The beauty of my graduate programme at Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) is that I get to try lots of different things and contribute to the delivery of a massive change project. For my first placement, I joined the machine intelligence programme, where we are growing our data and artificial intelligence capabilities. We are developing advanced propositions, generating and applying insights that allow us to help our customers and colleagues. I've just moved to my second placement in cyber security – I'm only on day two but it is going well so far!
My graduate programme is in group transformation, which was set up to support the bank's strategic vision of technological innovation. A significant part of this involves investing in emerging technologies and further improving the digital experience for our customers. As an LBG customer myself, I get to benefit from the innovations we are making while learning about the technical concepts behind them. I think that's really cool.
Finding my niche at LBG
At university I chose to study computer science for a year because it seemed clear that the future would be built on technological innovation. My grades suggested that I was well suited to a career in tech and I decided to test it by completing an internship.
During my internship at LBG, I was in the global transaction banking (cash management) team, which managed a suite of software applications delivering commercial banking services. I helped to map out the interactions between our systems in preparation for the decommissioning of a major software application.
I'd imagined beforehand that banking might have a ruthless working environment, but everyone was really friendly. People always made time to answer my questions and my line manager encouraged me to discover more about the bank through shadowing teams in mobile banking and cyber security.
Applying for the graduate programme
I wanted to work for LBG after graduating, but I was also considering doing a masters at the time. LBG arranged for me to attend the following year's assessment centre, rather than having to go through the entire application process again.
It's easy to say 'try to relax' at an assessment centre, but harder to do! The main thing that helped me was talking to everyone there, from the other candidates to graduate employees. I soon found that all candidates felt equally nervous and all employees were actively wanting us to have a good experience. Talking to people beforehand also helps with group exercise activities; it enables you to be aware of different personalities, which will help you to facilitate discussion.
Joining the graduate programme
When I started, I attended a day-long induction event at the Vox Conference Centre in Birmingham. It was fantastic, featuring talks from senior colleagues and workshops on topics such as professional development. It was also a good opportunity to meet other graduates and I've since developed a great group of friends among them – I've actually become really good friends with the three other graduates from my assessment centre group exercise.
On the graduate programme, managers give graduates opportunities to deliver tangible outcomes, meaning that you can leave your placement feeling proud of what you have achieved. When I first started, my role was to assist with building a learning hub, a website where colleagues can go and learn about the machine intelligence programme's work. I worked with subject matter experts to build training courses in data science, robotic process automation and virtual assistants. I feel proud that I helped to deliver training resources for over 75,000 colleagues on areas that will be important for the future of the bank and our ways of working.
Later I expressed an interest in getting closer to our technical work and I was made a product owner, where I supported the development of an exciting new service for our customers. I can't say too much about it because it is still being built, but it is intended to help customers manage their finances. I was working with the technical delivery team on elements of the product's design and experiencing aspects of project management, such as getting involved in running workshops and fostering collaboration.
Learning about myself
What I appreciate the most is that in my day job I am given enough responsibility to bring me out of my comfort zone, but enough support to make a success of it. I've had ample opportunities to develop personally and professionally, such as giving presentations on university campuses. On a graduate programme like this, you need to develop excellent time management because you are facing competing priorities and there are lots of opportunities you don't want to miss. Through a mix of online learning and face-to-face workshops, I've learned lots, from machine learning to developing resilience and emotional intelligence.
One of the most important things I've learned in the workplace is that it pays to be yourself. If you are working hard to pretend to be someone you're not, you won't play to your strengths and it might be better to consider a different career or employer. Being able to be my complete self in the workplace has meant that I've been able to be genuine and build good working relationships. When I went out with my department to mark the end of my first placement, they went out of their way to make me feel appreciated, making me feel proud of how far I'd progressed.
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