Making 'Headway': How our graduates are helping a charity

Written by Jeni Holcroft 11 months ago.

Passion is one of the key ingredients to getting the most out of your graduate scheme. Sometimes it’s important to think beyond your day to day role, and seize the opportunities that present themselves. That’s what Laura Goodall and Aruna Bhalla did.

Along with five of their fellow graduates they immersed themselves in a project with Headway, a charity which supports individuals affected by life changing brain injuries. In 2013-2014, there were 162,544 admissions for head injury – that’s one every three minutes! It’s one of many reasons that motivated them to support Headway, as Laura says, “When I read about their cause I knew I really wanted to help them and it’s something I’ll genuinely remember.”

Intrigued by their experiences, I spoke to Laura and Aruna about their involvement with Headway, being graduates at RBS and what enticed them to work at the bank.

The day job

Both Services Payments graduates, Aruna and Laura had quite similar reasons for choosing to join the bank. Our two year graduate scheme begins with a training and induction programme, followed by rotations across different business areas – including Shared Services and Payments.

Aruna says, “I started training in Edinburgh, and you do 3 eight month rotations – one of mine in Change. It’s one of the reasons I chose this programme - you develop relevant skills in the different areas, and I think that will help when I’m looking for a permanent role. I’ve developed a really good skillset.”

There are many graduate schemes to choose from, not only inside the bank where we offer Technology, Finance and more, but also across the UK. I was interested to find out why they both chose to complete a scheme here at RBS, and what opportunities it provided them with. Laura said, “it’s enabled us to grow a really good network. It can open the doors to shadow the head of a team or an area. We’ve built a network and got to know people. You get exposed to roles and businesses at a level you usually wouldn’t, simply by being on the programme.

This type of experience isn’t only limited to graduates, but those wanting to get a head start early on in their career. “You’re given responsibility and accountability almost right away. I think that’s where the scheme – whether you’re an apprentice or taking another early entrant scheme – is a great opportunity.”

Broadening horizons

As part of their graduate scheme, Laura and Aruna had the opportunity to get involved in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity, and were connected with Pilotlight, a charity that links businesses with smaller charities needing strategic planning support. This could be anything from corporate funding to support building a business plan.

Groups of eight to ten graduates were connected with charities through Pilotlight. Forming a group with five other colleagues, Laura and Aruna were matched with Headway, who wanted help producing merchandise.

Laura explains, “Headway has an art studio where the members can create both collaborative and individual pieces of artwork, and they wanted a way of merchandising that artwork. Often they’d sell one piece of artwork but that was only a singular revenue stream. Instead they wanted to sell the image on products like tote bags – something they’d never explored before.”

Together, the group spent six months putting together a comprehensive strategy, producing a business plan and customer research to show the charity which product would be most effective and the next steps they needed to take. Laura adds, “We had a HR Mentor who supported us when we needed her. It was a big commitment – we needed to do some work outside our usual hours, but it was worth it.”

The group were given time to visit the charity during working hours, and find out more about the art studio. “We met the volunteers and the members themselves. It’s important to remember that they weren’t just people with brain injuries, but artists first and we were helping to get their artwork out there for a good cause,” Laura adds.

Taking the cause to the top

After completing their plan and finishing the handover to the charity, the group were invited along with several other groups to present what they had achieved to a board that included our Chief Marketing Officer, David Wheldon; Alison Rose, CEO of Commercial & Private Banking and Gillian Murray, CEO of Pilotlight. The CEO and others from Headway, who had worked closely with Laura and Aruna, also attended the event. It was a great opportunity to showcase what they’d done and shine the spotlight on the charity itself.

With only seven minutes to showcase six months of hard work and dedication, the group had a real challenge on their hands. In those seven minutes, however, the board were clearly impressed with their work and determination to help the charity, as they won against the other teams. Aruna says, “I think what came across was our passion for the charity. It was important to us that we delivered for them and informed people about what we had done, and making sure Headway were happy with the end result. It was really visible, and I think the work we did made a difference. Now they’re making the merchandise and products we suggested.”

Laura and Aruna have remained in contact with Headway. Laura says, “Seeing our results impacting them in a positive way was really rewarding. We’ve managed to have the Headway logo put on a university’s rugby team kit, and hopefully that will generate further awareness.” They are also organising an exhibition for Headway, in partnership with RBS, to raise awareness among business leaders, promote the artwork and launch the merchandise.

Long term gains

Working with different people and with Headway allowed Laura and Aruna to develop new skills and discover what they’re really capable of. Aruna says, “We had to overcome challenges and set backs. But we kept the charity at the forefront of our mind because it was so important that we delivered for them.”

The charity’s cause really struck a chord with Laura, as after reading about what they did, she knew she wanted to help them, “A huge thing for me was that it was this charity. Some will feel that way about other charities as other groups supported charities focused on education, the environment or children – you can get involved in something you really care about. It was an amazing opportunity and it’s something that I will genuinely remember for a long time.”

It’s given them an insight into what they can get involved in at the bank, not only as graduates, but in any of their future roles. Aruna adds “we’re lucky in RBS. As graduates you get to do things like CSR and work with Pilotlight. You get involved in things like this, and you have the chance to develop project management and people management skills. And at the same time you’re helping a good cause. It’s a real confidence builder.”

Graduate Careers in RBS

Think that a graduate scheme could be for you? Find out by visiting our graduates pages.


You can also check out the great work that Headway are doing.

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