There are so many great graduate schemes around — at least, that’s how it seems from the blurb on the companies’ websites. But what is the truth?
At Graduate Fog, we think the best way to find answers is simply to ask questions.
So, in the first of a new series revealing the truth about some of the UK’s most talked-about graduate schemes, Graduate Fog grilled those in the know about E.ON’s IT and Business Change scheme…
What is the IT and Business Change scheme all about?
GARY: “What you get working here is the chance to re-imagine E.ON and remake the way we, and potentially the whole energy sector, works. The sector is transforming at warp speed and, in the role of IT Business Analyst or Project Manager it means you could find yourself doing anything from establishing how IT can maximise business efficiency and deliver competitive edge to rolling out new and innovative applications and technologies. The challenges will come thick and fast, and give you the chance to pick up valuable qualifications as you progress through the scheme.
“In the coming years E.ON will put a strong focus on innovation and digitalisation which means an increasing importance on IT. Mobile collaboration, Social Media, Big Data, Smart Grid, Smart Meter and interactive sales will play a key role and will allow new business models. Within the UK IT Graduate Scheme you will take a global company perspective through placements in different E.ON businesses in the UK and abroad. The international placement is a fixed part of your program. Cities such as Berlin, Paris, Budapest or MalmÃ¶ could be your next job locations.”
Alex and Muhammed, what attracted you to the E.ON IT and Business Change scheme?
ALEX: “I decided to apply as I’d gained a lot of experience in a number of software development internships before and while at university. While on these internships I realised that software development was something I was good at but did not give me the scope for change or the wide level of experiences that I saw the managers and business change members of these businesses had. Therefore when applying for graduate schemes in my last year of university I tried to find something that combined the use of my knowledge as a Computer Scientist and my passion for technology with my desire to challenge myself in the new area of management and business change. The E.ON IT and Business Change scheme seemed like a perfect fit.”
MUHAMMED: “For me, the most appealing factor was the fact that you get to ‘try before you buy.’ It is one of the few graduate schemes that allow you the freedom to choose your placements and gain real life experience before making the decision to pursue a specific career (Project Manager, Strategic Analyst or IT Business Analyst etc.). That really swung it for me.”
When should graduates apply and what does the application process involve?
GARY: The scheme starts in September. For 2017’s intake, we’ve just extended the deadline to 20 February, so get going if you want to apply! You can apply via our website, where you’ll also find lots more information about the scheme and E.ON as a company.”
Does it matter where an applicant studied?
GARY: “No, we accept graduates from any university. At E.ON we want as broad a range of people as possible. E.ON is committed to equal opportunities and actively promotes diversity, equality and flexibility.”
What personal qualities are you looking for in applicants?
GARY: “We want people with a mind set for relentless improvement, far-sighted people who have the abilities and attitude to open up new and exciting possibilities for the application of technology to drive commercial success. It’s about having that winning combination of passion and skills.”
How is the scheme structured?
GARY: “The IT and Business Change scheme starts in September 2017 and lasts 24 months, split into four six-month placements. During these placements you will develop the skills of Project Management, Business Analytics, Requirements Analysis and the final placement has a strong focus on Strategic steering of the Business.”
From the perspective of candidates, what was EON’s application process like?
MUHAMMED: “Very clearly defined on the careers site, and E.ON were exceptionally efficient in getting back to me with progress updates. The timelines were a bit different the year I applied to what they are now, but I submitted my application early October 2014, and attended the assessment centre before the Christmas break 2014. The next day, E.ON informed me of the outcome and made me an offer of employment!”
ALEX: “The initial online assessment was very easy to understand and follow compared to some of the other online assessments I had completed for other employers, which used older, less user-friendly tools. As I am dyslexic I asked E.ON for extra time in the assessments and they got back to me within minutes with an extended time limit for my tests. I then moved on to a telephone interview which was arranged within a day of passing the online assessment. The telephone interviewer was very much interested in what I had to say and I particularly enjoyed the natural way the interview was held. Finally I was invited to a full day assessment centre, with my choice of dates, in Nottingham. E.ON were very clear about what was expected from the day, they invited us to dinner the night before with some current grads so we could get a direct touch point with someone already on the scheme and have a discussion about what it was actually like being on the scheme. The assessment day was well structured and one of the parts that separated the E.ON assessment centres from others was the focus on the individual. I appreciated having one-to-one interviews with members of the business unit I was going into which allowed me to have discussions and conversations that were much more focused on what I was interested in rather than being one of many being assessed in a generic fashion by HR representatives only. I found out about actually getting a place within a couple of weeks of the assessment centre and I was kept up-to-date by the HR team the entire waiting period.”
Does E.ON only accept applications from IT or computer science graduates?
GARY: “No, but we do ask that you have some sort of background in IT. That means you’ll need to have — or be on track to achieve — a 2:1 Bachelor’s (or equivalent) in IT, Computer Science or a business-related degree and have a passion for IT and how it can enable the Business.”
It sounds like E.ON aren’t too strict about what degree subject applicants to the IT and Business Change scheme have. Graduates, among your friends on the scheme, can you give us an idea of what subjects some of them have studied at uni?
ALEX: “A fellow grad in my year of the scheme studied Management with areas in technology and had a year in industry in Germany which is fascinating to hear about. I also have a German colleague who is on the scheme who studied Meteorology at university which has actually come in useful when developing algorithms for wind farm positioning.”
Why do you think E.ON don’t mind too much exactly what degree subject you’ve studied? If you had any gaps in your knowledge, did they help you with extra training?
MUHAMMED: “Although I studied an IT focused degree with business elements, I feel that I have learnt more on the scheme than I did in my three years in university. It’s hard to explain but it’s as if university teaches you how to put words together by teaching you theoretical principles, whereas employment teaches you to construct sentences using the words you were taught to put together by applying your theoretical knowledge through real life experience in a fast-paced and challenging environment.”
ALEX: “I think it is more important to E.ON that they hire someone that has the right approach to learning and is willing to adapt and change to a situation rather than hiring someone entirely based on the knowledge they’ve gained from their degree. Much of the job is about handling change, working with people and complex problem-solving. These are skills that are hard to determine from what degree subject you studied at university. The E.ON scheme has been very good at giving me all the training I have needed to be successful at my job. It started with a few that were part of all the Graduate Schemes at E.ON. These included an Introduction to Project Management, an Introduction to the Energy Business, a Workshop for Intercultural Effectiveness and a Safety, Health & Environmental Awareness course. Then for the IT scheme specifically I completed the ITIL Foundation Certificate in IT Service Management and the APM Project Management Qualification. I was also able to carry out training in areas that I wanted to gain experience in that I thought would bring value to E.ON. I completed a BCS Practitioner in Agile with VFQ course and I was able to become a qualified Scrum Master with Scrum.org. I was also able to attend numerous internal training courses as well.”
Where is the scheme based?
MUHAMMED: “It is entirely up to you to dictate where you will be based and during some periods you may be based in the same location as other IT and Business Change graduates. Within the UK you have the option of working from either Nottingham or Coventry depending on which placement you pick.”
ALEX: “I have had two six-month placements in the UK so far. The first was in Coventry in the E.ON Head Office. The second was in one of E.ON’s Nottingham offices in Sherwood Business Park. Through both placements it was necessary to travel from on office to another though as much of the IT and business change happens in both offices.”
Graduates, can you tell us about your international placement? What options were you given and how did you pick where to go?
MUHAMMED: “I am currently due to end my international placement in Hanover (Germany) next month. However, it has been my most enjoyable yet challenging placement to date as I have been given the opportunity to lead and deliver my own projects, add real value and even deliver a presentation to a member of the E.ON Business Services (EBS) board. As a graduate it is your responsibility to find your own placement by using your network of contacts (developed in your first and second placements), mentor, buddies and ex/current graduates. As daunting as it may sound, I was surprised to learn that there are numerous international business units within IT that are keen to offer graduates a placement. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming.”
ALEX: “When it came to planning my international placement, I had a few contacts in the international business that put me in touch with interesting people in other E.ON countries. The main options I had were between Essen in Germany and Malmo in Sweden, but there was also the possibility of working in Italy, Romania and Hungry as well. In the end I chose Sweden mainly because the placement itself seemed the most interesting. I concluded that enjoying and being challenged by the work was the most important factor for me. I’ve had a wonderful time in Sweden. My work colleagues have been so accommodating and I have made many friends with the graduate community based in Sweden. ‘After Works’ social events are a popular practice in Sweden so I have been able to get to know a lot of my colleagues very well. I have also loved working with the team I have in Sweden, being able to support and carry out changes and innovations that will allow E.ON as a business to stay competitive in the ever-changing market place of the energy industry. I think what I have enjoyed most about Sweden is the openness and friendliness of everyone I meet here. That and the saffron buns…”
What is the salary and what are the typical working hours?
GARY: “The starting salary is £29,000 and the hours are 8am to 5pm, although this can vary a little.”
MUHAMMED: “One thing I have learnt from my time on the scheme is that you have a varying degree of flexibility on your working hours, although this is at each manager’s discretion.”
What sort of supervision can graduates expect on the E.ON IT and Business Change graduate scheme?
GARY: “You’ll have regular discussions with the IT Graduate Scheme lead throughout your two-year scheme. Every graduate is assigned a Senior IT Manager as their Mentor, as well as a ‘Buddy’ — an existing or past graduate trainee — to answer the day-to-day questions and give informal guidance. For each placement, graduates will have a senior placement manager who will support and tutor them through the specific skill needed for that placement.”
Graduates, do you feel well supervised and supported on the E.ON IT and Business Change graduate scheme?
ALEX: “Yes, the support for the scheme has been excellent. In HR the graduates are assigned a Graduate HR representative who you can contact whenever you have any questions about HR matters. As an IT and Business Change Scheme we have a Scheme Lead who supports us in matters to do with the scheme, the initial set up, placement, how the scheme works and what is expected from us. He has always been approachable and available for our questions. We are also given a Mentor from the senior management, this is someone who has many years’ experience in the business and can help us with planning our career path and giving us their experience of the business and Industry. Finally we are also assigned a Buddy who is from the previous year’s intake of graduates who can answer all your smaller questions about the ins and outs of the scheme.
“On the scheme itself I have had very engaged managers. For my second placement I would sit next to my manager and we worked as a team so there was no hesitation when I had a question or needed help with something I could go to him whenever. One example of this was when I was looking for an international placement. I asked my manager what he recommended and he mentioned that he had worked previously in Sweden and knew a really excellent team in Sweden I could work with. He contacted the people he used to work with and made an introduction for me so that I was able to get my current international placement.”
MUHAMMED: “I certainly agree that we are well supported, however in terms of supervision we are given the freedom to carry out our day-to-day responsibilities and not ‘micro-managed’. In all of my placements to date I have catch-up meetings every two weeks with my managers to discuss my progress and ask for support as and when required. In addition to this, I have the support of a mentor who is a senior business leader and a buddy who is a graduate who has completed their graduate scheme.”
And how about on your international placement?
MUHAMMED: “By the end of my placement I was given the freedom to lead and deliver several projects with minimal supervision, which was great. This was due to the fact that I was given the opportunity to build up trust with my manager over time, by consistently meeting his expectations so he had confidence in my abilities to get on with the projects fairly independently by the end.”
ALEX: “I agree that E.ON like to give their graduates as much responsibility as they think we are ready for. I was given a very clear and challenging task by my line manager in Sweden. I was then given the freedom to approach the problem the way I thought best. It has been absolutely incredible to be given such responsibility and actually be able to bring ideas to reality.”
What’s next? What do people who finish the scheme typically go on to do afterwards?
GARY: “Past graduate trainees have gone on to work as senior Project Managers, Team Leaders, Portfolio Managers and in some cases are now People Managers, managing international teams in both the UK and Germany.”
ALEX: “My scheme ends in September this year. I want to continue on the journey I have begun on improving ways of working in E.ON and helping people in IT and Business Change to innovate and get ideas fast to market so that E.ON can stay ahead of the constantly changing digital landscape. I am excited in getting more involved in this area as it allows me to support colleagues to achieve their best and help to relieve the pain points they current encounter in their day-to-day work.”
MUHAMMED: “Like Alex, I’m due to finish the scheme mid-September 2017. I am still exploring my options based on my interests and development needs. In terms of my future options and the next steps, it is unclear as there is no graduate career map once you finish the graduate scheme. That is exciting as it means I have lots of options.”
Two final questions for the graduates… What is the best thing about the E.ON IT and Business Change scheme, and would you recommend it to other students and graduates?
ALEX: “Yes, I would most definitely recommend this scheme to others. I think the best thing about it is the freedom you’re given to find a role that you can bring most value to for the business. Once you find this area you are given the support to excel and achieve more than is expected of you. For example, I had a role in the UK where I was asked to support in improving the time to market of the retail website. I was able to get involved directly with senior management consultants on introducing new ways of working into the business and recommend some areas of improvements myself that I was then able to implement.”
MUHAMMED: “I would certainly recommend the scheme. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been given the opportunity to ‘try before I buy’ and add real value to the organisation. Unlike many other graduate schemes where you chose your specialism before you start, this graduate scheme has allowed me to understand the IT specialism that appeals to me the most before committing to it long-term, so I feel very grateful for that.”
*WANT TO APPLY?
Applications for the E.ON IT and Business Change graduate scheme will close on 20 February 2017. For more info and tips about how to apply, click here