One month in… MPs and bomb scares

Month one has been a whirlwind adventure. This may sound like a slightly sarcastic exaggeration especially if you are familiar with the Kylie brand of humour. But fortunately, it is not.

This month has included a successful MP visit, a bomb scare (not related to the visit as my cheeky headline may lead you to believe), lots of training, a welcome event, making many high profile contacts, and even changing policy and being crowned an Editor of sorts in two capacities. And breathe.
The MP visit started out as private, as in not to be reported. This actually meant however that the MP himself decided how the event could be publicised, and as he generously included us in his weekly column for the local paper, speaking of us in very high regard too and so I’m sure a mention here won’t hurt…

It was a very successful visit. Steve Brine is an MP I hadn’t met before, so I was geekily excited much to the amusement of my colleagues. “I AM A POLITICS STUDENT” I exclaimed, but even considering that, excitement over a member of parliament popping by for an hour could be considered a little strange. I however, do not think so and will continue to express geekiness in such a manner.

My tasks for the visit basically included a meet and great, to ensure the office was at its best which it most certainly was after hours of fun with the laminator… my new best friend. The prep before the event was actually slightly more strenuous. I was tasked with my first journalistic job during my time here which was formatting a newsletter in which I ended up featuring myself in ‘a day in the life of *insert role here*’. I resisted the temptation to insert: ‘a feminist, gaga loving nutjob’, or any of the other roles I feel I play in my day to day life. Not sure Mr Brine would have seen the funny side of that one. I also gathered good news stories to display, created a newspaper corner, jazzed up the customer area and jobs board, and prepared a little pack for Mr Brine to take away with him.

The newsletter was a huge success, so much so that this afternoon my manager informed me that I will soon be Editor of a quarterly Newsletter for the Hampshire area, and that I am able to continue the monthly one for our Office. Result; managed to sneak a bit of journalism into the job role. More than a bit as it turns out. A4e also produce a company-wide newsletter, which is actually somewhere between a newsletter and a magazine. My previous boss, and my new boss, both highlighted this as something I should put myself forth for, and the newsletter was a perfect spring board to get myself noticed in the communications team.

After sending one speculative email to them, I had one returned with the offer of Guest Editor in the New Year. Yes please! I of course was thrilled. With this came an offer to attend this month’s editorial meeting in the Soho Office, where I can get a feel for the production process, meet the team and pitch some ideas. I will also use this opportunity to discuss the company’s social media marketing strategy to try and get permission to pilot some fresh social media centred initiatives within our office and then maybe across the region if successful! It is something which I aim to be involved with for the rest of my time here at A4e and hopefully should I return after completing my final year at uni!

The MP visit also meant that I got introduced to some people high up in the company, including a member of the policy and strategy department which deals with all things politics (strangely enough). Said colleague then also invited me to spend some time in London with their department to see how things run, and so I have arranged to meet with them also. I feel a little like I am moonlighting, like I am doing something naughty. But it is most definitely the good kind of naughty, the kind of cheek that is encouraged.

It has been made very clear by staff at all levels of the company that they are eager for me to grow and develop by gaining a deeper understanding of my areas of interest within A4e as a whole. My role is so diverse, that every experience adds some value to the day to day work I do, which is why I love this place. Why this place may not love me so much however, is the afore mentioned policy changes afoot which my actions may have spurred…

I hate money, and I hate maths. Two major flaws of an administrator in charge of the petty cash not only of one office but of 4 outreach locations. Dealing with that which you hate, is a challenge, and therefore I had little choice but to treat the weekly petty cash routine as a challenge in order to smash it. In taking this approach however, I stumbled across a little loophole in the previously ok system, and unfortunately, the colleague next up in the chain of command, and he above him, were unavailable for consultation. I then thought I would be all clever about it, calling my contact for all things money at head office to try and resolve the problem before it became an actual problem. Turns out I uncovered a bigger problem. At first I was a little scared, as I could become infamous companywide for being ‘the new girl who caused us to change the way we do petty cash’ – administrators are not fond of change. Then I was kind of proud, I had found something that needed fixing not only in our office, but in many offices and then together with my Business Leader created a solution. Not bad for a newbie.

As a placement student, you would expect to enjoy training. It’s like going to lectures, especially in politics where you feel you already know all the answers (down with capitalism). And that I did, I enjoyed visiting the London office, and Sheffield HQ. I did not enjoy the copious amounts of rail travel in one week, or the fact that I had already been in the job a month and had learnt the stuff on offer through self-teaching or from colleagues. I did learn some stuff however, making it worth it. I also came away thinking; ‘right I figured out how to do that myself the best way I could but now I know that was the right way”’ – which is always a nice feeling.

I also had the chance to have some reasonably heated debates in training. As the welfare to work programme varies so greatly depending on geographical location and demographic, that so do approaches. It was fascinating to discuss techniques with those who work in inner city London, and who have to fill out several incident reports a day. I am dying to spend a day in one of their offices; I am attracted to ‘trouble’ like a moth to a flame. In little old Winchester (which is notorious for being one of the quietist offices), the most trouble we get involves running out of hand towels or a sticky filing cabinet draw… no joke. This does mean however that my ‘Monica’ is nurtured as I have ample time to plan and organise myself and 9 times out of 10 get to stick to it!

As I always have been, I am fascinated with prison leavers. And there is a lot of scope in this company to work with them to help the rehabilitative process. I always wanted to be a probation officer, or prison officer, to try and make a difference. A4e have lots of partners who specialise in the process of returning offenders to the community and it is something I would love to look into more deeply.

The Welcome Event was great as it got me an audience with an Executive, who helped nudge me in the right direction for the editorialship. What was most interesting however, was learning about how A4e have grown from a tiny company in the mining community of Sheffield to a international multi-faceted social enterprise company! I did not realise the huge scope of the emerging markets section of the business, and how the company is growing in India. This immediately made my ears prick up, as it always been on my bucket list to teach in India, so working with this kind of company in India is a pretty similar thing. The range of opportunities here are so vast, I feel like a very lucky girl!

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