Tell us a little bit about you and your role at Vodafone….
I’m a Corporate and External Affairs Graduate. For those unfamiliar with CEA, it encompasses Legal, Corporate Security, Risk & Compliance, Government Affairs & Corporate Sustainability, Regulatory and External Communications. My first placement was in the Consumer Legal team, ensuring that Vodafone didn’t run afoul of advertising regulations, and the second involved promoting security awareness throughout the business for our Corporate Security team.
I’ve been with Vodafone for about a year and I’ll be joining our Social Media Strategy team in September, which is really exciting.
Will the next role be as part of the rotation or as a full time placement?
It’ll be a yearlong – my final placement on the Grad scheme.
Being part of the Discover Graduate programme you’ve been able to see many areas of the business in a relatively short time. What has been your highlight and would you recommend the programme to others?
If you want a crash course in how a major corporate organisation works, I would absolutely recommend it; few grad schemes out there give you breadth of exposure to how a business really works.
I’ve particularly enjoyed the opportunity to hear from people who are experts in their field, whether that’s inside or outside of the business. During my first placement I attended a fascinating seminar the on the future of British advertising law at the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers.
Getting involved in the Vodafone community has also been a highlight – whether that’s been raising money as part of the Graduate Charity Committee, sitting on the LGBT + Friends Network Committee in Newbury, or co-editing our grad magazine.
Would one piece of advice would you give to any grads who have joined/ will be joining the Grad scheme?
Probably to balance being flexible with having a clear set of objectives. Teams tend to really appreciate grads’ support on a wide range of work, but it’s important to have a really clear set of goals and achievements
Vodafone has made real strides towards LGBT+ inclusion recently. Have you personally noticed any change?
I have - most definitely. Vodafone’s sponsorship of Pride seems to have encouraged a lot more LGBT+ visibility around HQ. Senior leaders appear to be more vocally advocating for LGBT+ equality, which is cheering. There are positive changes to the business too – take the roll-out of the gender-neutral ‘Mx’ title in our customer records systems.
What more would you like to see?
I think compulsory training for managers on LGBT+ issues would be an effective step towards making Vodafone as open, authentic and inclusive as possible. A culture of total acceptance is where all organisations should be heading.
Did you attend Pride in London this year? What was the atmosphere like walking with Vodafone?
I did – it was great fun! I hadn’t been before so I had no idea what to expect. Being right near the front of the parade was really quite incredible. The crowd waits for ages before the parade begins so by the time you start marching they’re very pleased to see you – cheering, shouting, whooping, high-fives. One of my friends described marching near the front as a bit like being celebrity. The whole event is really warm and celebratory, like a street party times a thousand.
If there is anyone unsure about attending and getting involved with Pride (whether they identify as LGBT or as an ally) what would you say to encourage them?
Do it! I’d never been to a Pride before and thought it was really lively, enjoyable day out. The event is inclusive in the fullest sense, bringing together LGBT+ people and straight allies. Many people bring friends, partners and kids too.
Working across many teams, do you feel Vodafone is a place where you can be your whole self?
I’d say that Vodafone is pretty inclusive, but – as you might expect – there’s variation between teams and locations.
Nationally, nearly two-thirds of graduates who ‘come out’ at university go ‘back in’ when they start their first job. Many LGBT+ people still duck giving honest answers to routine questions like ‘What did you do at the weekend?”. That might be because they see their sexual orientation as career-limiting, or simply because they want to avoid creating awkwardness for colleagues.
Vodafone is – much to its credit – putting effort into LGBT-inclusion and I think we’re definitely on the right track.
Have you ever felt you we’re not able to be your whole self? Can either be within or outside the work environment.
Sure. I think most LGBT people have at least felt that way in their youth or before they were out. In terms of now, I’ll occasionally withhold from chipping in to casual conversations with people about life outside work. That’s really just because I’d be concerned about being perceived as unprofessional or prickly rather than just conversing in the same way as everyone else.
Outside of Vodafone, what are your interests?
I’m a massive theatre geek, so I tend to see a lot of drama (this weekend it’s Hamlet starring Andrew Scott – so excited!). I also read a lot, am involved in local politics and am a very amateur runner.
You recently ran as the Labour Parliamentary candidate for Newbury – and achieved the best result since 1974.
How did you manage to juggle the election and work?
To be honest, with very little sleep for about seven weeks! It was a phenomenal experience but, as you’d expect, it was a massive commitment too. Thankfully my line manager at the time was supportive and allowed me to work flexibly given the exceptional circumstances, so I was able to nip out of the office to give interviews and make public appearances when necessary.
How did you first get involved in politics and decide you wanted to run?
It’s always been a strong area of interest for me. I’ve been a party member for seven years – sometimes active, sometimes not – and studied Politics at university. I’d toyed with the idea of throwing my hat in the ring and seeking selection as the candidate, but decided to go for it after plenty of encouragement from a friend. Despite ‘true blue’ Newbury being a safe Conservative seat, I felt my party deserved a decent crack of the whip here too.