Meet Lauren, a Columbus Graduate

Hear from Lauren Gallagher's, a Columbus graduate on her experience on the programme so far!Lauren joined Vodafone UK on the Discover programme back in 2014 after graduating in Philosophy. Her experience over the two years was challenging as she worked across Marketing, Sales and Operations, delivering projects to some of our largest Enterprise customers. During this time, Lauren was even posted to Johannesburg, South Africa for six months to drive performance improvements in one of our outsourced contact centres. However, Lauren had her sight set on the Columbus programme from the outset. So when she found out she’d been successful and would be moving to Vodafone India to join their Digital team, she was ecstatic.

“The exciting thing about the Columbus Programme is that you don’t choose the country you’ll be moving to. You find out the market you’ll be posted to only after you’ve been told you’re successful, so you have to be in it for the right reasons.”"When I was applying for the scheme, I made it clear that I was keen to move to a market that was totally different to the UK so as to maximise my exposure to change… and well, India is certainly a very different market! We have over 210 million customers, split across 22 different sub-markets known as ‘Circles’ - it’s a huge business.”

How has the challenge been so far?“Incredible, challenging & comfort-zone-boundary-pushing!”As part of the digital team, who manage the My Vodafone App and their website, Lauren’s role is predominantly focused around driving digital service and customer experience.“No two days have been the same for me during my first three months here in India. The Indian market is phenomenally competitive. But although the competitive climate is tough, the response from the team out here has been fierce. Since price has become less and less of a differentiator for customers, providing an experience that’s worth writing home about is ever-more critical, and that's where our focus is. The merger with Idea, which is now in full flow, will make us the largest telecom operator in all of India and will help us counter the ferocious price-war.""And having the opportunity to be a part of the market at this tipping-point in the company’s future, is incredibly exciting!”

“Adapting to the culture hasn’t been easy, ways of getting things done out here are completely different to everything I was used to, but adapting is all part of the excitement! My new team here in India have made me feel very welcome and there’s a great team energy.""One of my favourite things about the culture is how friendly and welcoming I have found people to be, particularly when it comes to food! At lunch time, or whenever someone brings treats into the office, everything is offered, shared and eaten with real enthusiasm and as a foodie, I love this part of the Indian culture!” 

Why did you apply for the programme?“Since joining the company, getting onto the Columbus programme had been my goal. I get a real buzz from testing my limits, pushing myself and embracing new challenges: I believe it’s when you’re firmly outside your comfort zone that you find out what you’re really capable of achieving, which can be a very rewarding experience.”I had seized the opportunity of my first international assignment in South Africa with both hands. The experience affirmed to me that whilst international roles would be challenging, you’d come out the other side as a more confident and capable individual.When the opportunity came to apply for Columbus, I didn’t think twice.”What advice would you give to others considering the programme?“My advice to other grads looking at the programme: if you fancy the Columbus programme because it’ll be a great opportunity to top up your tan and make your Instagram followers jealous, then it’s probably not for you.”

On the other hand, if you’re ready to throw yourself into a new culture, a new country, a new role, and an experience that will push and develop your potential in entirely new and different ways, then look no further!You need to be patient - finding you the right-fit role, and completing the full immigration process can take some time, and it’s really important that you can adapt quickly and land on your feet. If this sounds like you, then I would absolutely urge you to apply - such opportunities don’t come up every day."Ahead Lauren’s assignment, she was supported by the UK & Group HR with the finalisation of her assignment details, visa application and immigration process.“Once I arrived in Mumbai, I was helped to find accommodation which was very useful, as with a population of over 20 million, finding a place to rent in Mumbai can be a major task in itself.”

“After that, I’ve pretty much been left to get stuck-in and get learning. I’ve been given a mentor from Group who is always there for me if I need a sounding-board, and I’m in regular contact with my colleagues back in the UK, as it is key to not lose touch with your home network whilst you’re on assignment.”How has the experience changed your outlook for the future?“My experience so far has definitely helped me appreciate how diverse different cultures can be, and the need to flex your approach and adapt to that culture in order to get things done.” In the future, Lauren’s ambition is to progress into a leadership role within Vodafone.“I’d be excited to explore different markets and look to further global roles that would put my experience to good use!”What’s the one thing you miss the most from your home market?“If I had to pick one thing I really miss…it would be really good cheese! You can’t find decent cheese easily here in India, and if you do find it, it’s imported and incredibly expensive. My friend who is coming to visit in a few weeks has been instructed to try and bring some out with him. I’m not sure how it will travel, but I’m hoping it’s going to fix my craving…”“P.S. Of course, I miss my family and friends very much too!”

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