We sat down with Jasmine Okoye, Chartered Manager Degree Apprentice at Pearson Plc, who has just spent just over one month at the Pearson Plc office in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Can you give me a bit of background about the programme and your role in the UK?
The International Rotational Degree Apprenticeship programme is very similar to other degree apprenticeships, I work 4 days a week within Pearson Plc and study Business Management one day each week within Pearson Business School; the only twist is that during each year of my degree, I travel on an international placement for at least one month in a Pearson office abroad.
My role in the UK is a Talent Development Assistant. The key things that I do are firstly managing the Talent Development platform which aims to engage students in improving their personal development; I also help to organise the work fitness weeks which get students to interact with industry experts in a variety of events; finally, I contact alumni and gather success stories for the Pearson College London website, so prospective students can hear more about the roles that our graduates have gone on to.
Where did you go for your placement?
The initial plan was for me to go to Hong Kong but due to the political issues that they are facing in the region, I went to Belfast in Northern Ireland instead.
What role did you do on your placement?
I was an Operational Financial Analyst.
So what did a typical day look like?
The role itself was varied; as I learnt more and became more familiar with the role, there were certain tasks that I was responsible for. The tasks that I did were:
- Escheatment - this is being a detective so going back 3-5 years and finding the US companies that Pearson have paid money to and checking that we have actually paid money to them through Oracle, which is a financial platform that we use for Financial Services. I then had to reach out to the relevant stakeholders to gain internal audits.
- I had to organise various invoices and bank statements.
- Cheque remittances - I would go to the bank every day and bank cheques sent from the Pearson Plc office in Harlow to the Belfast office and then I would keep track of these on a spreadsheet.
- Understanding financial policies - this was understanding the processes to ensure that people aren’t doing certain things incorrectly.
Was there any positive feedback from Pearson colleagues abroad about projects you were involved in?
Yes, they said that I really fitted in well within the group. They were a really lovely bunch and I still have two friends that I keep in contact with now that I am back in London. I would say that in regards to friendships, it was really positive.
From my manager in London, who had a catch up with my manager in Belfast, I found out that people in Northern Ireland said that they had learned things from me, which I was shocked about. It was positive all round!
What did you get up to outside of work?
The first week, I was by myself so I went to the cinema, the Grand Opera Theatre, I watched The Fame; I also rode a bike around the parks in Belfast and chilled.
My family came over one weekend and we went to Dublin where we did some sightseeing on a Hop-on-Hop-off bus and did a bit of shopping in Victoria Square, which is like Westfield in London.
Towards the last week, my assigned work buddy took me into the countryside of Ireland to look at the forest and the really nice houses, which was really pretty. It was nice to go shopping in the little villages and see the communities there.
How has this opportunity helped you to develop professionally?
Taking on a new task that I have never taken on before, and succeeding at it, was a real confidence booster. The financial side of things is something that I have always been interested in but I now have that confidence to ask my manager in my own role in the UK if I can try new things out. I might not like new things but I will never know unless I try it out.
Another thing was working as a part of a new team because I have been used to my team in London for over a year now. Learning to get along with different personalities and communicate with different people too was a great professional development opportunity.
What skills have you learnt that you can bring back to your UK role?
Something that I learnt was that when they run through the financial policies, they have strict checklists that they follow to ensure that they have done all of the necessary tasks. So, now when I am uploading alumni success stories to the website in my role in London for example, I will use a checklist to make sure that all of the boxes have been ticked.
How can you apply this to your studies?
The Accounts Receivable team have to chase up people that owe people money, and if they cannot pay, it goes to the third party, and the debt collectors come. I could apply what I learnt from this team to my Law module this term, as Law is a complicated topic but learning how small things work within my business has increased my understanding.
Did you take any cultural learnings from the placement that you can apply to your work or studies?
The way in which they work is very similar to the way that I am used to working in London, in terms of the same rules and working hours. So, there weren't many cultural differences that I picked up on.