In an increasingly globalised world where each generation is more socially aware than the last, mobility and equality are often cited as two of the biggest challenges of our time. We believe it is up to us as business leaders to not only recognise this but find ways to empower young people and provide working opportunities for those that need it most.
As a fundamental part of the Smartnumbers ethos, we are always searching for ways to enable our teams to get involved with charity work and drive positive social impact. This is why we are particularly enthusiastic about our recent work with Future Frontiers, the award-winning education and social mobility charity. Focused on supporting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to fulfil their potential, Future Frontiers offers its candidates intensive face-to-face coaching delivered by business professionals, providing access to role models in their preferred industries.
To support Future Frontiers, 15 of our employees volunteered to coach 15 students. Leveraging their sector expertise as well as across the wider team, each employee was matched with a student based on character, professional role and academic background. The aim was to support the students with their career aspirations by providing guidance on the right academic steps and wider experience required for their career path.
Inspired by the day, some of our employees wanted to share their stories and reflect on an emotive and rewarding experience for them all.
Mapping out the path forward
Our vibrant Office Manager, Josie Cozzi, spearheaded the project and was assigned to an aspiring engineering student.
Josie introduced her student to two sector role models within Smartnumbers, helping him understand the importance of a university degree and the value it returned over an apprenticeship.
“My student was so intelligent and clued up, he knew exactly what he wanted to do,” says Josie.
“He wanted to be a software engineer with Machine Learning as a particular focus. It made the conversation so valuable to both parties since we knew exactly what support he needed and he got the best possible guidance.
“We conducted research together and independently, talked to the sector role models inside Smartnumbers and in just a couple of hours he was able to more firmly grasp his route forward.
“He left the conversation brimming with new knowledge and a clear understanding of what he needed to do to achieve his dream job.”
Providing the confidence and expertise to do something different
For Samyia Walji, a Customer Support and Delivery Agent here at Smartnumbers, it was a totally different story. Her student came from an underprivileged background and was the first in the family to even consider university.
“My student was uncertain about their next move,” explains Samyia. “With no family history of university and the associated costs appearing too big to handle, he was considering taking an apprenticeship.
“Studying maths, physics and computer science, my student was thinking of becoming an accountant. I was able to bring in two sector role models from Smartnumbers – one that had taken the university path and the other an apprenticeship.
“As a result we were able to provide extremely solid career advice and be the role models that he was missing from his home life in terms of guiding him onto the right path. He is going to leave college and join a five year apprenticeship programme where he will graduate with a bachelor’s degree but be free of student debt.”
Bridging gaps and making connections
Senior Project Manager, Asha Pattni, worked with an aspiring mechanical engineer from Italy. Since English wasn’t his first language, Asha provided invaluable support with apprenticeship applications and put him in touch with an engineer at Rolls Royce.
“Struggling to fully grasp what was available to him, my student benefitted from our engagement in broadening his horizons,” says Asha.
“One of my family members is a mechanical engineer from Rolls Royce and so I was able to immediately put him in touch with someone working in the industry for one of the biggest brands in the world.
“He found it incredibly useful to hear directly from someone working in his dream job as to how to get there. We gave him all the information needed in terms of applying for apprenticeships at Rolls Royce (among other companies) and helped him broaden his search beyond the boundaries of London.
“As a final part of the process, I helped him fill in a couple of applications and left him with a blueprint on how to fill them out himself. He left empowered and with a great connection in the industry.”
Finding the right path
Our Engineering Manager, Mohamed Sakher Sawan helped his student make an informed decision between a career in civil or robotics engineering.
“My overwhelming memory of the experience was the sheer eagerness and desire to learn and understand what goes on in the job,” says Mohamed.
“He wanted to study some kind of engineering – be it robotics, mechanical, aerospace or civil and he wanted to know what each entailed. He was full of questions and so well researched I just had to coach him through his own decision making process and only provide my own personal experience where it made sense.
“I showed him what was available via the programme and explained how any decision he made right now on his engineering path didn’t have to be the final call, he could always move into a slightly different direction should he change his mind.“
Not just one-way coaching
Helping these students expand their horizons and broaden their visions for the future was a rewarding experience for all of our mentors. All 15 came away feeling grateful for the opportunity to lend a helping hand and will take up the opportunity again when they can.
“Watching my student grow in confidence, sitting up taller in his chair and all these possibilities flooding his mind was an incredible experience,” says Josie. “It was rewarding to think that I may have played a pivotal role in his career path and his life as a result.”
Samyia felt much the same following her engagement with her student. “I’m a personal individual and engaging with a student in a one-to-one session felt quite transformative in a way. I came from an underprivileged background myself and so I connected with him on a personal level and found the experience really worthwhile.”
Everyone learned new skills
As a final benefit of the programme, our Smartnumbers team learned valuable coaching and management skills.
“What came as a big surprise to me was how this opportunity helped me grow personally,” explains Josie. “I learned how to be a mentor, gained valuable leadership skills and came away feeling more confident in my abilities.
“I learned a new platform, how to demo, received valuable feedback and feel like a much more well-rounded colleague and employee as a result.”
For Mohamed, the experience left him feeling grateful and prepared to open himself up for more mentoring opportunities. “It’s brilliant that Smartnumbers has given us a chance to do something like this – particularly during work hours.
“It makes you feel so much more motivated because you’re part of an organisation that recognises the value in these engagements.
“This is something that I will definitely cherish and take with me into the future and mentorship is absolutely something I will explore down the road.”
Extending the Smartnumbers values to the broader community
At Smartnumbers, our goal is to make sure we make a positive impact on our customers, our team members and the wider community.
So far, this programme has helped 15 students overcome personal barriers and academic challenges, opening doors to exciting professional opportunities they may otherwise never have found or had access to.
We are excited about the future of this collaboration and look forward to helping many more.
You can find out more about our social impact initiatives on our website and for more information on our current vacancies check out our careers page.