Sharing experiences, changing perceptions

posted by on 8 Mar 2018

Changing the way society thinks is a mammoth task. Yet that’s the challenge that International Women’s Day embodies. While being a global day to celebrate all the achievements of women around the world, it’s also a reminder to us that we still have a way to go.

We’ve been speaking to some of our people to discover why International Women’s Day is important to them and to share their experiences, in the hope that we can inspire people everywhere to #PressForProgress.

The challenges that women face within society start from a young age. For Jelena, Chief Architect at AXA UK, one of her biggest challenges was the choice she made at university.

Jelena Burns, Chief Architect at AXA UK holding up a sign with a quote that she's heard saying "Computer Science is for men."

“At the time I chose to take Computer Science at university it was a very male dominated area and definitely not an easy choice for young women. Even now, it can be scary to be one of five women amongst 150 delegates at a conference.

What helped me was to turn the fact that I was different into an advantage. Maybe I just offer a slightly different point of view. I’ve had a really interesting career so far and it’s my versatility that’s helped me to progress.”

For Chelsie, Project Manager within the HR department and an avid traveller, solo travel has played a huge part of her early career so far. Yet she still comes up against the idea that women shouldn’t travel alone.

Chelise Kumar, Project Manager at AXA UK and winner of the Great Global Adventure holding up a sign with a quote that she's heard saying "Women shouldn’t travel by themselves."

“As the winner of the AXA Great Global Adventure, I spent my first year with AXA travelling the world and meeting people from across AXA’s entire global business. It was an invaluable life experience and I’m glad I didn’t let those comments hold me back. You may not always feel like you’re in a position to stand up to comments, but my advice would be to prove them wrong. You’ll prove to yourself what you’re capable of and be an example to others of what women can achieve in the face of outdated ideas.”

It’s not just the comments that people make that have the potential to hold us back. For many, like Amber, Finance Director for AXA PPP Healthcare, it’s a mentality that grows over time when you see others facing challenging situations.

Amber Wilkinson, Finance Director at AXA PPP Healthcare and mother of 2 holding up a sign with a quote that she's heard saying "Women can’t have a career and a family."

“There have been lots of points along the way where my own self-belief has been a bit of a challenge. Starting a family was one of them, as everything I’d seen and heard up until then had led me to believe that I would have to sacrifice something in my career. But I have to say my career has probably accelerated more since having children. The support I've been given here has pushed me rather than held me back.

Every woman has a different story to tell, but when you start to talk you realise that many of us have the same issues. We need to be open about those issues, more transparent and honest and have the courage to share our weaknesses. That’s why I think we need more women in senior positions, to help us do that.”

We agree with Amber. In fact, we’ve already launched a tailored Leadership Development Programme to help women achieve their full potential. We also appreciate that not all women want to be at the very top of the ladder, for instance in CEO or CFO roles, but that they still have high aspirations for their careers. For many women, it’s about achieving a good work-life balance, as well as feeling that they can develop and that they’re continuing to be challenged. Joanne, Senior Counsel Group Legal and former Sponsor of AXA Women UK, told us about the importance of not making assumptions about women and their appetite to climb the career ladder.

Joanne Simcox, Senior Legal Counsel at AXA UK holding up a sign with a quote that she's heard saying "Women can’t have it all."

“There’s a traditional view of what ‘having it all’ means to women; having a very high-powered senior role while being the ‘perfect’ mother. But having it all means something different to different people. For some, it means being able to have a child while working, for others it’s about also having the time to pursue your interests outside of work.

I’ve been given opportunities to move role since having my two children, but I had the self-awareness to know that I was at my capacity at those points. What’s great is the open conversations between me and my manager. It’s empowering to know that I can make that choice about what is right for me – and through my work as Sponsor I hope I fostered that confidence in other women.”

Everyone develops in their own way. Some of us are fortunate to have mentors who help guide us and a self-belief that drives us, like Nicola Green, HR Director, who refused to listen to outdated ideas.

Nicola Green, HR Director at AXA UK holding up a sign with a quote that she's heard saying "Women don’t make good managers."

“On the whole I’ve had really supportive people and really strong women behind me in my career, who’ve helped mentor me to get where I want to go.

In my past career at another company though, I was told very clearly that girls don’t do management. Most people who know me know that I’m a little bit opinionated and I’m a little feisty, so of course I thought ‘I’m having none of that, I’m going to fight my way through’. I now lead a large team and I’m proof that women can do management.”

We’re taking steps to tackle many of these issues for our people. We’ve signed the women in Finance Charter and we’ve recently released our Gender Pay Gap 2017 results. Bertrand Poupart-Lafarge, Chief Financial Officer and our Women in Finance champion, is responsible for our gender diversity agenda. Here’s what he has to say:

“We must press on towards achieving gender parity. We need to take action to ensure that women can develop in an environment of equal opportunity and gender parity.

Have a story of your own about the challenges you’d faced in your career? Share them on our AXA UK Careers Facebook page or tag us on AXA UK Careers Twitter with #PressForProgress.

categories: AXA people  Women at AXA 

Occupational Health – a worthwhile occupation

posted by on 28 Feb 2018

Liz Busby leads a team of Occupational Health Advisors, working in Scotland, London and remotely across the country. Their specialisms vary, including occupational therapists, technicians or qualified nurses. In this post, she describes her vital – and changing – profession.  

A better work environment

I’ve been at AXA for just over ten years. That’s because this is a great organisation, and Occupational Health itself is a fascinating field – one that’s constantly changing. The way people work has evolved over the last decade, and the service we offer has transformed with it. We specialise in improving people’s work environment – so it’s not surprising that the atmosphere at AXA is especially good. The better we feel, the better our clients feel, and vice versa. We work very closely together: that applies to our clients and us, our team and AXA.

Occupational Health: in a nutshell

Because we spend so much of our lives at work, it’s really important that we make the workplace a safe place to be. That’s what Occupational Health is all about: safeguarding people from the moment they step into the office. I don’t want to overstate things, but we really are making people’s lives better, even if they don’t notice it. You never know – we might even have saved a few from serious, or even life-threatening, accidents.

Possibilities and progress

This is a profession that’s in high demand at the moment. That means that there are lots of job opportunities here and previous experience can vary – for example, we’ve started to bring in people with transferable skills from fields such as nursing. There are also lots of opportunities to progress once you’ve arrived. I started out as an Occupational Health Advisor and now I’m a Clinical Team Manager, for example. Some people also choose to move horizontally into areas like Account Management. That combination of flexibility and possibility really sets this profession – and AXA as a whole – apart.

Why it’s different

Occupational Health differs from, say, nursing because it isn’t shift work based; it’s not always face-to-face and it’s a little less stressful. You also get to make your own judgments and clinical assessments, which is empowering; although you absolutely have to justify those decisions later on, and ensure they’re robust. For those stepping up from a different role, AXA offers a lot of training and support to make the transition easier.

The best bit

Every workplace is different. That means that every job we take on is unique. As I mentioned, the nature of the work changes gradually over time. And you’re making a positive, large-scale impact through each project. Plus, when it comes to AXA, there are lots of great benefits to choose from, such as shares and bonuses. Our job is all about partnering with organisations – and as an organisation, we partner with our people.

categories: AXA people  Clinical and Medical 

Supporting patients in need – life as a Dedicated Heart Nurse

posted by on 9 Feb 2018

After 16 years in clinical practise, including cardiology, in her local hospital, Dominique Burrell was looking for a change of career. She was inspired to join our Heart Care team as a Nurse Case Manager and Dedicated Heart Nurse after talking with our AXA resourcing team. In her new role she gives vital support and advice to people with heart conditions and believes listening, engaging and supporting her patients is the most important aspect of the job.

We caught up with her to find out more about her rewarding career and the amazing work she does to help people in need.

All about the support

“We offer support, rather than medical advice,” says Dominique. “So, I may take a call from someone with chest pain and call an ambulance for them, or speak to people who have had a recent, sudden heart attack and who want to discuss what has happened and what it all means. I also speak to people before and after heart operations, including parents whose children need treatment.”

Going the extra mile to support her patients  

“There have been some memorable moments where I feel I’ve made a real difference to people. A lady called just as we were about to close, but I stayed to talk to her for around 45 minutes, talking her through everything and offering advice and support. The lady felt very reassured and much clearer on the process going forward. She called a few days later with a couple more questions and wanted to speak with me specifically and I was so happy to be able to help her.”

“I also had the opportunity to support an elderly gentleman who lived by himself and had no family. I helped him arrange respite care – which is not done through AXA – and gave him the reassurance he needed.”

Protect and care

Dominique loves having the opportunity to help others using her cardiology knowledge and feels like she makes a real difference to people going through a difficult period of their lives.

If you’re interested in finding out how you could use your clinical knowledge in a very different way, take a look at our Clinical and Medical jobs.  

categories: AXA people 

How losing my voice helped me find a new path

posted by on 30 Jan 2018

Changing your job doesn’t have to mean leaving a company. There is a strong focus on Internal Mobility within AXA. It’s important to us that employees can discover new opportunities to grow and develop. Sometimes it’s because you’re looking for something new and different, other times it can be down to circumstances outside of your control. But no matter what happens, there could be another path for you just around the corner. Like with Jamie, a Resourcing Co-ordinator at AXA. Here’s the story of how he came to work in HR.

I’ve worked at AXA for ten years. I’m now a Resourcing Co-ordinator, but that’s not the role I started out in. My career with AXA began in Customer Services. For eight years, I worked taking calls from customers about their claims and policies. Then I became ill with a bout of severe Laryngitis. It lasted for six weeks and I lost my voice. It actually disappeared completely for six months and I had to undergo speech therapy to help me regain my voice. Of course this had a huge impact on my career, because suddenly I was unable to do my role. Without a voice, I couldn’t take calls in the Customer Services Team.

That’s when I realised that there were other opportunities available to me within AXA. I moved around a bit, working in different roles in Fraud, Claims and Complaints Resolution. Then I moved to HR. I didn’t have any background at all, but from the very beginning I felt so supported by both the Hiring Manager and the team. I spent time liaising with existing co-ordinators to get a better understanding of the role and one of the team offered me training over a one month period. It was such a smooth transition into the Resourcing Team and they all made me feel welcome.

It’s really benefitted my career to experience a range of roles across different departments; I’ve become more business aware and have a greater understanding of AXA as a whole. I’ve built on my knowledge and skills from the projects I’ve been involved in, and each role has offered me something new. I actually get a lot of internal enquiries, because people know I have a wide network and skillset from moving around in AXA. And it’s not just me. I know quite a few people who started at the same time as me, all those years ago, who’ve also had the opportunity to move around.

If you’re looking to move roles within AXA, my advice would be to spend time with the teams and find out if that role is really for you. Ask lots of questions, and really investigate. You need to make the right choice for you and that’s different for everyone. But also, don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. AXA can offer such a wide variety of experience and opportunity, and they’ll support you to make the transition as easy and enjoyable as possible. 

categories: Careers advice  Development at AXA 

How to embrace being the newest member of the team

posted by on 17 Jan 2018

You’ve aced the interview and you’ve got the job. Now comes the hard part. How do you prepare for those first few days and weeks? How can you help calm those pesky nerves? We spoke to Aysha, who recently joined our Glasgow office as a Resourcing Partner, to hear about her experience and discover what advice she has to help you get ready for your new role.

I was a little bit nervous beforehand as I was stepping out of my comfort zone. I was moving from a more accountancy-based recruitment role to one in healthcare, and I was a bit worried as I had very little knowledge of this sector. I was quite excited to start though and the whole process up until that point had been really nice and everyone I’d met so far had been absolutely lovely. So for me, I think it all comes down to keeping a positive mind-set and doing a little bit of preparation. No matter whether you’re nervous or not, here are my three top tips to help you get the most of your experience.

Ask questions, do research

Try to find out as much as you can about what’s expected before you start and don’t be afraid to ask questions once you’re there. The people here are absolutely lovely and everyone goes out of their way to help as much as possible. Even if someone doesn’t have the answer to your question, they’ll stay with you until they find someone who does.

After the interview stage, my new line manager David got in touch and showed me my induction plan. While this will be tailored for each new employee, mine gave me a good overview of what my first few weeks would be like; from meetings to training, as well as trips away to meet different teams. It really helped to have an overview and it meant I could do a bit of research into the people I’d be meeting with, so I could be ready to ask questions when I arrived.

Relax and enjoy your first day

I think the more relaxed you are, the more you’ll enjoy it and the more you’ll take in. My first day went by so fast, but from the minute I walked in I felt such a friendly, warm feeling. There were people who had no idea who I was, and they were all smiles and hellos, it was a great way to begin my new role and really helped me to relax. I was shown around the building, then I had meetings with the various different hiring managers which was fantastic, because I was getting to know all the people I’d be working with on my very first day. It started to paint a picture right from the outset and that really helped me to get to know the business a little bit better.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

Take things slowly and go at your own pace. It’s not just about the first day. Over the next few weeks I began to get to know the hiring managers gradually and I would sit in on meetings between them and the HR Business Partners. I was able to visit different offices and put names to faces. I had various inductions to find out more about my team’s challenges and successes as well as the history and priorities of the company. With all this information it can be a bit overwhelming, so it’s really important not to put too much pressure on yourself and to just take things one step at a time.

We hope that helps give you a little insight into starting a new role with AXA and how to really get the most out of your first few weeks with us.

categories: Careers advice