I joined Capgemini in 2017 as a fresh-faced, anxious but optimistic graduate who was excited to start his first big boy job after finishing University. Similar to other graduates, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. Will I be thrown into the deep end and be expected to deliver eloquent, polished presentations to clients? Or despite everyone saying the opposite, will I just be making teas and coffees.
I was happy to find out that neither of those scenarios came true. In my first role I was surrounded by other motivated graduates working under a patient account manager. One of my first surprises was the lack of micromanagement. I was given a task and a rough deadline, but the rest was up to me. I quickly realised that you must learn to lean on support network around you, whilst trying to decipher as much knowledge from your teammates. As I soon discovered, one person does not have all the answers, this is something I had to learn quickly if I was going to settle into this vast organisation
To summarise what I have learned over the last three years, I have summed up my experience into three lessons:
Lesson one: Patience
As far as I know, there is not one book or course that will turn you into a rounded, knowledgeable IT Consultant overnight. You learn to be one over time, by experiencing different environments and overcoming your own hurdles. Even a business or IT degree does not always make you more suited for the job compared to someone from a non-technical degree discipline. The number of colleagues I come across with degrees outside of IT shows this. If you have the right personality & attitude, everything else needed to be an IT consultant can be learnt with the right attitude.
Being new to my career and perhaps naive, I was extremely eager to get off the mark. Despite my lack of experience, I remember feeling frustrated that I was not making significant contributions to the business. I remember thinking “Why am I here? I’m not doing anything that my colleagues can’t do themselves.” I had very little practical knowledge and frankly not a lot to contribute. I think the first key lesson that perhaps not only junior consultants should try to learn is patience.
As young professionals, we are put in front of demanding clients and forced to rely on our intuition, and for the most part just follow the line of the least resistance. In most cases we lack the right experience to draw on when trying to provide good answers and solutions to the issues we come across in our day job. For some, as it does for me, it can get overwhelming. Having to “make it up as you go along” without the right facts and lessons to draw on gets very frustrating.
This frustration could be associated with imposter syndrome which gets a lot of mentions today, and it’s great to see it discussed. It’s helpful to hear that even those who we tend to idealise, sometimes struggle with confidence. However, in my opinion for most junior professionals it’s not the right way to describe the emotions associated with not feeling fit for the role. We simply lack the knowledge and experience which can only be built up with time. It takes willingness and patience to discover your own best methods of working and to consistently deliver something you can be proud of.
After speaking with more seasoned colleagues and mentors, it is clear that doubting your decisions is a feeling that never really goes away. The sooner you get used to relying on your gut feeling and performing to the best of your current abilities, the more confident and effective your decision-making will become.
Lesson 2: Diligence pays off
Another lesson I learnt is diligence. Despite not consistently and actively trying to ‘get my name out there` (just as everyone will tell you to early on in your career) I have built up a good network of people around me to turn to for advice. I feel like my work is being continuously recognised, and I have senior colleagues who value my work. Putting my head down and concentrating on my day-to-day job is not a lesser choice than taking on each and every extra-curricular event that takes place. I have volunteered for a number of events which I cared about and was interested in. I never felt like I was getting involved for any ulterior reasons.
The importance of networking is really drilled into young professionals. Personally, this is something I felt apprehensive about. This is due to my very skewed impression of what networking for a junior employee looks like. I was imagining deliberately winning people over, schmoozing your senior managers in a blatant effort to land in their good books in hopes of using their favours in the future. Now I realise that this is really not the case, and for most people networking just comes a lot easier to them because they do not overthink it as much as I did in the past.
Despite this, what I accidentally adopted over time is something I would call ‘passive networking’. The people you meet along the way, the impression you have on people and the experience of working with you is a form of networking. There have been several occasions where a genuine 15-minute chat about a role I was interested in, ended up being a lot more valuable and productive than any attempt at trying to win favours would have been. Unless being chatty with anyone and everyone comes naturally to you, concentrating on delivering good results should be enough to build a worthy reputation and a network.
Lesson 3: Company values are more than just marketing slogans
One of the biggest advantages of joining a graduate scheme is the ability to rotate between teams and accounts. Each rotation throws you into a new environment, giving you a different perspective on what you might have been doing before. For me personally, having to work in different areas helped me understand how clients operate and where their common issues occur. It is also a great way to organically grow your network, find new skills and develop those that you have not had the chance to use yet.
In addition to this, working in different environments also gives you a better perspective on the companies’ culture. I have joined Capgemini with only 2 companies on my CV, it is a limited employment history, but it is enough to be able to say that the environment here is not like the others. When I was applying for work placements in my second year of University and then for graduate jobs, I have read more job descriptions than I would like to admit. With each application, I would adapt my resume and cover letters to match the corporate values of the Blue-Chip company that landed on my radar that week. At the time I thought of it as another formality, another hoop to jump over to get to the next stage of the hiring process. However, after being at the same company for 3 years and working across different teams and client accounts, I can see a stark difference between those environments.
I came to understand what differentiates Capgemini from others whilst sitting on an interviewing panel for a graduate assessment centre. When discussing our impressions of each candidate after the interviews and group exercises had taken place, something became clear to me. Despite a candidate having technical skills above what would be required at graduate level, some relevant industry experience and a somewhat prestigious university on their CV, personality fit is just as important, and sometimes matters above all else. In my experience, companies will not be expecting potential junior hires to bring an array of skills and experiences to the table. They are looking for someone who will absorb new knowledge accompanied with the right attitude.
The final message I want to get across to all those just entering the workplace, is to expect that some time might pass before you understand why you were hired and what you truly have to offer as you get accustomed to new ways of working. Those who offered you a role believed that you will be a valuable addition to not only their team but also the wider organisation. The redeeming quality of my job, regardless of the client, the technology or location of my role, have always been my colleagues. Their instinct for supporting others and their competence have been key to my career thus far. You should surround yourself with people that embody the values of your organisation and hold yourself to the same standards.
Service Delivery Lead