“You learn the most by sharing your own knowledge,” believes Jay Pillai, Developer Advocate in ING’s Tech Academy. He describes himself as “a true evangelist” of continuous learning.
He has spent the past few months speaking to hundreds of ING engineers from across the globe to find out what would help them to grow, to thrive and to experience ongoing job satisfaction, “because that is what forms the foundation for a strong, successful engineering community”. More than 200 engineers have already volunteered and contributed to creating content for their colleagues in tech.
Sounding out engineers
Since the beginning of 2023, ING Tech Academy has been engaged in creating new role-based ‘learning journeys’, and it launched the first set of learning journeys for engineers in May. This has been a huge success and there are currently more than 4,700 engineers enrolled for the learning journeys. The key difference is that the learning journeys are developed in collaboration with ING engineers and every single learning journey has ING-specific content, developed by our own engineers. Thanks to sounding out the engineers themselves, there’s certainly no reason for any of them to get bored in their jobs. Tech-related learning content is available for tech professionals in all domains, at all levels and on virtually every topic imaginable.
Sharing knowledge leads to gaining knowledge
Jay: “The Tech Academy serves a grateful target group, because engineers are generally very eager to gain new expertise and keep up with the latest innovations in their specialist area. But they’re sometimes less keen to share their knowledge, even though that is just as important. I think it’s mainly because most engineers don’t like ‘showing off’, but that’s not what we’re asking them to do at all. I always try to emphasise that sharing knowledge leads to you gaining knowledge too – by receiving feedback, by exchanging best practices and by discussing ideas with your peers. Engineers just need to discover for themselves how interesting and rewarding that is.”
Space for new insights
“In my role, my aim is to empower engineers to broaden their horizons externally. ING is very progressive in many areas, but we need feedback from others – not only internally, but also externally – to continue to further improve and develop our products and services. As I see it, you can only gain new knowledge by creating space in your mind for new insights by ‘shedding’ some of what you already know.”
A kid in a candy store
“We’ve already built an impressive learning environment for engineers in the Tech Academy, so that’s a good starting point. Ideally, I would like to significantly expand the catalogue of learning materials in line with the wants and needs of the engineers themselves. I can imagine that engineers sometimes feel like a kid in a candy store; there’s so much choice, where should they begin? The answer depends entirely on their personal goals. Do they want to get better at their current job, or are they preparing to move into a different role? Which skills do they want to improve? And what are they interested in? There really is something for everyone: from learning new programming languages to site reliability and leadership skills. And it is part of ING’s culture that every employee is allowed time off for learning purposes, so – all being well – engineers receive the necessary freedom and encouragement from their Leads to spend time on their further development.”
Practice what I preach
“As for myself, I like to practice what I preach on continuous learning. For example, I recently completed a master’s degree in management at the University of Amsterdam Business School, which included spending six months on writing a thesis, in parallel with my work. And in the past, I also received Dutch language training from the famous ‘Nuns of Vught’. I am grateful to ING for all the opportunities to constantly develop myself. Last but not least, the people around me – both within and outside of work – are another important source of knowledge for me. I try to live my life in line with the motto: ‘Don’t sit on your knowledge. Keep sharing and exploring’. And I’m on a mission to encourage everyone else to do the same!”
Jay studied Mechanical Engineering and subsequently worked in that field for 13 years before joining IT company Atos in Mumbai in 2006. Three weeks later, Atos deployed him to ING in Amsterdam, and he later joined ING in a permanent role.
Jay is a certified chess trainer and currently trains a group of talented young children. He loves to travel with his family and, now that his son and daughter are older, he plans to travel around the world with his wife.