Hear from one of our former People & Culture graduate trainees
Natalie Sulej joined the Gripple graduate scheme in 2019. Whilst some graduates are recruited with something of an ‘open mind’ on both sides as to which role or department they will finish up in, Natalie was brought in specifically to take up a permanent role in the People and Culture team after the end of the scheme. Nevertheless, Natalie was still exposed to a number of business areas to gain a wider knowledge of, and a unique insight into the business and its people, crucial in an employee-owned company.
We interviewed Natalie about her time on the Gripple Graduate scheme and how it benefited her career.
What attracted you to the Gripple graduate scheme?
There were a number of things that attracted me to the scheme. The opportunity to rotate around the business and get involved in several projects across different departments regardless of my existing knowledge in that field is something rather unique to me and that really appealed to me. I loved the business’s employee ownership model and the reputation GLIDE has within the community, this is something really important to me. But above all, as a student who specialised in human resources, I loved the ‘people and culture’ approach to HR. It’s an approach that puts its employees at the forefront of everything we do, with the focus on ensuring Gripple is the best place to work.
In which departments did you spend time during the programme?
During my graduate programme I spent time in sales and operations/production. My scheme was slightly different to others in that we already knew I was going to finish in the People and Culture team, so my projects had a ‘people’ focus, meaning I kept a close link with the team throughout my scheme.
What do you think makes the Gripple graduate scheme different to others out there?
In many graduate schemes, you may find a lack of autonomy and responsibility; at Gripple it is the polar opposite – it’s what you make it! You have complete ownership of the projects you are given, with the responsibility to make decisions and influence your own path on the scheme. Each person’s scheme is tailored to them – their strengths, their areas for improvement and what they would like to gain exposure to. A big part of the scheme is the graduate team charity target which requires working with your fellow graduates to make a real impact. You have the opportunity at the end of your scheme to embark on a 10 to 11-week expedition in places like Costa Rica and Nepal to develop your leadership and team working skills . I can’t think of many other businesses that would give you opportunities like these!
What was your favourite project from your time in the graduate programme and why?
My favourite project was my time in production management at our HQ – Old West Gun Works. I spent time as a shift leader in the factory whilst working on a project to improve efficiency and time management. This project was great for me, as it meant I got to work with a number of employees in the factories that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. I learnt about the business from the employees’ perspective, some of whom have been here over 20 years! It was a great experience!
How did Gripple support you as a graduate during the pandemic?
During the pandemic, Gripple ensured no one was forgotten about and that every employee felt supported. My manager maintained daily contact with me and ensured I understood the projects and tasks I was working on. When the rotas were introduced, I had regular time in the office and across all sites, so I never felt ‘out of the loop’. My role in the People and Culture team meant I was heavily involved in the decision making behind the COVID-19 processes, which was extremely motivating and gave me a real sense of responsibility.
At the end of the scheme, how did you know which department you wanted to choose for a permanent role?
As mentioned, my scheme was slightly different as I was specifically recruited for an eventual role in People and Culture. I specialised in HR at university and completed a placement year in HR, so I knew that this was the career I wanted to pursue. Throughout my scheme, my manager maintained weekly contact with me, so I still felt part of the team even when on various rotations in different departments.
How did the Gripple graduate scheme help prepare you for life in your new permanent role at Gripple?
The scheme gave me responsibility in decision making, but also allowed me to build relationships with people across different teams and in different roles. Most importantly, the scheme pushed me out of my comfort zone and meant I spent time in departments I had no experience in or, to be honest, any existing knowledge of! But this developed my confidence and gave me a real insight into all elements of the business.
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