Hello and welcome to Episode 7 of #LittleChats, a subsidiary of Little Pav where I chat with fellow graduates and twenty-somethings all about their experiences during and beyond their studies to highlight the many avenues students and young people can pursue and, equally, that it’s okay not to have your life figured out in your twenties. After some time out, #LittleChats is back in full force as I have an insightful chat with a wonderful friend of mine, Georgia Bacon! Originally from London, Georgia is a 25-year-old Business Analyst at The White Company who previously completed a graduate scheme at John Lewis upon graduating from the University of Nottingham. Georgia and I met through our partners who went to school together and, as we’ve gotten to know each other better, we’ve discovered lots in common – except our heights, as she says she’s usually the small one amongst her friends, but I make her feel VERY tall (which is not uncommon for me)! With that, let’s hear about Georgia’s journey as a student, graduate and twenty-something…
Hey, Georgia! Thank you so much for chatting with me; I’m so excited to hear about your journey since graduating. Firstly, what did you study at university and why?
Hey, Sophie – thank you so much for having me!
I studied Classical Civilisation at the University of Nottingham. I found it really tricky to decide what to study at uni as my A level choices were Maths, English and Classics and I think there was a bit of pressure for me to, and an expectation that I should, choose Maths. In the end, I chose Classics because I just absolutely loved the subject! I was fortunate enough that it was taught at my school for GCSE and A level and we had some incredibly inspiring teachers who gave me such a passion for the subject. I think it was important for me to choose something that I just enjoyed learning about as that was what you were about to go and do for the next three years of your life! I followed my passion and enjoyment of the subject and I am so glad that I did.
I completely agree! Throughout your studies, you were also a member of your university’s Rowing Club. How much did this enhance your university experience?
Massively! Some of my closet friends from university are from the rowing club. I think that one of the biggest pieces of advice I could give to someone is joining a team sport whilst at university. At the beginning of my first year, I was struggling to find my place in a social group, and then one day a guy from my uni halls mentioned that they needed a cox at the rowing club – and I had been coxing whilst at school. I decided to give it a go and never looked back! At times it was gruelling, training at 7am on a Saturday morning and having to stay on longer during the Christmas holidays when everyone else had gone home to keep training, but I think that is what gives you such a close bond with your fellow athletes; we were all in it together through the highs and lows. I won a BUCS Gold Medal with two of my now absolute best friends and it was one of the best experiences of my time at university. There is a lot of comradery in sport and at times the boat club felt like a second home!
You’re the only graduate I know who successfully landed, and better yet completed, a graduate scheme! Talk to us about the scheme, from the application process to your day-to-day responsibilities.
Applying for graduate schemes is tough and I think anyone who decides to apply to any of them should be commended whether they are successful or not. The rate of success is ridiculous, and I honestly think sometimes it is just down to sheer luck! I applied for the John Lewis IT Graduate Scheme which was probably the 20th or so scheme I had applied for. So far, I had had no luck and had barely made it past the first round of online screening for most of the other schemes. One of the biggest things I struggled with was the numerical online tests; although I had a maths A level, I had been learning about tombs and ancient Rome for the last two-and-a-half years! After not passing a fair few of them for other schemes, I genuinely went on BBC Bitesize revision and reminded myself how to do basic things! Although it seems silly, I think being able to score reasonably well on the initial tests for a graduate scheme is important as it is the first place where they will just cull you if you don’t get a certain score. The next round was a video interview, but one of those horrible ones where you get a question pop up on the screen and you have one minute to record your answer. After passing that, I was finally invited to an assessment centre which was a full day of team tasks such as coming up with presentations together, an individual task of a presentation and finally an interview with a Director. These days are exhausting and a lot of the people I was there with had been to multiple, but this was my first and only one! I think it took place early in January and I found out in February that I had got the job.
Starting the scheme was really exciting. We had a few inductions over the summer with our fellow grads and then started in the September. The first six weeks were called ‘grad-lab’ where we explored different areas of the business and had presentations with a wide range of people. It was actually pretty exhausting as it was essentially 9-5 back-to-back meetings – a great insight into the working world! The scheme was structured in such a way that you rotated through five different areas of IT across two years, and after this you would specialise in an area and be expected to pass an interview for that role by the end of the third year. We were the last intake of grads at John Lewis, so it has to be said we definitely got left to fend for ourselves a lot of the time and I think the experience of previous grads before us was vastly different. Although each role could come with a varying set of qualifications we could take, we had to really push to be offered them, and then in the end I think most of us only sat exams in the area we had decided to specialise in. The roles we got put into varied massively in terms of the job you were required to do, with a lot of business areas seeing you as just a free resource to help with the admin! Although at times it was really tough to feel like you were doing something actually useful, when you did find yourself in a good role, you really had to make the most of it! I think after about the first year and a half I was onto my final role before specialisation and I joined a team as a Business Analyst. I absolutely loved the role and then, just after the end of my second year, I sat my interview and was given the full-time position.
And now, you’re working as a Business Analyst at The White Company! Do you think you would have ever considered this pathway had you not completed that scheme?
Definitely not, I had no idea what a Business Analyst even was! The scheme gave me a great insight into the variety of roles (testing, project management, operations, development and BA!) and I was also fortunate enough to have sat the first four of my BCS exams (a diploma in Business Analysis). I also think working for a retailer was such a valuable experience and I have developed a passion for retail. John Lewis was a massive company and we worked across both Waitrose and John Lewis at times; it was great to work for such a large organisation and it also gave me an insight into what I liked and disliked about it. I knew that my next move would definitely be to a much smaller company and that was one of the reasons I chose to work for The White Company! I think John Lewis had around 85,000 employees and TWC has under 2000!
Wow! Also, you started your new role remotely due to the global pandemic. What’s the biggest challenge this has raised for you?
I have been working in my new role for over six months now and there are still really key members of my team that I am yet to meet! It can be challenging working very closely with people that you have never met face to face, because a lot of their mannerisms can be really difficult to pick up on over video calls. The team have been amazing, and I do feel like I have settled in really well, but the first few weeks were definitely daunting not being able to meet people face to face. I think it was even harder to build relationships with people because you don’t have the usual coffee machine chats and general catch ups so, when I was in my first few weeks still settling in, there were times when it felt quite scary and lonely. But I am very fortunate that my team are so welcoming; we have regular catch ups and, even the members I haven’t met, I feel like I have got to know them really well. I have been to my office three times now, but it still feels like the first day of school nerves! Not knowing where to sit, who people are or where I can grab a coffee. I think when we go back to the office more permanently, I will be faced with different challenges – knowing all the people from video calls but being in a totally new environment with them!
Finally, if you could give your first-year self any piece of advice, what would it be?
Believe in myself a lot more, be a little bit more carefree and try to enjoy each day, good or bad. Truly own who you are and stop worrying so much about what other people think – everything will work out for the best in the end, and if it hasn’t yet, then it isn’t the end!
I love that! Thank you so much for your time, Georgia!
How amazing! There is so much to learn from Georgia’s story: the importance of enhancing your university experience be it through joining a sports team or society; the challenges of landing a graduate scheme and making the most of such an opportunity; and believing in your abilities which will ultimately lead to wonderful things! If you are applying or wish to apply to graduate schemes in future, I hope Georgia’s story has given you an insight into what you can expect and, like she said, you should be commended whether you’re successful or not because the application process can be painstaking in itself! Keep trying – the right thing will come at the right time!
Did you enjoy Georgia’s story? Stay tuned for more stories from fellow graduates and twenty-somethings on #LittleChats!