25th October 2022

My journey from graduate to management at Vodafone

Patrick Smith
Associate Incident Manager

I found the Vodafone Graduate scheme on an app targeted at technology graduates. I’d just come off my MSc in Computer Games from Essex Uni and honestly thought I’d never be accepted as I had zero work experience. To my surprise, I was so happy to get that email offering me a place at Vodafone – I actually ended up with another job offer from a financial tech company too, but went with Vodafone because I felt there was more I could experience and learn from outside of the narrow fintech field.

The graduate programme was amazing, but when it came to off-boarding, I initially struggled to find a role that I could envision myself working in. I wasn’t quite a software engineer, and I had no business/management role experience. So, I sat on an awkward fence and applied for about 20 different roles in the view that I could cast my net wide and ‘learn-by-doing’.

I applied for the Cyber Defence Associate Incident Manager role quite late into the process, and the request came back for a presentation on ‘What is the biggest cyber threat to Vodafone?’. I spent the next four hours researching. Although I didn’t need to go into depth, I felt passionate about the topic and answer. It was the only role where I felt like talking about it, researching it and building my strengths on and off-work. And I got the job!

Experiencing the grad programme

I was in the graduate programme for two years, working in a variety of teams:

Consumer IT
My focus was on innovation and improving the customer experience. I prototyped and came up with a couple proof of concepts including ‘Vodafone Tinder’, a profiling tool which would take in metrics of what existing customers preferences were and provide smart recommendations based on simple and easy-to-understand terms. For example, not everyone needs a high megapixel camera if they rarely use it – they might prefer it to be faster instead. These ideas were taken over by the team when I moved on six months later.

VOIS Architecture Team
With no previous experience in architecture, I joined this one just in time for COVID lockdown. Our team was very keen to create a programme where we could support both Vodafone colleagues and customers during COVID and we created the ‘COVID-19 Initiative’ programme. The programme was run through the 3rd party Pollen8 programme who I met with on a semi-daily basis as an organiser. We had approximately 4000 page views, and 200 innovative ideas submitted by engineers and teams over the course of the campaign. The winners were decided in a senior management judges panel and subsequently funded/supported.

ITSM – ServiceNow Team
My primary responsibilities were managing changes to the catalogue, updating the code base and engaging service owners for updates and issues. I enjoyed this role as it allowed me to develop my software engineering experience while also allowing me to take on a level of product ownership and responsibility for the platform as a whole. It was here that I started to realise I wasn’t necessarily enjoying software engineering as much as I had expected and wanted a change into a more management-style role. I felt I could play to my strengths more as a communicator and technical-minded product owner.

Where I’m at now

As I’ve transitioned from a software/technical role to a management-focused role, I’ve faced the challenge of my mindset.

In many ways, it’s really useful to have at least a ‘sense’ of what your technical stakeholders are discussing at the same time as trying to summarise it for people with less technical experience. But it’s also presented challenges where I find myself on the fence frequently, lacking the technical expertise to know the full possibilities and the management experience to provide the guidance. It’s something I’m working on even as we speak, but I make progress every day.

It may sound corny, but I’d say that each of my team leaders have been an inspiration and mentor to me throughout my Vodafone career. They answered my questions, helped me understand the culture of Vodafone, made sure I was happy and supported in my roles, and supported me a lot in transitioning to a management-focused role. I really feel like I’ve continued to grow within my role to meet the high standard expected and I am excited about what the future holds for me within the big wide world of Vodafone!

For more info about opportunities at Vodafone, head to our careers page.