Last year former Leeds’ and now Rugby Lions’ full back, Leigh Hinton, was one of three successful applicants to win a place on Computacenter’s new unique Professional Development Scheme, an opportunity that was established through The RPA’s partnership with their long-standing senior business partner.

Having recently completed his placement, Leigh tells us about the mentoring programme and what is involved on a day to day basis while working for Computacenter.

Q. Talk us through the development programme and the skills you have learnt

“The programme has allowed me to cover a wide range of business processes. I spent time with my mentor, Andy Moffitt (a senior director at Computacenter) in board meetings, strategy meetings, client negotiations and even interviews. He allowed me to identify areas in business I found interesting, before focusing more directly on them.”

Q. How did you combine rugby and the professional development scheme?

“The flexibility is perhaps the most valuable part of the scheme. Obviously the unpredictable nature of our weeks can be an issue when you’re trying to gain work experience. I was able to match up my schedule with my mentor and identify suitable opportunities for us to meet up. He was totally aware of the demands of training and the situation I was in.”

Q. On average what hours did you work?

“My programme didn’t require any long hours. I normally spent the day in the office from 9am to 5pm on my day off in the week.”

Q. What is the biggest contrast to life as a professional rugby player when you start work in the ‘real world’?

“There are a few things to get used to. In an office environment you are forced to mix with people of all ages, from all different walks of life – in our world. We’re generally cut from the same cloth… well most of us!

“There is no doubt the hours are a massive culture shock also. We as rugby players get paid a huge amount for the hours we do and I think that is a big surprise for some at the end of their career. All of a sudden you’re working a lot harder for a lot less money… Tough to take!”

Q. What skills learnt as a professional sportsman have you found transferable or particularly relevant to the new role?

“Networking is always crucial in life. Building relationships in sport and in business are invariably at the centre of success. This along with determination and focus that comes as a given to most professional sportsmen.”

Q. Why would you recommend applying for next year’s Computacenter Professional Development Scheme?

“It think it is an unbelievable opportunity for players. Anyone with an interest in business should consider applying and understand that access and advice from people of this calibre is hard to come by.”

Q. What extra qualifications have you done or would recommend other players doing if they want to go into this field?

“I’ve done an MBA in International Business, but I think any extra qualifications show a willingness to learn and develop yourself.”

Andy Moffitt, Practices Director at Computacenter, said: “Leigh shadowed me through various business, team and individual meetings gaining a full understanding of the management and dynamics of Computacenter across sales, operations and leadership of a large workforce.

“We briefed and debriefed before and after every session and as we progressed Leigh developed an instinct for the nature of our business and the challenges we face. Leigh’s questions were always relevant and, after time, his contribution became quite thought provoking.

“As a mentor, working with Leigh was a delight. His desire, passion and commitment to the scheme made him easy to work with and inspired me in return to want to give as much as I could. Consequently, for me, it was never a chore or added burden to an already busy life.

“When we embarked on the scheme neither Leigh nor I had any pretentions that he might ultimately work for Computacenter, this was about development and giving Leigh an insight into part of the world outside of professional rugby. I certainly enjoyed giving my time and I believe we both gained something from the experience.”

Kayode Odetoyinbo, HR Manager at Computacenter, said: “The ground breaking Professional Development Scheme has allowed Computacenter to make a real difference for players that have come through the application process and we are very proud of its success.

“Leigh in particular – from a player’s perspective – has shown a keenness to make the most of this significant opportunity. He’s gained a great understanding of the business environment and equipped himself with the knowledge to address his big challenge: what to do with his career once his playing days are over.

“Both he and Andy (Moffitt) have been highly innovative in the way that they have used the PDS structure, and I know that from their feedback they have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.”