Inside NAB’s revamped graduate program

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The architects of NAB’s hands-on graduate program are big believers that you learn best by doing.

That’s why the banking giant has redesigned the 15-month program into
one that prioritises real-world “experiential” learning – including volunteering and
secondments – giving graduates an edge in the job market and accelerating their
development.

“We talk a lot about experience and exposure as an enabler to our graduate’s
professional development,” said Sarah McGlade, the head of early careers at NAB.

Research shows that the knowledge retention rate for more formal learning, such as traditional workshop settings, can sit around 5 per cent, whereas the retention rate for experiential learning can be as high as 90 per cent.

“We understand our graduates are on their program for a limited time, and we want to
accelerate their potential,” Sarah said.

“We also believe that as a talent cohort our graduates’ passions, skills and capabilities can be mobilised to drive social change, facilitate positive impact and influence NAB strategy.”

NAB’s program offers a number of immersive learning opportunities for graduates across 11 business streams. All graduates participate in rotations designed to expose them to different areas of the company and build critical business skills. They also take part in a four-week secondment in an area of their choosing, allowing them to explore a part of the
business that interests them.

Sarah said the program works with leaders to ensure they have meaningful work to give their graduates. And there are a number of opportunities for graduates to step outside of the rotational environment to become involved in community projects or NAB strategy. For example, the six-week Jawun Indigenous Secondment places graduates in remote communities in the Kimberley, Western Australia, where they work with Indigenous communities on social and economic development projects.

During her time on Jawun, NAB graduate Isobel McKenzie worked with Wunan Health and Wellbeing in the East Kimberley to support the implementation of Headspace Kununurra, a mental health service for young people. Isobel said the experience helped her develop problem-solving and communication skills. More importantly, she came away with more knowledge about the tools needed to empower people in remote communities.

“I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity so early in my career to work on such a meaningful project and support an Indigenous Organisation driving positive long-term socioeconomic change,” she said.

“It was an experience I will never forget.”

As part of the NAB skilled volunteering program, graduates can also work with other NAB colleagues to support a NAB not-for-profit customer. Graduate Hamish Williams volunteered with the Queensland Rural Fire Service.

“This opportunity has been the highlight of my graduate experience thus far,” said Hamish.

“I was able to step into an entirely new team, practice a different working methodology, and develop a host of new skills, such as leading our team for a day, process-mapping, as well as interviewing and presenting.”

NAB graduates can expect ongoing coaching and mentoring, networking events,
exposure to senior leaders and a strong graduate community. They can also choose
to undertake a banking accreditation or practical legal training. But whatever they
choose to pursue, a graduate’s area of study is not as important as their ability to learn
and grow.

“People would be surprised about the career pathways available to them at NAB,”
said Sarah.

“We’re not looking for just high academic achievers; we’re looking for graduates with life experience, graduates who put themselves in our customer’s shoes and look for opportunities to find better and simpler ways of doing things,” she said.

“NAB wants to be known for having the best banking talent in the industry and our
graduate talent plays a critical role in this ambition.”

 

Meet Tina Lao

Computer science graduate Tina Liao joined NAB as an intern before entering the
company’s graduate program.

 

NAB graduate Tina Lao relished working across different teams including working on AI.

What drew you to a career in tech?

I like how it is both challenging and at the same time. I never get bored, and I am always learning. It’s very logical, but at the same time there is a lot of scope for creativity too. I also think that studying technology opened a lot of doors for me career-wise as there is so much variety in the roles you can do and the companies you can work for.

Why did you apply for NAB’s graduate program?

I decided to apply because I really enjoyed my experience as an intern, and I also saw through role-shadowing the variety of projects and roles there are in the organisation. Technology at NAB is moving at such a fast pace with so many learning and career opportunities that I wanted to explore more. I wanted to complete rotations in different teams and learn about how technology is employed at scale.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working as a developer in Business Lending Technology. I’m working on Financial Profiles and Analysis, an application responsible for maintaining the financial profile of a customer and performing analysis and calculations on that information.

What has surprised you about working for NAB?

I was surprised by how many learning and development opportunities are offered, not only to graduates but to all employees. I’ve been able to participate in so many workshops on everything from AWS and AZURE to design thinking to managing personal finances and more. The early careers team has always encouraged me to take up every learning opportunity that I can, which I’m grateful for as I do feel that it has helped me to grow both professionally and personally.

Tell us about your four-week secondment in the Virtual Assistant Content Team.

I have been fascinated by artificial intelligence for a while, but have never been able to get my hands dirty and work with it. Doing this secondment gave me great insight into how we build conversation flows for AI, and the process of training a chatbot through continuous improvement and feedback. It’s certainly an area that I would be interested in exploring more in the future. The secondment is a fantastic feature of the NAB Graduate Program as it allows graduates to test and trial different skills and portfolios of work.

NAB has made a point to focus on women in the tech space. How has that affected your
experience with the company?

It demonstrates that they really value diversity, equality and inclusion in the workplace. This is very important to me when it comes to looking for an employer, because I want to be in an environment where I feel comfortable, and where my thoughts and ideas will be valued and listened to. I also know from my own experiences how encouraging it is to work with other female role models in technology, as it reminds me
of what I can achieve and that I am not alone. I feel very confident in pursuing a career in
technology at NAB and know that I will be supported every step of the way.

This is an edited version of articles that first appeared in The Australian Financial Review on 14 February 2022. 

NAB has been recognised as a Top 10 Graduate Employer in 2022. For more information about becoming a graduate at NAB visit here

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