Over the last year, Capgemini, one of the world’s largest consulting firms located across 40 countries around the world, has collaborated with the University of Birmingham to create the first ever Community Challenge week with 25 of our undergraduates which took place between the 11th and 15th June 2012.
A top University of Birmingham graduate recruiter, Capgemini is passionate about supporting the communities where it operates. One of Capgemini’s largest accounts is based in Shropshire and over the above duration, they have been working with enthusiastic University of Birmingham students to deliver community projects to charities across the Shropshire area.
Working with Capgemini Consultants throughout the week, our students had the opportunity to develop their business, planning and interpersonal skills and gain first-hand experience of what working for Capgemini was like. This was also a fantastic opportunity to gain new skills and work experience to add to their CVs. Capgemini invited students who are in their first and second year of study from the Business School and Computer Science to be involved in this exciting challenge.
These 25 students were allocated into 5 teams and worked on different projects which ranged from fundraising and volunteering to marketing and business proposals. Each day began at 9am and finished at 5pm with all costs (travel and food) being covered by Capgemini throughout the week. In an ‘Apprentice’ style format, each of the 5 groups were allocated a ‘mentor’, which consisted of a Capgemini employee working with them throughout the week to provide guidance and advice to their assigned group if required.
Joseph McKivitt, a first year Business Management with Communications Studies undergraduate speaks about his experience on the first ever Capgemini and University of Birmingham Community Challenge Week…
Monday 11th June 2012
Today was the start of the first ever Community Challenge, run by the University of Birmingham and the international consultancy firm Capgemini. Comprising of 25 students split into teams of 5, the Challenge involves providing different solutions for a number of charities in the Telford area, where Capgemini have one of their main offices. As a Business Management student, I felt that the opportunity of an ‘Apprentice-style’ task was too good to miss and thoroughly enjoyed today’s work! Throughout the week we will visit our clients, conduct market research, plan our marketing campaign and then present our ideas to senior Capgemini UK employees on Friday later this week.
Today we were situated in the Business School on campus, where my group was given the task of raising the profile of Hilbrae, a charity that takes in abandoned dogs and attempt to re-house them. Hilbrae has done a fantastic service during its lifetime, taking in over 20,000 homeless animals, caring for them and then finding them a home where they will be safe and appreciated.
We began the task by thinking about our strengths as a team and what roles we would each be suited to fulfilling during our weeks work. With 2 Computer Science students and 3 Business Management students in the team, we felt that we had a strong variety of skills to suit a range of roles. Thus, we have structured our schedule in order to make the most of our individual strengths, whilst giving everyone an opportunity to try out new things and to improve on their weaknesses.
Work began for the day when we had an idea generating session, where everyone contributed potential strategies that would boost the visibility of Hilbrae within the local community. We identified, for instance, that compared to the National Dogs Trust with its very recognizable black and yellow logo, Hilbrae’s brand was rather forgettable and so this is one issue that we have worked into our plan for the week.
Realising that we had a full schedule after a couple of hours working out how we should most productively spend our week, we presented our plan to a group of Capgemini representatives including Billie Major (Vice President), who leads the team responsible for the systems delivery service of the company’s largest global account, Aspire who deal with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and Eluned Jones, the director of Student Employability at the University of Birmingham. We received some positive feedback from Billie and Eluned in particular, and so feel very confident that we will have a productive week and provide Hilbrae with some useful solutions at the end of it. As a team we feel that we will have a great week and learn a lot. I am personally very much looking forward to the rest of the week and giving something back to the local community.
Tuesday 12th June 2012
The second day of the Capgemini Community Challenge had arrived, and this morning I awoke pretty early (for a post-exams student) to travel to Telford via a pre organized coach from campus, where we used Capgemini’s offices for the day. After arriving, we quickly moved on to Hilbrae Rescue Kennels to meet the owner, Marty, and to get a real feel of the place that we will be promoting this week.
Marty is a very passionate person who has dedicated her life since 1974 to helping abandoned dogs. Those that arrive in terrible conditions are groomed and made healthy, and Marty always finds money for any that need operations. Hilbrae take in any dog unhealthy, old or blind which is a stark contrast to charities such as the Dogs Trust, who select their animals from places like Hilbrae that they know can be given a home quickly. One dog stayed at Hilbrae for 15 years before being re-housed and that is proof of the dedication of the volunteering staff at the kennels.
After holding some puppies and walking some of the dogs, the team took pictures to be used in leaflets and on website mock-ups that we will design tomorrow (time willing). We noticed that the promotion of Hilbrae’s Facebook page in particular was lacking in their promotion materials, and this is just one issue that we will have to address. Talking to Marty and the other staff gave us loads of ideas for raising the profile of the place, especially when speaking about the Britain’s got Talent 2010 finalist Tina Humphreys whose dog, Chandi, was the star of the show and actually a stray that was re-housed from Hilbrae.
We therefore had quite a bit to work with and as we left to return to the offices we were buzzing with ideas. When we got back we put these on paper, and had designed a mock-up of a leaflet by the end of the day. We also booked in some market research time in Telford town centre for tomorrow morning and found contact numbers for TV stations such as the Country Channel, magazines such as Dogs Monthly and loads of vets and pet shops where we could circulate promotion materials. We also brainstormed ideas for slogans and ways in which we could improve Hilbrae’s website. We decided that we would have to alter the logo and colour schemes in order for it to stand out on a leaflet or online and so tomorrow shall be a very creative day which we are all very much looking forward to!
Wednesday 13th June 2012
For the 3rd day of the Capgemini Community Challenge, after a round of bacon sandwiches, we split our team in half for the first time. Two of us went to Telford town centre to conduct some market research, whilst the other three stayed behind. As one of those staying in the offices, my duties for the morning were to phone up several radio stations, newspapers, magazines and television channels such as BBC West Midlands, Dogs Monthly and the Country Channel. We had some success with this, and we hope to send the press release that I and another group member made this afternoon to some of the contacts we have gained to get an article in the Shropshire Star and perhaps some advertising for Hilbrae.
My other team members that stayed behind created some visuals to present on Friday. We designed a leaflet, which Hilbrae had specified that they wanted and a new logo. These took ages to design but at the end of the day we had some fantastic prototypes to be potentially put into production by Hilbrae at some stage in the future.
One major problem we discovered when we went to visit yesterday was that Hilbrae’s branding was very inconsistent and somewhat outdated. We decided that this could be improved by making a slight alteration to the logo graphic and by modernising the font. We have chosen purple as our brand colour in order to improve consistency throughout our various communications as well. Another problem was the lack of links to social media such as Facebook in Hilbrae’s communications, which need to be standardised and sent out so that more of the community can engage with Hilbrae online.
By the end of the day we had a mock-up of our leaflet produced by a department at Capgemini, our press release sent off to be checked and a general outline for our presentation on Friday, which is taking shape nicely! Tomorrow another team member and I will go back to Hilbrae briefly, which we are excited about, for some filming for a webcast and to take a few pictures which we require to finish our leaflet; and I’m sure we’ll find time to see the dogs again too!
Thursday 14th June 2012
Day 4 began with a delayed coach journey, which made us arrive so late that we missed our taxis to take us back to Hilbrae! But, after ordering some more, me and another member of our group went back to the dog kennels to take some pictures for our leaflet, website and presentation and to be filmed and interviewed by the Business School. Since both my team mate and I had done some television interview training this year as part of our degree programme, the experience wasn’t as nerve racking as it would have been otherwise, and we felt quite well prepared for it. The whole day in fact was spent putting what we had learned through the Communications element of our Management course into practical use, which felt genuinely fulfilling and gave me a sense of achievement in that I have learnt useful skills from my first year of University.
When we had achieved what we had set out to do by returning to Hilbrae, we re-joined the team in Capgemini’s studio room. The room was designed to induce creativity in staff that used it, and so there are cuddly toys, a giraffe model and various books dotted around the room. Whiteboards separated the different teams from one another, and relaxing, mellow music was playing throughout the day.
Here we created a homepage prototype of Hilbrae’s website, which in my opinion is the best thing that we have produced from this week. It looked vibrant and I felt that we had made genuine improvements to what Hilbrae currently use. This took hours on photo shop to complete, and when it had been finished, we found that we had very little left to do other than completing our booklet of what we had achieved during the week, which we will hand to Hilbrae and to those judging our presentation tomorrow afternoon. It feels great to have some solid work produced from our week of hard work, which should provide some useful solutions for Hilbrae’s marketing problems.
However, tomorrow’s presentation is what the week has truly come down to, and I hope that we do ourselves proud as a team and really justify our efforts of this week!
Friday 15th June 2012
As the final day approached of the Capgemini Community Challenge, I found myself nowhere near as nervous as I thought I’d be! I knew that our team had some amazing ideas and designs to show off, and all we had to do was assemble our presentation ready to pitch to the other 4 teams, a number of University of Birmingham and Capgemini representatives and the other external charities that we have all been working for throughout the week.
The team worked so hard all morning with one of the Capgemini representatives, planning our presentation and finalising our deliverables. We identified 5 ‘big ideas’ which we would pitch to the audience and the attendees from Hilbrae, and assigned each person in the team to certain topic areas, which were advertising, press, events and social media. I took the opening and closing of the presentation, which was a bit more nerve racking knowing that I was on first!
Contrary to what some of the other team members believed, watching some of the other presentations first was not at all off-putting as we had achieved something completely different and so couldn’t really judge ourselves by comparison. However, the other teams’ presentations were very strong and well put together, and it was great seeing what they had all achieved during the week.
After a short break, it was our team’s turn to present. We appeared to invoke some sympathy in the audience when I spoke about the work that Hilbrae have been doing, referencing the dog that had been with them for 15 years before finally being rehomed. All of the team had worked so hard during the week, and it was great to see them all perform in the presentation! Nerves appeared non-existent and I was very proud of my team mates for pulling it off when it really mattered! Finishing up the presentation felt fantastic and I feel that we got across all of the points that we had planned out.
After the presentation we had a wind-down period before the certificates were handed out. The group who has been working for the Age Concern charity won the award for presentation (though I have reason to believe that we came very close to beating them to it)! Everyone’s presentations were amazing and the winner’s awards were well-deserved. As this is my final day blog of the week, I would like to thank everyone at Capgemini, University of Birmingham and Hilbrae for a truly brilliant and rewarding experience, which I and everyone else involved learnt so much from! It was saddening that the week was actually over- it felt as though we had been working at Capgemini for far longer than a week! But this was overcome by the fact that we and all of the other teams delivered some fantastic solutions for the charities, which I hope they put to use in the future and enjoy success from our suggestions, which they really deserve from their dedicated work for many years.
I thoroughly enjoyed an incredible week working with Capgemini and Hilbrae, which was very rewarding and engaging. I feel that I have learnt so much from the week. Firstly, I have gained a lot of confidence in myself and my business abilities, as we delivered some brilliant solutions in a very short space of time. Also, I have gained confidence in my degree programme, as I utilised so many of the new skills I have learnt this year during the week and without them, I believe that our end product would not have been as good.
The work we did allowed me to develop my marketing, advertising and branding skills, as well as my creativity and presentation technique. After phoning so many companies and organisations, my approach to business consultancy has probably seen the most improvement from the experience and I have decided that I really want to go into marketing consultancy work in my future career! I will definitely be applying to a Capgemini graduate scheme after my third year, of which there are many engaging opportunities available. This is because, after learning a lot about Capgemini as a company and as an innovative, creative approach to business, I feel that I would enjoy working for them. The working environments in which we operated during the week as well as the ASE (Accelerated Solutions Environment, which had soft toys, books and music playing!) were amazing and I really feel that they bring out the best in creative thinking.
Furthermore, I would definitely recommend any students from the Business School, Computer Science or any further disciplines this may open to, to apply for the Challenge next year. Not only was it fun and taught me a lot, but looks fantastic on your CV. It gave me a real taste of consultancy work, which has been instrumental in my choice of modules for next year. Also, if you’re thinking of applying to Capgemini for a year in industry or for a graduate programme, having been through this process will, I’m sure, be a major factor in being considered for a role after you graduate!
The week has been a huge amount of hard work and very tiring, but the appreciation from Hilbrae for our team’s efforts this week was so pleasing to receive and it is incredibly satisfying knowing that they will take out ideas forward to hopefully improve their profile in the near future! I met some great people over the week, not just from Hilbrae and Capgemini, but also from the students that participated, who have all been amazing to work with throughout the entire week.