Interviews – Telecoms – Vicki Field

Vicki Field, 23, is a graduate human resources (HR) officer on a two-year graduate training scheme with Vodafone AirTouch. She joined the company in October 1998 after graduating from Durham University, where she studied combined social sciences. Vodafone employs 100 HR professionals across the UK

The Vodafone human resources graduate trainee scheme

What attracted you to Vodafone as a company?
The (graduate trainee) scheme itself was what attracted me initially. It covers all aspects of HR in two years and also gives you a lot of training at the same time. I also wanted to work for a blue chip company and saw telecoms as being an interesting sector. I didn’t really know too much more about the company to be honest.

How tough was the selection procedure?
It was quite a detailed application form followed by a telephone interview and then onto an assessment centre, which was relatively demanding. There were about 1,000 applicants for each place and four of us got jobs. HR is quite an exciting field at the moment, quite sexy. So lots of people apply for it.

What does your training involve?
It involves six months in four different companies in Vodafone: Vodafone Retail in Banbury, Vodafone Connect in Croydon and Vodafone Ltd and Vodafone UK in Newbury.

You do absolutely everything to do with HR – from recruitment and selection, down to employee relations and employment law, policy and procedure plus a lot of project work.

I’m also studying for my IPD – Institute of Personnel and Development – exams. It’s a two-year course. I go to college every week, which the company pays for.

I also get sent on a number of key courses run by the IPD in London to pick up the skills you need to do your job. These range from employment law to communication skills, to assertiveness training to counselling.

Where do you work within the company right now?
I’m in Vodafone Central Services which looks after the billing systems, providing umbrella services to the company’s distribution outlets. I’m responsible for 100 IT professionals, purchasing and logistics, marketing people, customer services and Pay As You Talk.

What do you find most rewarding about your job?
It’s very varied and really interesting. I love all aspects of it. There is a great deal of people involvement across the entire organisation.

There’s been so many little things – like the first time I did an interview. The first time I was petrified, but afterwards you feel ‘wow, I’ve done it on my own’. Those little things help build you into a mature, confident employee.

Because it is very much an internal service function your customers are the people who work within Vodafone. So when you know you’ve done a good job it is very rewarding because they are people you are building a constant relationship with, by working with them every day.

Where are your ambitions for the future?
I’m ambitious and Vodafone is a really good place to work if you are ambitious because it’s growing so rapidly there is constantly vacancies opening up. So really, I’d like to go as far as I can.

Getting into human resources at Vodafone

What advice would you give graduates looking for a career in HR?
They need to demonstrate a commitment to a HR career. So doing some work experience would be really worthwhile.

What routes are there into a HR job at Vodafone?
A graduate training scheme is the way to fast-track to officer level. But most of the people who work in HR have had varied careers and come from different aspects of the industry.

How does Vodafone select its employees?
We use a wide variety of means. For graduates we have a website where graduates can apply on line. We outsource to Park Recruitment, who also run our call centre for us. For general roles it is recruitment agencies on the web and newspaper adverts.

What qualities are you looking for in a Vodafone employee?
Someone who is used to constant change, because things literally change all the time here. That makes it particularly exciting for me. It’s not a staid, dyed-in-the-wool company, it is constantly changing and evolving.

Working in human resources

What appealed to you about working in human resources?
I was vice-president of my JCR in college and I really enjoyed that particular job, the involvement with people, and saw most elements of that as being in human resources. I then started looking more into HR and what it involved and decided that it was probably where I was going to be happiest in a career.

What steps did you take to get into human resources?
In my last year at university I began looking around graduate schemes that would give me what I was looking for. I got a bit of work experience before I left college to demonstrate to myself what I wanted to be. I started applying for jobs once I finished my degree. Vodafone was the first one I applied for and the first one I got.

What does working in HR involve?
HR is managing human resources in order to meet organisational and individual needs. So it is looking at careers goals for people and fitting that into where the orgnisation needs them to be.

Vodafone: culture, incentives

Tell me about the corporate culture at Vodafone?
It’s a young, dynamic, exciting, fast-moving company. The average age is about 30. It’s not an intention to have such a young average age and that’s not to say we don’t want to recruit more mature people. It’s just that telecoms is a young industry so it’s tended to attract young people.

Things have changed enormously in the two years I’ve been with the company. Vodafone’s on the front pages almost every week these days. Yet it’s still got quite a small company feel in terms of seeing the difference you’re making. It’s incredible to feel part of that.

What incentives does Vodafone offer employees?
We offer a number of employee schemes. These include: a buy one get one free share scheme and a save as you earn scheme. We also get 28 days holiday a year, which is brilliant.

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