Monday, May 20, 2013

Being a finalist for the Engineering Undergraduate of the Year Award, sponsored by EON

Adam Cox, finalist of the Engineering Undergraduate of the Year Award talks about his experience

When I first heard about the Undergraduate of the Year Awards it was through a friend and colleague. I didn't know anything about it, or what it included, and so out of interest I did some research into what it was about. After reading a little about the prestige that seemed to surround the award, I felt slightly intimidated at first at the thought of even applying. That said, that week I had been studying up for a business exam and read somewhere that said you should go for whatever it is you desire and that nothing is handed to a person without them first seeking it. So what the hey, I decided to apply.

In my mind, if I could make it just into the top ten finalists then I would feel like I had really accomplished something. It was also seriously attractive to me knowing that there was the possibility of earning a placement year in industry working for EON. The application process wasn't easy. You had to complete an array of eight online tests, including a logical reasoning test and numeracy test. This was all after writing answers to some sector specific questions, which really allowed you to get in depth about the topics and show them that you are really interested in working in the energy sector.

At the time it was a lot to handle, as elections were fast approaching for the Lacrosse committee positions AGM. I was determined to make it on to the committee as I felt it has been a major part of my life in the past two years and also believe I have great ideas to assist in the club’s future. The following few weeks became a juggling act between coursework, the UGOTY application, and maintaining lacrosse training sessions and matches.

I did it! So I turn on my computer to find I’ve got to the next stage of the process, the assessment centre! This is the first assessment centre I have ever done, and so I took this as a learning experience, whilst also hopefully showing EON that I have what it takes to succeed in an industrial placement for them. The assessment centre was dreadfully exciting. My first part was a face-to-face interview with two EON managers. It was a surprisingly relaxed atmosphere as they made you feel very comfortable and relaxed. 

Most of the questions were based around personal experiences and involved little technical knowledge.  The role play aspect of the day was hugely beneficial, with the two interviewers giving helpful advice following the exercise. At the end of the day we pitched individually in groups of four, projects that we believed EON could uptake to improve on current projects and that would follow the current trends of both their company and the market.

If I was to give any advice:
-       Have confidence in yourself and your own abilities, they will see this and respect you for it
-       Be honest about your capabilities and ambitions – admitting you have weaknesses is not a flaw.
-       Being well rested is essential, as it is a long day and lack of sleep may jeopardize your chances.
-       Showing that you are adaptable to different situations and are pliable to difficult working styles works well in your favour
-       Ensure you have done your research on the company you’re applying to as it shows foresight and commitment

It is now the day of the awards ceremony! Everyone is getting ready to make the trip to Canary Wharf to meet Sir Trevor McDonald and participate in the Undergraduate of the Year Award. Luckily for me I knew somebody else travelling to the ceremony for a different award and so we tagged along together. The event began with a champagne reception, preceding on to a three-course lunch which, in my mind was fantastic. Following this Sir Trevor McDonald gave his speech, and what a speech. I mean, I didn’t quite expect the speech to be as current, humorous and yet aspirational as it was.  It was a very tense moment for everyone I think when the winners were announced. This also gave way to probably the most priceless moment of the night; Jake Tudge’s priceless expression at winning. Congratulations to Jake and I look forward to working with him and the other finalists in the following year.

It is worth iterating the fact that although I did not win, I was still offered a placement by EON as this is not unusual for finalists! Before the awards ceremony I had spoken with an employee at EON to find where I would be best suited if I were to be on placement with EON. This was brilliant for me as it really made me feel at ease that I knew what I was applying for and what I would be gaining from the experience! It is after all the effort put in to the application process that it really feels all worth it. I would recommend anyone to apply for the Undergraduate of the Year Award. It alone has boosted my confidence and also given me valuable commercial exposure. This has pushed me to accomplish new things; and I look forward to the role of Vice President for the Lacrosse Committee at University of Nottingham. This also led me to a desire to work with MechSoc, the committee in charge of my course, to which I will be acting as Industrial Liaison for next year.