Case study

Future Leaders graduate — Alex Price

Alex studied BA Business and Management with a placement year at Durham University, which resulted in a business placement at British Airways (BA), before joining their Future Leaders Graduate Scheme

How did you get onto the graduate programme?

I originally worked at BA on a business placement as part of my degree. I've always been interested in aviation and so wanted to work in the industry and BA was my top choice due to its iconic brand and large global network.

I had a great year working within the brand partnerships team where I was given much responsibility and had autonomy to make decisions. Towards the end of my placement year, I was fast-tracked to the interview stage of the graduate scheme and was successful in securing a place.

What's a typical day like on the scheme?

The Future Leaders scheme is really varied. During the last year, I've spent some days working as cabin crew, including a nine-day trip to Sydney and other days checking-in and boarding our customers onto flights from Heathrow Terminal 5.

In my latest role, I deal daily with a range of journalist enquiries, write statements on topics impacting BA, and work on multiple proactive communications initiatives.

What do you enjoy most about the programme?

The opportunity to do placements in different parts of the business, allowing you to see where your passions and interests lie, is a great aspect of the scheme.

I like the fact you do customer facing roles like cabin crew and working in Heathrow customer experience. These roles enable you to be in the shoes of our frontline colleagues and gain an insight and deeper understanding of what they do and the challenges they face. I really love that the programme gives you a holistic perspective of the whole airline, especially undertaking frontline roles. We also get the opportunity to volunteer with our charity partnership, Flying Start.

The programme also funds the possibility of completing a Level 7 Senior Leader apprenticeship (including a Masters or MBA) after the first year.

What are the challenges?

The main challenges are balancing everything, as the programme offers lots of opportunities to get involved/volunteer in activities outside your main role and studying for a Level 7 Apprenticeship.

Even though British Airways gives graduates the time to undertake these additional activities, it's important to learn to manage your time effectively and be aware of your own wellbeing - but you're always well supported by the emerging talent team.

British Airways is a 24/7 operation, which is an exciting environment in which to work. However, it can present a challenge, as some placements undertaken require shift work and working unsociable hours, weekends and bank holidays. Luckily, you get to work with brilliant colleagues who make working holidays fun.

In what way is your degree relevant?

It's definitely relevant. I did a business and management degree, and I can see some of the content I studied being used in practice. Over the past year when undertaking various operational roles, I've been able to use the knowledge I'd learned from studying operational management modules at university. I also think it's not just the degree that's relevant, it's the skills you learn at university, including working under pressure, time management and adaptability.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

Each year on the scheme I undertake a different placement, giving me exposure to different areas of the business. Over time, I'll gain greater autonomy and more responsibility, as well as developing my skillset. Having spent time working in the operational teams, I'm now using that knowledge to support my current role in corporate affairs.

I want a varied career and to become a senior leader within BA/the airline industry. I'm inspired to achieve my ambition having met many senior leaders who started their careers on this graduate scheme and believe the experience of working across many departments within BA has enabled them to progress into their roles.

What tips would you give to others looking to apply for this scheme?

  • Research British Airways. It's important you do your research so you can demonstrate your motivation to want to join the Future Leaders programme. I would recommend using multiple sources, including looking at BA's social media channels and media centre to see what we're talking about. Researching and understanding the challenges and opportunities for the whole industry and competitors is really important as well.
  • Ensure you review the competencies on the job description and think of scenarios where you've demonstrated each competency.
  • Be sure to practice the online abilities tests, as they can be challenging. There are practice tests on SHL and Saville's websites.

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