Getting out of your comfort zone – and into a positive mindset

Marlly came to ING Germany in 2022 and took part in the Junior Expert Program. After just three months, she already found her professional home and started full steam ahead as a Feature Engineer.

Why did you apply at ING?

I chose ING for many reasons. I always wanted to be part of a modern and innovative company – and ING really stood out from other banks. This became immediately apparent just by the fact that they don't dwell on the small things like a dress code for employees. Everyone just wears what they want. I was particularly impressed by the flexible working hours, the opportunity to work remotely, and the wide range of training opportunities.

You moved to Frankfurt for your job. Were you able to settle in well, even though you didn't know anyone at first?

It's always a challenge to make a fresh start. The early days were very tough for me, both professionally and personally. I used the first few months to network, get to know the city and settle into my surroundings. During the process, I often had to leave my comfort zone and was left to my own devices, which had a lasting impact on me. It also made me stronger – to show more courage and stay true to myself. Now, I feel confident to wear my hijab at ING, and I feel at home in Frankfurt.

What has your career at ING been like so far?

In December 2022, I started in the Junior Expert Program (JEP), an entry-level program for bachelor's and master's graduates that usually lasts around twelve months. It comprises three rotations, which are completed in different teams. In my first rotation, after just three months, I was already offered a permanent position. Since I felt very comfortable in the team right from the start, I decided not to do the other rotations and accepted the position as a Feature Engineer.

Can you explain more about the JEP and you current position?

The Junior Expert Program, JEP for short, gives young people the opportunity to get a taste of a wide range of areas at the bank after completing their bachelor's or master's degree. It consists of three rotations in which participants explore different departments and roles while actively supporting the teams. After about twelve, or at the latest 18 months, they can decide which area suits them best. During my time at the JEP, I supported Base & Core Services and ultimately remained in that area as a Feature Engineer.

Although the department is the same, my area of responsibility has expanded considerably. In my position, I now act as the interface between the business department and IT. This means that I do not only analyze the requirements of the business unit, but also translate them into IT terminology. This includes coordinating the identified and agreed requirements. In the meantime, I have become a Scrum-certified product owner and am responsible for backlog management and establishing the product version, among other things in the agile working world. Overall, my work has direct influence on project progress, as I am involved in important decision-making processes in my field.

When you started out, a colleague acted as your mentor. How did that help you? Would you recommend it to other ING newcomers?

My mentor played an enormously important role in my early days at ING. She not only supported me in my professional development, but also helped me to build a network at the bank and in a city that was new to me. This really helped me get ahead and to increase my performance potential. So, I would say that having a mentor is an absolute must for newcomers!

What distinguishes the working life at ING?

Definitely the modern and open corporate culture. Our colleagues are very diverse, each bringing their own perspective to the table. We are all very different, yet we are united by the common values that we live by at ING. This not only helps us to grow as people, but also has a positive effect on our collaboration. Working in international teams also ensures a horizon-expanding exchange of ideas and helps us to improve our language skills – it’s super nice! 😉

You quickly realized that you don't have to pretend here. What effect does that have on you?

I always wanted to wear a hijab in everyday life, but the fear of negative reactions and exclusion always kept me from doing it. The open environment at ING encouraged me to actually do it. And so, from one day to the other, I wore my hijab. Contrary to my fears, I was still accepted as the same person by my colleagues – and some co-workers even were curious and asked questions about my religion. I did not expect this. This experience has shaped me both professionally and personally. But I also see it as partly my own responsibility to champion diversity and be a part of shaping an inclusive workplace, aiming to make it a space free of prejudice.

What’s your favorite perk of working at ING?

In my opinion, one of the biggest career killers is stagnation, becoming professionally blind and not developing any further. That's why I think ING's professional development budget is great. I'm also a fan of the health budget! I use that for my yoga classes, for example. And last but not least: the Horizons Program. That's a temporary job change and a great way to get a taste of other departments or even work abroad. What could be better than that? 😉

Why did you recently join the Women in Tech community?

In STEM professions, it's not uncommon to be the only woman in a team. That's why I think it's important for women in tech to network and, above all, to support each other. This helps us to be seen and, in the long run, to ensure equal professional opportunities. So, by participating in community events, I'm not just helping myself, I'm also helping all the other women in tech.

What advice do you have for ING newcomers?

Believe in yourself! Even if a new beginning can seem daunting at first, it’s always worth it. In most cases, the greatest potential for growth and success cannot be found inside your comfort zone. A positive mindset is the key to success, so believe in yourself and your abilities. With ING, you have found an employer who will encourage you, challenge you and support you in your development. 😊

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