Full speed ahead at ING – despite the coronavirus

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic changed many people’s professional lives quite suddenly. Working from home and video conferences are in; lunch with colleagues and face-to-face meetings are out. Starting a new job in this context is an altogether unique challenge. Both the employer and the new employee need to be creative and above all flexible.

Theresa, a 25-year-old retail banking trainee who joined ING in May, shares her experiences. The coronavirus lockdown in May prevented a long-planned trip that she was planning to take after finishing her master’s studies. As a result, she decided to jump right into to her professional life – six months earlier than expected.

Why did you apply with us? Give us an idea of what it was like from your application to the first day of work!

In January, I was looking for interesting job offers before finishing my master’s degree at Goethe University in Frankfurt, and so I applied for a trainee position at ING starting in October. I wanted to have a secure job ready and waiting, so that I could enjoy my dream of going on a long trip to Colombia. While looking for a job, I noticed a trainee vacancy at ING and was immediately impressed by the job description. I had no previous experience in the banking business, but I found it particularly exciting that trainees at ING can gain experience in different areas during a one-and-a-half-year programme. After my application, everything went very quickly. Within a week, I received an invitation for a telephone interview, after another week – that was before the lockdown – I got an invitation to a Company Day and just two weeks later I was accepted. But when the lockdown came, it wasn’t possible to travel abroad. My contacts at the HR department were very flexible and let me start the International Talent Programme in May.

What kind of experience do you bring to the job?

After finishing my A-levels and later during my bachelor studies in "Global Business Management", I gained some experience in data analysis, market research and trend scouting through internships and stays abroad. Everything I learned about these topics was high quality, but I now know that what I learned was often very different from what the customer actually wants and needs. In the master’s programme at Goethe University, I particularly enjoyed my focus on "Marketing Analytics". It offered me perfect insights into both worlds – the customer's perspective and the analytical view. This is also where I first came into contact with ING. Martin Schmidberger, honorary professor at the university and head of the Customer Interactions department at ING, gave a data mining seminar with practical insight into models for calculating forecasts and analysing customer behaviour. That was super interesting and at the same time really challenging. I was already intrigued by the insight that I gained from the data and how it could be used to improve products or the customer experience. I am already looking forward to further work in this field.

ING is the first agile bank in Germany. Before you joined, did you already know anything about agile work?

I came across ING another time during my studies when focussing on the topic of agility. An agile coach from ING offered a practical workshop on agile methods at the university. He reported his experiences during the company’s transformation and gave us exciting insight into the bank’s agile working environment. In the practical part of his workshop, we were able to try out some agile methods in interactive exercises. During these practical exercises, we quickly realised how important cooperation is and that each individual in a team is responsible for the success of transformation, not just the manager. I am now experiencing the characteristics of agility learned in theory, such as interdisciplinary cooperation, personal responsibility, self-organisation and solution orientation. Based on my first-hand experience at work every day, I can honestly say this is totally my thing.

How was it getting started?

The coronavirus pandemic not only affected my travel plans; it also made for an unconventional start to my career. Spending my first day of work at home in front of my own desk is unusual – but everything went well. After working from home for a few weeks, like most colleagues, I decided to take part in the voluntary rotation phase in June. This means that I will be at the bank for two weeks and then home for four weeks. Even though I have already seen many of my colleagues in numerous video conferences, I’ll use these two weeks on site to get to know my colleagues even better.

Which area are you working in right now, and do you know where you will be headed in the near future?  

I have been supporting the Digital Leadership department in Frankfurt since May. We are continuously refining the "banking to go" app and the website, and we are working on making it even more customer-centric by analysing user behaviour. This is where innovation is truly lived, and I get a great impression of how agile work is put into practice. In the next few weeks, I will be attending virtual training on various topics including SCRUM Product Owner certification.

What are you looking forward to the most as a trainee?

Trainees at ING have the opportunity to work abroad. It's great, because I can theoretically go to any ING location in the world. I had some far away destinations like Manila or Sydney in mind, but I think European locations like Amsterdam or Madrid are more realistic in the current situation. I am already in contact with my colleagues and I am confident that I will have a great time – despite the coronavirus pandemic.

How would you summarise your first few weeks?

I may not benefit from the typical colleague looking over my shoulder, but knowledge transfer is still possible with a lot of communication. I would recommend all applicants and my trainee colleagues to jump in head first and, above all, to show initiative. Just ask if you don't know what to do. I have found that I can approach my colleagues at any time. Because there’s one thing I have always felt since my first day: great camaraderie and team spirit.  

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