Open stage for talent: IT careers at our company

Java experts in twelve months: our two employees Ebru and Yvonne switched from banking to IT – with the help of our lateral careers program Smart Movers.

A new software paradigm began to take root around the turn of the millennium: the programming language Java. Thanks to its runtime environments, it can be used on a wide variety of IT platforms. For our employees Ebru and Yvonne, Java was also the springboard for a new career step – they fulfilled a personal passion, learned to code and switched from banking to IT. In the process, they have contributed valuable business expertise taken from their own professional experience. They thereby embody today’s agile interaction between IT and business. The fact that Ebru and Yvonne are women never played a role for them – contrary to some common gender stereotypes.

Beyond outdated stereotypes

Nevertheless, the question comes up: What role do women play in IT today – are they still the exception? Yvonne confirms: “Strangely, it’s still the case. There are seven people in my squad and I’m the only woman. But I really wonder why. Because the bank never makes a distinction. I never felt any prejudices. Women are equally as intelligent and can do everything just as well!” The reason probably isn’t the working environment, but old ideas about roles, Yvonne muses. “You know, people generally think boys are good at math and physics, girls at painting and languages.” To which her colleague Ebru quips: “Java is also a language, by the way! I would recommend a job in IT to any woman who likes logical thinking. It's not just about software development, but much more. There are so many specializations possible.”

Smart program

Our lateral careers program Smart Movers played a very important role in the shift of the professional lives of these two women. We launched the program in 2018 to find “hidden” IT talents internally. How did our two female employees get the idea to apply for it? Ebru describes her career path: “I actually studied Economics and then started at ING about twenty years ago, initially in customer dialogue, but always related to securities.” She also had frequent contact with IT – and a strong personal interest. “At some point, our IT had less and less capacity to take on work, and then I thought, I could actually do all this myself,” Ebru explains with a smile. First, she took advantage of our scholarship offer to train as an IT specialist for application development and learned the object-oriented language Visual Basic. Then Ebru used our Smart Movers program to became an expert in Java.

Exciting career paths, big opportunities

For Ebru's colleague, Yvonne, the path to becoming a coder started off a little different: “I really liked programming at school and actually wanted to study Computer Science.” But then she ended up training to become a banker. When Yvonne joined ING, she initially also worked in customer dialogue, then later in business development (securities business). “After that, my path was similar to Ebru’s. I was making a lot of securities requests to IT, but their resources were limited.” Yvonne then simply wanted to understand what works IT-wise, what doesn't, and most importantly why. She started a Java distance learning course with an ING scholarship and eventually switched to Smart Movers. “Then I was absolutely lucky, because I got into a squad that dealt with securities. So I was able to combine my technical banking knowledge perfectly with the IT topics. I’ve often noticed that many beginners with a purely IT background lack this knowledge. And I think that’s actually the good thing about Smart Movers – the combination of business know-how and IT expertise.”

Complex processes in securities trading

During her first IT assignments, Yvonne had to handle requests from the specialist department on her own. Today, she produces a lot of documentation, among other things: “Again, the combination of technical and IT knowledge is very attractive. I can really explore my personal interests.” This involves, for example, the internal front end for back-office employees in the securities area. They manage background processes that run unnoticed by end customers, such as the correction of trading problems. They use the Java framework Apache Wicket, which Yvonne says was quite a challenge for her to come to grips with. But learning new programming aspects while simultaneously working on new projects is completely normal in IT. Flexibility and a willingness to learn are two basic essentials in programming.

Automation and agile working

Ebru’s first major project dealt with an important innovation – an internal certificate system was also to be used externally for information service providers. The project is currently ongoing. Ebru explains: “Once this is up and running, it will be a pilot for us – and, of course, an immense cost saving. Normally, these certificates have to be renewed manually at regular intervals.” However, Ebru's team has now automated the communication with the certificate provider. She describes the issues: “As a developer, you have to design the configuration and the framework has to fit. Then, when connecting and testing, the other party has to be involve, too.” Yvonne also has to repeatedly interact with stakeholders as well as use new agile ways of working. She talks about her role as a product owner, which she held for a long time: “As product owner, you’re responsible for implementing new requirements and for backlog prioritization. A lot of agile rhythms had to be put in place for the new squad: How do we want to work? How can we work well together? You also have to maintain contact with internal stakeholders; after all, we deliver services for areas such as customer service or internet banking.”

Innovative platform architecture

In the meantime, Ebru has already moved on to the next task. In her new team, she is focusing on our Touchpoint platform: “This is an important topic because it’s part of our Target Architecture. With the help of Touchpoint, we are creating an international ecosystem: our subsidiary Lendico, for example, offers loans to sellers on Amazon. In the context of the PSD2 open banking regulation, Touchpoint is also important for topics such as multibanking. In addition, our platform allows communication via APIs (application programming interfaces) and the reuse of software elements such as microservices. Ebru's tasks here: “We simplify the onboarding of developers. For example, we enable a generic firewall release for the Touchpoint platform in coordination with the security engineers. Also, we keep an eye on Merak as a Spring Boot-based framework for developing APIs at ING, because there are always new releases coming.” Other challenges include permissions and dependencies: “Peer tokens, for example, can ensure that permissions are preserved across applications.” With her work on Touchpoint architecture, Ebru Chaudhry stands at the heart of the platform economy mega-trend, one of the most exciting areas of digitalization. An IT job could hardly be more forward-looking.

Diverse and individualized: IT at ING

Ebru’s and Yvonne’s jobs are just two examples of the diverse career opportunities at our digital bank, where a third of our staff work in IT. As highly qualified professionals, both women will continue to develop with us in the future. Our generous training budget for employees also helps. Ebru is currently taking part in training courses on IT security, while Yvonne is learning the Java framework Spring and the test framework JUnit. “We’re both really satisfied with the training offered by ING,” Ebru sums up. And no wonder, because it has made a decisive difference in their professional lives.

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