After graduating in the Summer of 2010 I quickly found the industry in which I began my career to be completely unsuitable for my needs. I’d ended up in publishing in the academic sales department and after hitting my sales target for the year in 4 months and receiving the feedback that ‘well you should have taken your time’ I knew I wasn’t in the right job, I needed something much more than they could offer.
So when an opportunity to join Vodafone as a Junior Project Manager dropped into my lap in late 2011 I was understandably excited. Whilst I’d completed an undergraduate degree in Business Management so had some understanding of Project Management, I had no practical experience (which I did stress quite frequently during the interview process!) and to be honest, wondered whether Vodafone were making the right decision.
But despite my complete lack of experience with Networks or Project Management, Vodafone saw something in me and took a chance. That kind of backing does two things. It makes you feel incredibly grateful and loyal. But also motivates you to not let the person down who hired you! So, I threw myself into the Core Network Project Management team and tried to absorb as much technical and project management advice and experience as I could. During my time in Core I was involved with an array of projects but the two that stand out the most are the first and the last I was involved with. The first being the biggest project I’ve worked on, where we replaced the messaging infrastructure which felt pretty major for my first project! The last was a much smaller project but the first of its kind, to introduce automatic authentication on to the Wi-Fi we provided for the London Underground in partnership with Virgin Media.
Of course both projects came with their fair share of challenges but looking back now what I take most notice of is the fact no one ever questioned my abilities. My age, experience and gender counted for nothing (despite my concern at the time that they would). I was just the PM for that project and as long as I did my job (which I like to think I did!) then I was given just as much respect as any of my far more experienced colleagues. Vodafone culture just does not discriminate. If you’re good at your job, your in. It really doesn’t matter past that point.
After 18 months of Project Management I started to feel less fulfilled and if I’m honest started looking for a job elsewhere, which led to me attempting to hand in my notice of resignation. To which my manager at the time replied simply ‘no’. He recognised in me far more talent and drive than I did and knew I was better off staying in Vodafone where I could grow my career with endless opportunities at my disposal. His reaction blew me away and reminded me that despite being a huge business, Vodafone is a very personal place to work. People care deeply about what they do and about the people in their teams, and my manager wasn’t prepared to let me go without a fight because he knew it was best for me to stay with Vodafone. So we discussed my options and he arranged a secondment into the Central PMO in Core Networks, which turned out to be a defining point in my career. I suppose I’m technically still on that secondment 4 years on as I never left the world of PMO! It was like coming home and everything just slotted into place and my passion for my work and Vodafone grew tenfold, and continues to grow to this day!
Eventually as things progressed I transferred into the world of Radio Deployment in Networks and found myself working in the London Network team which surprised even myself because I’d always said I would never do the London commute. But guess what, getting up at 5am and commuting two hours to work suddenly becomes a lot easier to swallow when you love what you do. As I write this I’m the Interim Head of London PMO and loving every second of it. That’s not to say my job is easy. I have never been more challenged in my life and every day is a learning curve but that’s the great thing about Vodafone. it’s an environment that drives you onward and forces you to improve and perfect what you do, whilst giving you the breathing space to learn and make mistakes. We’re not just cogs in a machine, we are individuals who all bring something distinct to the party that is acknowledged (and exploited in the case of my severe need to always be organised?)
My ‘job’ is no longer just a job – I’m part of a family that is unbelievably driven to deliver and maintain the best London Network. It’s entirely personal and when things don’t go right we all feel it. But when things go right, we feel that ten times harder (and celebrate too!). I can’t imagine having this drive and loyalty for another company. Vodafone is completely a part of my life now, I am red through and through! And actually, whilst I probably won’t’ work in the same department for the rest of my career, my 6 years with Vodafone has taught me that when I’m ready for a change, Vodafone can accommodate that and I’ll have the full backing of my manager. The skills I’ve learnt during my time in the Project Management and PMO worlds are entirely transferable and mean I can easily switch to other departments in the business should the desire ever take me…no time soon though, who knew I’d ever be so invested in a Mobile Network!!
So in my opinion as a person 6 years into a career with Vodafone, If you’re passionate about what you do and want to feel part of an incredible organisation that is always changing and challenging itself and its employees to be better for its customers – consider Vodafone.
I look forward to seeing you around!