technology lectures for 14 to 16 year olds. They were extremely hard work, but also great fun and an ideal way to overcome stage fright!

What characteristics does someone doing your job need?
Enthusiasm, creativity, good people skills, technology and commercial awareness, and being open to ideas (even if they do seem a bit odd at first!).

What skills have you developed working at BT?
I’m a lot more aware of what’s going on in both the business and technology worlds. I’ve also developed web page design, presentation and communication skills.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Probably doing something completely different to what I do now, a new exciting challenge.

What advice would you give to undergraduates or recent graduates looking for a similar role in telecoms?
Go for it – be prepared to be flexible and turn your hand to anything.

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