Sophie Meakin

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background

I grew up on a farm in the Kent countryside where I spent the majority of my younger years before moving to university 5 years ago. I began my studies at the University of Warwick in 2016 where I read Politics and International Studies and got involved with lots of extra-curricular activities, including a range of political societies and sailing. I graduated from university in 2019, and like many graduates, I was unsure what I wanted to do with my career. This led to me joining a headhunting firm in London that specialised in the insurance industry and taught me a lot about the market which truthfully I had very little knowledge on beforehand!

What inspired you to apply for this role and this company?

When I finished university in 2019 I was unsure what I wanted to do as even though I loved my degree, I didn’t see myself pursuing a career in politics. In my previous role as a headhunter, meeting brokers and underwriters on a regular basis sparked my interest and inspired me to apply for the graduate scheme at Allianz. The reason I decided to apply for the Graduate Management Trainee scheme at Allianz is because it gives you the opportunity to have 4 very different placements across the business allowing you to develop a huge variety of new skills in addition to meeting a diverse range of people throughout the 2 years. I joined Allianz in September 2020 and throughout the scheme I will have rotated around underwriting, claims, sales/market and operations.

How have you found working from home?

Working from home has certainly been a challenge at times but thankfully being able to video call colleagues has made it easier to build a rapport and development relationships. Working from home also opens a whole host of opportunities as you can now consider roles that you may never have thought were possible before the pandemic due to commuting distance, for instance. It’s also been an excellent way to expand my network globally and meet people who I may never have crossed paths with before video calls became the norm!

What do you find most interesting with the sector/industry you're in?

The perception that insurance is an industry for people who are ‘pale, male and frail’ still unfortunately exists, but this certainly is not the case at Allianz. Allianz promotes a diverse working culture and is constantly looking for ways to ensure that it’s working environment really is both inclusive and diverse.

The insurance market is very much a ‘hidden gem’ in the sense that it is not really a sector you hear your peers entering but there really is something for everyone, whether that be underwriting or HR. There are so many opportunities, particularly with Allianz acquiring other UK insurers, meaning we are now one of the biggest players across the country. This creates such an exciting time for its employers as new roles are being created and we are always changing and adapting to ensure we meet the needs of our customers.

Top tips completing a video interview

  • Try and be as genuine and authentic as possible.
  • Prepare for competency-based questions using the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Action & Result).
  • As awkward as it may seem, try and make eye contact with the camera as opposed to looking at yourself or anything else on your screen!
  • Wear something you would also wear to an in-person interview.

Tips for an assessment centre

Enjoy it! The assessment centre was my favourite part of the application process as everyone was so welcoming and really worked to help you feel at ease. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions on the day, it’s great to be curious. Thoroughly research the company and have a look at recent changes that have taken place which you may be able to speak about on the day. Look into the company values and see how these align with your own.

What is the company culture like?

Allianz has a very inclusive culture that recognises the value you bring as an individual. From day one your manager will be encouraging you to learn and develop new skills, and there is always time made available for you to focus on your personal and career development. It is also a very collaborative environment and people are always willing to help, despite the fact you may only be in their team for 6 months before moving into another placement!

How important is diversity to you and what is Allianz doing in this space at the moment?

Diversity is very important to me and was something I had researched about the business before applying to the graduate scheme as I wanted to work for an employer who was actively championing diversity.
From what I’ve seen since joining the company, Allianz are committed to their D&I policy and have demonstrated this by signing the Race at Work Charter towards the end of last year. Whilst there has traditionally been a large focus on getting women into leadership and managerial roles across the company, there is now a shift in focus to ensuring all marginalised groups are also given these opportunities. There’s always room for improvement and there’s a way to go yet, but it will be interesting to see how these commitments are backed by actions.

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