Training succession to help survive the dry season of talents

This article was written by Kristiin and Gediminas, External Succession Area Manager & IT recruiter at Swedbank. It was originally published on the Swedbank Tech blog. To read the original article, head here.

There is a constantly growing need for IT specialists in the job market, which in recent years has experienced a quite dry season of talents. In smaller markets, it has become harder and harder to find the right candidate for a specific team with its specific tech stack. That is why we need to contribute to growing future talent in-house as well.

Training is a crucial part of helping employees to do their jobs correctly, efficiently, and productively. Well trained employees provide a better standard of service to customers, are more motivated, loyal and more likely to stay in the company. In Swedbank, we believe that our traineeship programs IT Academy and Data & Analytics Academy allow us to teach necessary skills to successfully continue turning our juniors into seniors.

“Let’s learn IT” or a very methodological approach?

We do not believe in the possibility of learning everything, but in the concept of constant learning. The same applies to our IT and Data & Analytics Academy, which have both grown out of increasing recruitment needs: we teach the basics, but with a focus on actual things used inside the organization. Practice makes perfect, so hands-on projects and learning paths with our Swedbank experts brings the best results.

The IT Academy @ Swedbank is a two-part program consisting of practice that is coordinated with studies and traineeship in Swedbank’s IT departments. This program is designed both for students of information technologies or related specialties, as well as those who see their future in the IT area and are already developing their technical skills. Our IT Academy consists of three separate modules: Web full-stack, Mainframe and Data engineering, all of which specialize in teaching necessary skills to be successful in these areas of Swedbank. “It was perhaps the best learning experience I have ever had. Very intense but well-structured crash course about technologies used in the bank. Finally, you get a chance to put your hands on a real-life tech-challenges that engineers face in the bank” — says a former student and a current IT Academy project manager Austėja Sirijatavičiūtė.

When IT Academy focuses fully on developing engineering skills, our Data & Analytics Academy teaches a broader spectrum of necessary skills and aims to promote and guarantee succession in the data related fields (both engineering and analysis) in Swedbank. We have targeted this program towards IT, economics, mathematics and statistics MSc students or people, who have somewhat similar experience in the field. During the program the participants have a chance to take part in different seminars, trainings, and lectures on topics related to IT & Data, Finance & banking and Communication & career planning. Training events are mostly held by internal trainers, but we also collaborate with external partners. During the program, all juniors are put into dedicated fields to work on real tasks and projects in close cooperation with our experts influencing millions of people’s lives from day 1.

Data & Analytics Academy trainee Kristin Petersel brings out that during her experience studying in Data & Analytics Academy she learned, how the company works, what smaller strengths make up a huge security shield and what to notice daily. “During the traineeship my social and programming skills developed tremendously. I was welcomed to my team with open arms, and everyone was always very helpful and caring (and they are still). Although I was new and had no knowledge about the specifics in the bank or the projects, I never felt less important due to that. The whole experience has been very valuable, and I got to put my fresh school knowledge to the test.”

“Studying at the Data & Analytics Academy (then called BI Academy) was a great starter experience to the world of data and the world of banking. It provided insight not only of the data capabilities of the bank, but also knowledge regarding several different areas of data science and business intelligence. The program gave me confidence and recognition of my skills, as well new ones that I have applied in my professional life. I recommend the academy as a great start to your career!” says another Data & Analytics Academy participant and now Business analyst Rahul Puniani.

Being a contributing neuron in “Swedbank’s brain”

Our lecturer and Principal Data Scientist Lehar Oha describes giving lectures as a possibility to interact with new and talented people, inspire them based on his experience and open doors to different areas so juniors could continue the discovery. “Seeing their motivation and excitement in that journey and having fun discussions is a part of what motivates me. Teaching also helps me to understand topics in more depth, see them from new perspectives and learn from fellow “students”.” As we all know — teaching is the best way you can learn the topic yourself.

He continues that knowing that colleagues are always there to help you, reaching out to the collective wisdom pool, getting help with problems you might be stuck with, empowering juniors with the encouragement of asking questions, with the emphasis that there are no dumb ones, are all necessary parts of the learning culture. The diversity of knowledge and openness in sharing, especially across units, is a big plus in our organization. There is a clear opportunity to grow and be motivated — each of us is a contributing neuron in the “Swedbank brain”.

But what’s in it for the teams?

“As a manager, I have always paid special attention to Data & Analytics Academy. First, it helps participants to learn new skills to prepare them for various job opportunities and helps me to increase the workforce. Besides that, helping people from the Academy to find what kind of specialty they are suited for or the field they like the best is also makes our life easier as we direct them to the relevant business units.” describes Olgun Cakabey, who is one of our Data Warehouse Engineering guild managers.

Olgun also explains that an important aspect in successful transformation of juniors into seniors is a development goal, followed by a proper activity plan for reaching that goal, as well as setting milestones and a willingness to learn. An important point during this journey is to have frequent follow-ups, progress updates on the activity plan, and measuring accomplishments. Managers are there to support and guide juniors as their co-pilots. Naturally, there are other crucial activities to be ensured as well, incl. taking initiative, giving/taking responsibility, and having the right mindset.

We do believe that soft skills should come first. Tech skills can be learned during hard work. For some it takes less time, for some it takes more, however, these skills can be learned. Soft skills are essential — we are one big team, one big boat sailing towards the digitalization of the biggest bank in Scandinavia. We expect each person to be a team player as well as fit our organizational values: open, simple, caring.

For maximum results, be prepared to spend the biggest possible budget

To organize the traineeship programs, we dedicate the biggest possible budget — our own time. Our lecturers for both programs are mostly internal experts, who believe in sharing the best practices. Besides lecturers, we also involve project managers and coordinators. Some are responsible for planning, interviewing, and screening, some are responsible for ordering laptops and preparing the learning material. We see that many Swedbankers are more than willing to contribute.

Together we create programs that really build succession to the organization. In 2021 we had 13 participants in the Data & Analytics Academy and 32 participants in the IT Academy. Every year over 79% of the juniors from the Data & Analytics Academy and approximately 40% of the IT Academy continue their careers in Swedbank and many of them come back to one of the Academies as teachers in a couple of years. As there is a drought in the IT&Data specialists market, the traineeship programs are a crucial part in the art of turning juniors into seniors.