Energy is changing fast: undergoing a true digital revolution to help the world ditch dirty energy.
Hundreds of thousands of green energy jobs are coming in the next few years. We've hired 1,500 people in the last year alone, and expect we'll need 2,000 more in 2022.
That’s why we run internships to introduce young people entering the workforce to the incredible potential in energy careers. In particular, our internships have focused on welcoming under-represented groups, to combat a historical lack of representation of women and all people of colour in energy and tech. This started in 2020 with our tech internship, the Ada Lovelace project.
We’d like to tell you all about our 2021 Octopus Energy Equality Internship, an 8-week internship in tech and customer operations.
Why an Internship?
All about the Internship
Meet the Interns
In depth interviews with Gillian, Aissa, Chime and Liban
Behind the Octopus Energy Equality Internship
We’re on a mission to make energy green and fair for all. To do it, we need a great team that represents everyone in our society. Studies show that less than 5% of the energy sector is made up of black professionals. To give exposure and experience to an under-represented sector of the workforce, and show off the incredible careers in the future of Energy and Tech to the next generation, we created six internship roles open to candidates who identify with any Black, African or Caribbean background.
The internship was painstakingly planned by a cross-functional Octopus team. We’ll let James, Jack, Suraj, Joe, Maya, Vania and Safiyah tell you a bit more about it…
“We wanted to give our interns a look at the inner workings of the industry, as well as some experience in a typical energy role.
This fantastic team spent a few weeks immersing themselves in the world of Octopus, joining teams, meeting people and learning about the business.
Their time with us culminated in a special project of their own: fixing a problem or making some part of the business run a little smoother, then presenting it to our senior management and the rest of the Octopus team at our weekly family dinner.
We’re so proud to say the internship was a real success, giving our interns invaluable knowledge to help them figure out their next career steps. Some of the interns enjoyed it so much, they decided to stay on with us!”
Some of the lovely team behind the internship
What did our interns get up to?
The internship was specifically designed to give a true overview of a job in tech or operations at the energy company of the future.
For the first few weeks, the newbies got a crash course in everything Octopus, including training on Kraken, our world-class tech platform.
Once they’d been fully trained up, they were embedded in core Octopus teams. The three operations interns sat alongside our award-winning customer service teams and spent a few weeks living “a day in the life”, looking after customers via phone calls and emails. Our tech interns joined teams of Kraken developers, getting to grips with the codebase through tasks to make our platform better for staff and customers.
Throughout the internship, we took some day trips to the lesser-known, more weird and wonderful parts of our operation, showing the breadth of careers at Octopus and energy broadly.
We visited a vertical farm in Hackney to show our interns how our ‘Agile’ green electricity is being used in indoor crop-growing.
And then we took a trip to Slough for a pretty exclusive peek at our Low-carbon Heat R&D Centre, where we’re developing affordable, green heat pumps for the UK and training 1,000s of engineers to install them. (No pictures here as it’s genuinely a bit of a secret).
Lastly, using all their knowledge and experience, the interns got to develop their very own tool to make work at Octopus even better for our entire team! They spent weeks creating and testing the tool and finally presented it to the entire company at our weekly family dinner. (The quaint name is a leftover from our earliest days in a tiny office in Hammersmith, but ‘family dinner’ is now a weekly Zoom attended by 1,000+ people around the world!)
The project: creating an internal dashboard, displaying key metrics concerning payments and balances for energy specialists as they help customers. They researched meticulously and worked closely with experts in our ops teams to discover which metrics would be most impactful.
For a more in-depth breakdown of the internship...
8 weeks in operations at Octopus
The aim of the first 2 weeks was to get our Interns accustomed to all things Octopus; our people, our vision and our company culture. We also provided training on our systems and Industry knowledge.
The Interns were then placed in their own Operations teams and were given the opportunity to interact with customers first hand! They responded to queries, handled complaints and honed their customer service skills all whilst getting a first hand experience of the Energy Industry.
Project ‘Improve Ops Efficiency’ kicked off!
The Interns were given the chance to visit their teams in Brighton and Warwick, shadowing Ops members and gathering information on how to improve Ops efficiency, as well as offering creative solutions.
Check out the Completed project below!
The internship ended in awesome fashion, as the interns presented their final ideas and project to our entire Senior Management Team as well as the whole Octopus Team.
8 weeks in tech at Octopus
The first few days in any job as a developer is to set up your development environment, i.e. getting Kraken up and running on your machine. The interns spent their time setting up their laptops and getting familiar with the software we use. Once they were set up, we got them working on small tasks and bug fixes to start getting accustomed to our database and codebase.
At this point the interns were ready to join their “biscuit teams” (the various smaller teams that make up the wider UK Tech team are named after biscuits, such as hobnobs and leibniz). They joined 3 different teams and took part in their daily standups to soak up as much knowledge and insight as possible.
We also began to host various workshops to give the interns a crash course on some of the key skills required to be a developer, this included testing and using git and GitHub. Alongside this we continued to assign tasks of increasing size and difficulty for each intern to get stuck into. The aim was to build their confidence and knowledge to the point where they are able to take on a project as a group.
For the last 4 weeks, the interns were given a project to take on together. The task was to create an “industry dashboard” in Kraken, displaying metrics that would be useful to Ops team. The first step was to liaise with key stakeholders in Ops to decide which metrics would be most useful/deliverable and then try to implement these ideas. The interns hosted their own daily standups every morning and a separate check-in with us at the beginning and end of each week.
The internship ended in equally awesome fashion, as the interns presented their final ideas and project to our entire Senior Management Team as well as the whole Octopus Team.
Meet the interns
I got a chance to chat to Tech Interns Gillian and Aissa, as well as Ops Interns, Chime and Liban who told me all about their Octo-experience. Check out my interviews with them below:
A Computer Science student passionate about ethical tech
Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Student
Computer Science student and AI researcher
Chemical Engineering Graduate
A self-taught coder and Computer Science student with a passion for ethical tech
Samsam: What drew you to the internship?
Gillian: I am also super interested in sustainability and tech that is socially and environmentally ethical. I just don't want to contribute to something that is harmful to people or the planet so being a part of this company made perfect sense for me.
I liked the unconventional application method where you didn’t need to submit a CV, so I got to showcase my work properly using just a cover letter.
Samsam: What initially drew you to tech?
Luckily, there is a lot of open source software available now, but back then I had to learn how to code just so I could create my own games or personalise my websites/social media.
Samsam: What did the internship involve?
Gillian: So, the first week was spent getting accustomed to the software they use, as well as learning about the energy industry. This is amazing but requires a lot of work and upkeep so we spent most of the 8 weeks cleaning up bugs to improve the software usability and hone our skills set.
What was really interesting to learn was that the tools that Octopus Energy uses are all built internally.
Samsam: What was it like working with the tech team?
Gillian: I always felt super supported as the first thing we were told was the Octopus policy of ‘we don’t want anyone to struggle’. There was so much help available and I was never worried about getting stuck, needing help or potentially making a mistake.
Nobody in the company is on their own, and we are there to learn after all. I have always been a little insecure about my coding skills as I am mostly self-taught so getting more tech experience has been super helpful.
We were often told that we shouldn’t worry and even if we made mistakes, there would always be someone on hand to help fix it.
Samsam: What advice do you have for people interested in tech?
Gillian: It’s easier than ever to get into tech now because the later you get on the language, the more likely someone has already fixed the issues making it easier to use. So even though a lot of people think they might have missed out by not starting earlier and are worried it is too complicated: it’s actually the opposite.
The best piece of advice I have is to check out FreeCodecamp.org, they are a nonprofit organisation and fantastic for beginners.
Samsam: Is there anything about the tech industry that you think needs to improve?
Gillian: Data mining is a huge issue. People often think of the biggest tech platforms as the worst culprits but even small, independent websites data mine. Whether it’s informational content or children’s educational websites, many websites are very unethical with data. And right now, even though we have GDPR, websites employ a lot of sneaky ways to access people’s data. This includes things like making the accept button look green, or putting the cancel button in an unexpected place. They also often make the process as confusing as possible so people don’t know what they are agreeing to. So, I am really determined not to use tech in these sorts of unethical ways.
Using tech for good was a huge part of why I applied to Octopus.
Samsam: What would you say to people who don’t care about data mining as companies ‘have all their data anyway’?
Gillian: I would tell them that they shouldn't be so easily discouraged. I know a lot of people feel like it is inevitable but there are options to protect yourself online; you just have to just find them. A great example is Brave browser which is Google Chrome without cookie tracking. There are also loads of free or affordable VPN you can use.
Samsam: A big focus of the internship was diversity and inclusion in the tech and energy industry. Was that something that drew you to the internship?
Gillian: I can’t say it’s the biggest thing that drew me to the internship but I appreciated Octopus Energy following their Black Lives Matter statement with concrete action. I am big on companies being genuine when they engage with movements or activists and I don’t care much for empty statements or hopping on a trend.
Diversity is a huge problem in tech which is made worse by the fact people think Technology is this completely apolitical thing. I know this is quite important to Octopus and The Global Head of Front End development literally wrote a book about tech accessibility so I hope we will see some industry wide improvements soon.
The idea is that robots can't have opinions, but all tech was created by a person and includes their biases. So, it is crucial that the industry reflects the society we live in.
Quick Fire Round
What's your favorite place in the world?
Russia, as I lived there when I was younger.
What's one thing that you really want to accomplish this year?
I want to write a nonfiction book. I already have some ideas so I'm excited to start!
I have to put on make-up every morning. It’s not at all about how I look, it's more about the act of painting to calm me down, and get ready for the day.
Be the cowboy by Mitski.
A Mechanical and Electrical Engineering student with a fascination for EVs
Samsam: What initially drew you to Octopus?
Chime: I studied electrical and mechanical engineering so I was interested in the cool technical developments and inventions in the Energy Industry. I am also super interested in Electric Vehicles and Octopus is one of the UK leaders in that arena so I wanted the chance to learn more about it.
Samsam: What was your day to day like?
Chime: I worked in Operations, dealing with customer queries via email and providing a good customer experience. Towards the end of the internship we also got a chance to visit several Octopus offices to observe and consider creative ways to improve the service. We worked with the tech team to help bring our ideas to fruition. We eventually presented our ideas to Octopus Senior management which was a little nerve wracking but really cool.
We took a fascinating field trip to the Octopus heat pumps centre where engineers are trained to install renewable heating systems to help people switch to low-carbon heating.
Samsam: What was it like working with the team?
Chime: I really enjoyed working with the Ops and Tech team, and we all made an effort to support each other. We had a lot of fun learning our way around Octopus together. Our mentors in Ops and Tech were also very kind and really, really helpful which just made the whole experience great.
Samsam: What challenges did you experience during the process?
Chime: There was a lot of heavy theory in the beginning of the internship as we were taught all about the company. I personally prefer a more hands on approach to learning so that was a bit of a challenge. Although, we did switch to practical learning within a week or two which was great.
Samsam: What is the biggest lesson you learnt during this internship?
Chime: How to network. I learnt a lot about being in a professional environment, getting to know people with different approaches and experiences. It opened my eyes to different opportunities which I appreciated.
Samsam: Was there anything that surprised you?
Chime: Yes, the workplace culture really surprised me. Everyone was so kind, open and willing to help. On a Friday evening, everyone would stay in the office and you would end up chatting with the CEO or other senior management in a very casual way.
There was no sense of hierarchy Octopus, and it just felt like a big community or family.
Samsam: The internship was started as a way to make the Energy industry more diverse and inclusive. Is that something that is important to you?
Chime: Absolutely. The main reason I applied to the internship was to get industry experience but the focus on diversity was a huge plus. I really enjoyed working with people who come from a similar background and it was a lovely, supportive atmosphere.
Quick Fire Round
Your top album?
It’s a tie between Late registration and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Collecting cartoons, I have a few rare ones that are no longer in circulation which I am super happy about.
Favourite place in the world?
One thing you really want to do this year?
Learn C++ Programming
A Computer Science student investigating the future of AI
Aissa, second from the left, at an Octo internship hangout
Samsam: What led you to the internship?
Aissa: I was actually looking at Octopus as one of the companies I wanted to apply to in the future when I saw the internship. I was really impressed by the positive feedback that I read online about what it is like to work here. I applied to the internship as I am new to tech and with an engineering background, I really wanted some practical tech experience. I am currently doing a very theory-heavy computer science Masters conversion course, so this was a great opportunity to work on real projects.
Samsam: Was the focus on Diversity also something that drew you to the internship?
Aissa: Yes, I was really drawn to the fact that it was an equality focused internship. In the past, I have been worried that I would get rejected for a job application despite having the experience, because I am a black woman. With this internship, that fear was removed and I knew I would succeed or fail based solely on my skill level.
It was great to be in an environment where I wasn’t the only black person, and to be surrounded by people who come from a similar background.
Samsam: What was your day to day like with the internship?
Aissa: Our focus was fixing bugs and issues in the system that were flagged internally. Mostly, that involved coding which was a great learning experience. For the final few weeks, I worked together with the other interns on our own front-end project to improve the system for the customer service team.
Samsam: What are the main skills you picked up during the internship?
Aissa: I learnt a lot of very useful, practical skills I can transfer to other areas. Particularly, learning to navigate such a huge codebase and getting comfortable with complex formulas. I also gained experience navigating working alongside a big team and collaborating with others to brainstorm and complete projects.
Samsam: What was your favourite part of the experience?
Aissa: It was totally not what I expected, in a great way. Often internships just include doing the jobs nobody else wants to do but with this internship, we were crucial to the project and we were treated like people and colleagues. We weren’t treated differently than anyone else, which was really lovely.
Often internships just include being part of the decoration, getting coffee or doing the jobs nobody else wants or cares to do. But with this internship, we really felt involved and important.
Samsam: What challenges did you face during the internship?
Aissa: I think just me, myself and I. I often felt like I didn’t know enough and was putting too much pressure on myself to have all the answers. Some of the other interns had more tech experience than me, which was a little intimidating. However, I realised that it’s normal and super common to feel like that. Plus, it isn’t helpful to dwell on what you don’t know, when you could spend that time focusing on your tasks and improving your skills.
Samsam: I understand the internship led you to another opportunity - where are you working at the moment?
Aissa: I got an internship in an AI research center, where I look into ways to improve the technology. Particularly, my focus is on human - robot interactions and what needs to happen for humans to trust autonomous appliances and vehicles.
Samsam: Interesting! How accurate is people's perception of AI versus what it really is?
Aissa: It’s not very accurate. Don't get me wrong, AI is capable of some incredible feats but people often overestimate what it's currently capable of. There is still a lot of research and development needed to accomplish some of the ideas you hear people talk about.
AI is capable of some incredible feats but people often overestimate its current capacity.
Samsam: What tools and resources would you recommend for people who are interested in tech?
Aissa: Luckily, there are so many free and accessible resources online. Why pay tons of money for a course, when Youtube is free? I have also used Code Academy which is very beginner and user-friendly, as well as Black Girls Code.
Stack Overflow is a great community of coders which I use often. Plus, Harvard offers a free Introduction to Computer Science course which is excellent for understanding the deeper concepts of computer science.
Quick Fire Round
Any unusual skills?
I speak 4 languages, English, French, and two other languages from Niger
Pop smoke - Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon
What's your favourite place in the world?
It’s a split between London and Niger which is home.
Best trip you've ever been on?
A family trip across the US where we went to Chicago, New York and a bunch of other cool states.
A Chemical Engineering grad with his sights set on a career in the future of energy
Samsam: What is your background in and what drew you to Octopus?
Liban: I have just completed an integrated Masters in Chemical Engineering at UCL. The course taught me all about renewable energy and environmental systems and how they interact with one another. I learnt a lot about the development and wide scale adoption of electric vehicles which I find fascinating, and which is what drew me to the company.
The battery tech EVs need is going to be instrumental as we transition to green energy and Octopus has a fantastic EV Department
Samsam: Have you always been interested in a career in sustainability?
Liban: I have been more drawn to it the past few years, as it is the way of the future. Renewable Energy is among the most forward-thinking industries, and on course to overtake the entire energy sector and other industries as they also move towards green energy. It just makes sense to pivot my career towards this industry.
Renewable Energy is among the most interesting and forward-thinking industries which is on course to overtake the entire energy sector
Samsam: What drew you to the internship?
Liban: After I graduated, I was looking hard for work experience in this industry before looking into graduate schemes. I wanted some useful career experience and to get a sense of what it is like working in the Energy Industry. I have learnt a lot about sustainability, energy and the wide array of jobs and opportunities available in this industry.
Samsam: Was the focus on Diversity something that drew you to the internship?
Liban: Yes, I think it's really important to have a diverse workforce if you want to have a truly global business. I do think Octopus is on the right track with the inclusive recruitment methods being used during Discovery Days and this internship is another step in the right direction.
Octopus is expanding fast in America, Japan and Spain and it is important that the work force represents the world around us.
Samsam: What was it like working with the other interns and the Ops Team?
Liban: I really liked working with the entire team and they were all very supportive and helpful despite the fact I was working remotely. We were all checking in on each other regularly and there would always be someone to offer a friendly bit of advice or insight.
Samsam: What has been the most memorable part of the internship?
Liban: Definitely, the people that I’ve met during this process. Everyone was so lovely and I’ll absolutely stay in touch with the people on the Recruitment and Diversity team, like Safiyah and Vania who were so supportive. My mentor, Josh, was also great and introduced me to some amazing people at Octopus in the consulting and Renewables Departments which allowed me to further examine my future career choices.
There is no sense of hierarchy at Octopus so I got to know people at all levels, in all Departments and I gained a really great understanding of what it’s like to work in this Industry.
Samsam: What challenges did you face during the internship?
Liban: We spent some time dealing directly with customer queries to get some first hand experience which had some challenges. There is such a wide array of knowledge in this area which was a little overwhelming but we did get a lot of support and advice. Occasionally, we would deal with complaints or complex queries so it was a challenge making sure to meet all of the customer’s needs.
Samsam: What was your favourite part of the internship?
Liban: It has shown me the kind of work environment I would like to work in. There was such a comfortable and easy atmosphere, filled with support and helpful advice. Any questions were quickly answered and we were put at ease during the whole process. These are the kinds of environments that foster learning and encourage hard work which is what made the experience so great. I am so grateful I got to take part and it was a super positive, educational experience.
Samsam: What skills are you going to take away from this experience?
Liban: My main goal was to experience and showcase myself in a professional work environment, which I got to do. All the training on data, sustainability and renewables will also be relevant in any future career path I take so I gained a lot of transferable skills.
Most importantly, this internship has really allowed me to expand my thoughts on potential career paths and I am super excited to explore all of these in the future.
Quick Fire Round
Three words to describe the internship?
Educational, Fun, Open
Kendrick Lamar - good kid m.a.a.d city
Pretty much any Denzel Washington or Will Smith movie.
Favourite place in the world?
One thing you’d like to do next year?
Go on holiday.
Want to join our team?
Apply and land yourself a role with Europe's best-funded green tech startup!
We need authentic, passionate people to join teams all over the UK (or 100% remote, if that's your thing).