As the first cohort of Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeships get going in their second year, we chatted to Madison Bowlby to learn all about her first year.
What made you decide to do the apprenticeship?
It definitely wasn’t a snap decision. I had been involved in the creative arts most of my life and I wasn’t sure if I could see myself doing an office job. But I decided to look into it and do some research on the insurance industry and the kind of jobs available. I took a real look at what I wanted for myself and eventually I came to the conclusion that the apprenticeship would be in alignment with my goals: financial stability, a structured routine, time to spend with friends/family, time and money to invest in my creative hobbies, learning new skills, and a career that I could count on.
How have you found the first year?
The first year has definitely taken some getting used to. I’d be lying if I said that finding the energy to study in my spare time while trying to keep up with the new routine is easy. I have found it very rewarding though, in terms of grades, appraisals and also my organisation skills, which have improved immensely.
It was strange at first to be in college without being around other students, but the interactive lectures we have and the face to face days have definitely kept me connected with the rest of the class, and I’ve found some good friends in my team at work this year. Overall I think it has been a good year, successful on the part of the apprentices, the employers and The Insurance Institute and IT Sligo. I love that our opinions as the apprentices have been listened to and acted on over the course of the year.
What’s a typical day for you?
When I get into the office I set up for the day, log in, check emails and review deadlines. Then I write down everything I need to do and prioritise each item. I often sit in on meetings with my team for things like renewals or tenders.
The rest of the day I’m at my desk sending emails, reviewing documents or doing some research to get to know the market and our clients better. Sometimes I get to go out of the office for things like court trials and surveys, which I really enjoy. For a while I was mostly doing research and admin jobs, mixed in with training meetings by members of my team – but now I have more responsibilities and I can generally work independently.
One day a week I log on to online lectures which takes around half the day, and depending on my workload, I use the rest of that day to do some study or case studies. My colleagues are very respectful of my study days and happy to work deadlines and meetings around them where possible. I’ve also slowly gained more responsibility as I get to know the work and processes better, and I have to say it’s so satisfying to look back at previous months and see how much knowledge and (hopefully!) trust I’ve gained.
What do you like most about the job?
I really like the environment I work in. I can work on my own and get really stuck into a job or project, but I can always just pop my head up and ask someone a question. I'm surprised at how collaborative this kind of work is. I also like that I had the opportunity to start from the bottom, I have a building full of experts to go to for help and I can see my progression over time. Every day I learn something new.
What’s the most challenging part of your role?
I think the challenging part for me is moving around different departments. It’s great to get experience of each area of the business, but it’s difficult to join a new team and start from the bottom every few months, and also to say goodbye to a team that I’ve started to feel at home with! It’s only across the hall though, and I will end up with a much wider network of colleagues and friends by the end of the three years.
The other challenge is keeping on top of study – it’s far too easy to forget that my assignments and exams are a huge part of the job! I’m always trying to be more organised with study but it’s tough sometimes. In saying that, help is always there if I reach out for it, from colleagues and lecturers alike.
What are your future career goals?
I can’t say which specialty I’d like to get into as I may change my mind every time I do a new rotation! But what I can say for sure is that there is very little that would persuade me to change career or even to leave Aon after the apprenticeship. I’m excited to become qualified, start looking after clients and getting really involved in everything that goes on here. Once I finish the apprenticeship I will definitely be looking to further my insurance career and ascend to management level. I would also like to get involved with the apprenticeship programme from the other side, maybe as a mentor or help with the coordination. The experience of having done the programme could be useful in the running of it in later years.
Any advice for someone starting on the apprenticeship this year?
What I would say is definitely try to make the most of every aspect of this programme. Work hard, study hard, and don’t forget to play hard too! I’ve learned that a career is more than waiting for payday, if you throw yourself into it you can make great friends, have a lot of fun and learn things about the industry and about yourself along the way.