Ellie is on a Lloyds Banking Group Higher Apprenticeship in Project Management. What has she discovered so far?
Project management – ‘Keep it on track’
“I’ve coached athletics and taught swimming, so I know that timings are important, and this is so true when you’re learning to manage projects in a big organisation.
“How do you juggle the balls without dropping them? How do you keep a project on track?
“It’s like playing Centre in a netball team, where the ball keeps coming to you, and you have to decide where to distribute it – that’s project management.”
Support – ‘Don’t be shy of senior people’
“Also, how do you ask very busy senior people to deliver project information by a certain time?
“I can get a bit nervous about this because I’m still quite new, but my line manager is brilliant at supporting me.
“And senior people actually respond very positively, which makes me feel valued in the team.
“This is probably because they’ve have been where you are and know how you feel, so there’s no need to be shy of them.”
Early days – ‘So many different opportunities’
“I started to think about getting a job rather than going to university when I was in my second year of sixth form college.
“I’d already got a place at my chosen university, so it was quite late in the day when I came across this project management apprenticeship and had a sudden re-think.
“I thought, ‘why not?’ – I wasn’t so sure about a career in a big banking group, but when I arrived I was surprised at how broad the business is, with so many different opportunities.”
Opportunities – ‘Think big’
“The traditional image of Lloyds Bank being a bank with branches is just one aspect of an organisation that’s far bigger.
“For a start, there are three high street brands, not just one –Halifax and Bank of Scotland are also part of Lloyds Banking Group.
“It’s the UK’s largest financial services organisation, so think big – because that’s what you’ll get!”
Strengths – ‘Finding solutions together’
“I’m a people person – always have been. I love helping others to develop, and as a result, I develop too.
“I like finding solutions together, working out how we can surmount difficulties, get ahead and find a better way.
“At school I coached and mentored younger pupils, in sport and academically. And at sixth form college I volunteered at a special needs school as a swimming teacher.
“Supporting young people with special needs is something I’m passionate about, because we should all have the opportunity to enjoy sport.
“This special needs voluntary work has helped me to appreciate that everyone’s personal circumstances are very different, and at work I recognise this too.
“I notice how people go about things differently, and have different working styles, so I look for ways to harness these different styles to get things done.”
Current job – ‘Learning when to challenge’
“Right now I’m leading the communications of each phase of a key project.
“I work alongside senior stakeholders – senior people with vested interests in the programme – and I’m discovering how to manage their expectations, learning when to challenge, when to negotiate, and in what manner.”
Agile working – ‘It’s big here’
“My team’s big on agile working – by that I mean working remotely, on the move or at home, with your laptop, and other devices that make work more flexible and mobile.
“It’s great to be able to work closer to home, or at home, but face to face sessions are also really important.
“For instance, you can’t do an effective project workshop without having everyone physically around the same table.
There are times when you have to working very closely together to define the objectives that will achieve the right solutions.”
Development – ‘Valuable on the job learning’
“I have weekly catch ups with my line manager, where we discuss the successes and challenges of the previous week, and discover what can be learnt from them.
“My relationship with my line manager is very important – she’s highly professional in the way she guides me towards solutions.
“She’s there to support me through situations that she’s been in before and that I’m starting to experience, so it’s very effective on the job learning.”
Exams – ‘100% support’
“Being on a Higher Apprenticeship, I have to take time out to study for exams that lead to industry-recognised qualifications.
“This means I sometimes attend formal classes and other training sessions, which take me away from my actual job.
“But because the Group is committed to supporting apprentices like me in our development journeys, my line manager is absolutely fine about me taking the necessary time out – in fact she supports me 100%.”
Teamwork – ‘It’s a fantastic energy’
“As I said earlier, I’m a people person, so teamwork is something I’ve always felt comfortable with.
“And that’s true whether I’m helping swimmers with special needs, coaching the girls at school on the athletic track, or pulling together to meet a looming deadline on a project.
“I’ve discovered that the energy we generate through good teamwork is fantastic – it brings excellent results.
“In fact, it’s motivated me to take up netball again, and now I play twice a week, which is really good for me and my sense of teamwork.
“Teamwork at work, teamwork on the netball court, teamwork poolside and trackside – I love seeing others thrive in a team. We come up with solutions that make great things happen!”
Key moment – ‘My first presentation’
“The first time I presented and led in a project meeting was a game-changer for me. I was so nervous!
“It sounds like such a small thing to be proud of, but at the time I lacked a lot of confidence, so throwing myself in like that, with my line manager’s support, was a definitely a defining moment.
“It was like a relief – to actually come out of my comfort zone – and I discovered strengths inside myself that I didn’t know I had before.”
Finally – ‘My advice to you’
“If you’re thinking of applying for a Lloyds Banking Group Apprenticeship, the first thing you should know is that everyone here is extremely supportive.
“The Group really values apprentices – people want to get to know you, and to support and guide you the best way they can.
“The line managers are expert at helping you find your feet – please don’t think that because it’s such a big organisation you won’t receive the support you need – you will – more than you can imagine.
“For me, now, my confidence is growing and I’m discovering lots of projects that I could get involved in.
“But I’m sticking to one and trying not to run before I can walk. With all this organising, all these deadlines, all this juggling – I don’t want to drop anything!”
Projects are about people – listening, organising, motivating, making sure we hit our deadlines