I first heard about the Undergraduate of the Year Awards from one of my seniors, who described what an amazing privilege it was to be selected as a finalist and attend the prestigious final award ceremony in Canary Wharf! This got me excited for the opportunity and as soon as I saw an email in my inbox from TARGETjobs, I started to prepare for the application. For me, picking the innovation award was an easy decision because I enjoy working with cutting-edge technologies and coming up with innovative ways of using those technologies in different industries.
The application process was very straightforward and well laid out. The first stage began with an online application form consisting of basic details including academic and work experiences. There were also specific questions to assess our motivation for the innovation category. Next, there was a series of online assessments to complete, including HSBC’s own online immersive assessment. I was even provided with a detailed feedback report after completing the assessment, which was useful to get an insight into my strengths and areas to develop further. Following that, I progressed to completing a video interview, which required me to answer specific questions about HSBC and my motivations for pursuing a role in the financial industry. I was also asked how I would respond in typical day-to-day scenarios that interns/graduates find themselves in.

After a couple of weeks, I was invited to the assessment centre in Canary Wharf. It was an incredibly busy half-day schedule, which consisted of multiple interviews and group exercises. My advice for the interviews is to just be yourself because they are looking to assess whether the real you will fit into their organisation and culture. I was also fortunate to meet and interact with the other candidates, who all had very diverse academic backgrounds and interesting innovative ideas in their areas of interest.

I was delighted to find out I was selected as one of the top eight finalists. The run up to the final, which was rescheduled to September this year, was one filled with lots of anticipation and excitement. I could not wait to meet with the other finalists and find out how they were innovating with impact. After all, innovation is all about finding exciting new avenues and products to benefit our society. Finding out that it would be a virtual ceremony did not hinder my excitement!

The best part of this entire experience was the award ceremony itself. It was an invaluable opportunity to network with other finalists and students, speak with business representatives from HSBC and of course (virtually) meet Rachel Riley! Despite the pandemic, it was great to hear how the other students carried on with their endeavours and made use of the lockdown. It was truly inspiring to see the great work of other students who were recognised in different categories.

Even though I did not win the award, there is no doubt that my academic department and I are incredibly proud of my achievement. This entire experience has helped me flourish personally and professionally. I have realised the importance of embracing opportunities of this nature as it has helped to enrich and enhance my skillset. This will be of great benefit to me as I begin to prepare for my final year where I will be taking important academic and career-related decisions. I am confident that being associated with this prestigious award will not only improve my career prospects but also serve as a formal recognition of my passion for innovative technologies.

My advice for anyone thinking of applying to the awards is to absolutely, without fear, GO FOR IT! There is nothing to lose – in fact in every stage of the process, there is everything to gain! Whether that be an opportunity to reflect on your skills/achievements or a chance to showcase your talent – you never know what may impress the assessors. Use your time at university wisely to discover yourself and never feel afraid to show off what you are really made of. Opportunities come and go, and these awards are really one not to miss!