2020 has not been easy on graduates. Covid-19 has left students, including myself, finishing degrees in an environment where jobs are sparse, companies are struggling and the economy is crumbling.
I discovered tomato pay (formerly Fractal) back in February, before covid got its grip on the country’s day-to-day lives, while at a Fractal, Deloitte-event with my university cohort. The aim was to give Journalism Master’s students insight into reporting on the flourishing fintech industry.
I was very impressed by the company's mission and the technology used to support SMEs. Plus the speakers present who spoke with such passion made the industry sound very intriguing - tomato pay's Nicholas Heller, Sifted’s Isabel Woodford, Deloitte’s Petronella Löffler, Deloitte's Ed Matheson, and tomato pay's Lisa Leid.
As I have always been passionate about tech and the newest innovations, I instantly knew that I wanted to get involved, so I spoke up and enquired about working with the team. One week later, I got an internship to start at the end of March.
When the pandemic hit, I was sure that I would have to say goodbye to my internship too.
Hiring is not on anyone’s priority list right now. Companies are trying to survive amidst the current recession, plunging the economy into the deepest slump on record, with a shrinking GDP of 20.4% in the second quarter.
Furthermore, many employees have been placed on furlough or even let go in recent months. As of August 2020, approximately 9.6 million people have been furloughed, and many companies have had to make severe cuts in their workforce to be able to sustain their businesses. Moreover, companies are facing high costs to ensure their offices are conforming to Covid-19 hygiene measures. Although employees are gradually returning to the office, it will still take months to recover from the impact of the lockdown.
All of this has created a very difficult environment for those of us who graduated in 2020 and already had to go through the unnatural process of finishing our studies from family homes, uni halls or student flats. Having to write a dissertation in these unusual circumstances, and not attending graduation to celebrate our successes, did not make it any better.
And on top of everything, the question of how we were going to find a job posed itself.
The looming prospects of a severely impacted economy and a difficult job market were awaiting us. My friends who had recently graduated were all going through a hard time when the lockdown was implemented in the UK with many of them having their workplace offers and internships cancelled.
However, some sectors experienced a real upswing such as tech and digitally-focused industries. Job applications in the technology sector have jumped a staggering 36% and digital job listings have averaged 90,000 per week since June. This is where I, a young graduate like any other, also got lucky.
I was fortunate. tomato pay came through with their offer and allowed me to intern remotely whilst the whole team learnt how to successfully implement distributed working. At this point, no one knew how long this would go on for, and teams were not used to onboarding new employees remotely.
My internship was a great way to better understand the company. It was an experience adapting and learning how to contribute in the best way possible whilst being remote. I was blown away by the support I received from everyone, immersing me in the company without ever having met me in person and making me feel a part of the team.
I was even happier to be told that after a month of my full-time internship, I could stay on and freelance part-time alongside my Masters. I knew it was rare to find a company so accommodating of your schedule and understanding of the difficult circumstances for students attending online classes and having to wrap up a Masters during a pandemic.
In the past I had often experienced difficulty when applying to internships, due to requiring many years of experience, having to complete many stages and ultimately preferring candidates from the UK.
It was the complete opposite at tomato pay.
The interview process was clear, and I felt valued as a person and a student. Moreover, I discovered quickly that the company had a young, diverse team, with an impressive amount of female employees. This was one of the reasons why the overall culture of the company resonated deeply with me.
I was extremely pleased to then find out that I could join tomato pay full time as a Communications Associate upon completion of my studies. Since then everything I had learned during my internship has been extremely helpful and valuable in scaling up my knowledge and diversifying my capabilities.
A couple of things I have taken away in the recent months is how important it is to jump on any opportunity you can get, not to be afraid to approach people you admire even if you have to do so virtually, and to give startups a chance. They are often more flexible, understanding and open to risk. The fast-paced and colloquial environment allows everyone to shine.