Generation Game with Aaron Hopkinson

Nurturing the apprentice.

As a young person starting out in any organisation there are many thoughts that run through your head. “I hope the people there will like me. I hope my first day goes well. I hope they won’t treat me differently because I’m young. I hope I won’t just be making drinks for everybody. I hope I won’t be given simplistic work to do.”

Beginning an apprenticeship at Brother UK, my initial training was split between digital marketing and IT. I would work on many projects via different technology platforms. As my skills developed, so too did my workload! But I was fortunate in that I was always given plenty of time to learn and develop, and then put my skills into action.

I had the chance to learn how the business operates from an IT infrastructure point of view, and help to set up and implement business changes that included upgrading mobile systems and implementing software. 

The importance of networking

One vital experience was the chance to network in the business. You may not necessarily think that an IT department is a good place to network, but if your laptop or any piece of equipment you use stops working, where do you go? I met around 80% of the organisation by working in this department which was a great way to get to know my co-workers and form new relationships.

The point of an apprenticeship is that it gives you the chance to learn about different topics and various departments in an organisation. So having proved my initial capability, an opportunity arose in product management. I had heard of the department, but didn’t know the detailed responsibilities involved. 

Talking to my peers, we’re all in agreement about one thing: we want to know exactly about our roles and job titles. What work will we be doing? What will we be helping to achieve? What is the goal that this department is working towards? I think that’s a good thought for employers to bear in mind when they are planning to recruit.

My current role in product management is a new experience altogether and offers a totally different perspective. It also comes with a lot more responsibilities. I’m providing training to customers, implementing changes across the business and help influence processes to increase efficiency and productivity through changing the way the business looks at information. 

Honing new skills

Another skill I continue to develop and get better at is research. In a product-focused role, thinking about the next big thing that will meet the needs of the market is vital. There will always be something new and exciting coming out with all the latest tech that’s on offer. Ongoing research allows me to become familiar with technology and keep up to date in this area. 

Knowing about new tech also drives creativity that can bring something to life. There is no right or wrong answer, it’s simply ideas and concepts that grow businesses through new innovations.

As a young person entering an organisation, I had – and still have – lots of things to learn. But I also feel that the company I work for could maybe learn something from me too – a fresh and young perspective and a new way of looking at information to increase productivity and efficiency.  

I think it is key to make a real impact on the younger generation early on. It will help them get embedded in an industry, promote new idea creation and execution, and positively guide and influence
 future decision-making. We have a lot to offer
 and being given the right opportunity can really contribute to the future success of
 this industry. 

Editor’s note: Aaron Hopkinson won the Young Executive of the Year award at this year’s European Office Products Awards in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in March 2017.