Guest Blog: a Business in FOCUS volunteer's experience

This post has kindly been written for us by Praveen Menon from Nomura who recently volunteered at one of our Business in FOCUS workshops. The Nomura Charitable Trust generously supports the Secondary FOCUS programme at our Lambeth centre and is the centre’s key corporate partner.

I had no idea as to what to expect from the day as I hadn’t done anything like it before, nor have I had much interaction with youngsters in school. The IntoUniversity and Nomura staff who had organised the day briefed us before the students arrived which gave us a good insight into what the day entailed. Despite that, I think it is fair to say that I was looking forward to it albeit with a bit of apprehension in terms of how I would find the whole experience.

When the students walked in, there was the usual hustle and bustle, giggling etc. and to be perfectly honest I noticed a smile on almost every volunteer’s face. I felt it took most of us back to when we were their age, which was a good albeit nostalgic feeling.

When we were breaking out for group exercises, I couldn’t help but notice the enthusiasm which was inherent in the students. I am not sure I can answer the question as to why they seem to have so much more enthusiasm than adults from seemingly basic things but it has the effect of lifting the spirits of everyone around them. This sort of enthusiasm is lectured about so  often in management training and what have you, but from my observation, it seemed to come so naturally to them. This will be an objective of mine in the future although I’m sceptical about my abilities to get there as easily as they did!

There are so many other ways that I found this day useful: I found for a start that interacting with youngsters forces you to slow down and have patience, something which I think is also essential in any corporate environment but is so often ignored, it was a form of training to communicate at an appropriate level without sounding condescending; I put myself in their shoes and that helped me to listen more effectively which again is difficult, but essential in the corporate world. These observations and experience are going to help me in one way or the other to set my own objectives/goals. 

I think from the student’s perspective, it is easy for me to gauge the benefits, for example it was fantastic in terms of an opportunity for them to visit a global investment bank, to meet and interact with people who work in a corporate environment, to be able to present their views and be challenged on them, to work in groups and debate issues and to build their confidence both in presenting to an audience and more generally. It all seemed so constructive and I felt the more often they did this, the better the outcome would be in terms of helping them add so many of these essential qualities to their personalities and consequently contribute to forming a stronger society.

I think it is very important to get the students to think about how they felt and what they got from the day which I’m sure has been done.

All in all I thought the day was incredibly constructive and I for one have very fond memories and will happily volunteer for future programmes of a similar nature.     

If you would like to share Praveen's experience, please visit our volunteering page.

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