How to build an effective ICT graduate programme

Just as we continually evolve and transform how we operate, so to should our internship and graduate programmes

emma parker and her colleague ashleigh regan they are a team of two
ANZ Bank

Over the years I’ve had the rewarding experience of working with interns and graduates across a number of organisations .

I’ve realised many organisations were missing out on the opportunity to work with the diverse talent that New Zealand has – not because they aren’t offering graduate or intern (talent) programmes but because their approach can be too prescriptive. 

As a result, I’m passionate about creating valuable opportunities for hands on learning and development, not just to ‘tick a box’ but to offer an experience of growth and learning.

There have been many lessons, challenges and successes across the programme, and as a member of the Advisory Board for Weltec and Whitireia New Zealand, I’ve shared my experience and observations of industry trends.

I found my work with these students an inspiration for shaping not just our graduate programmes and internships but an opportunity to help shape our input in the community. 

So what have I learnt?

Give our talent the best start possible 

Creative and high quality induction programmes facilitate a smooth transition from tertiary education to ‘real world’. The interns and grads come in wanting to hit the ground running, but in reality there’s a steep learning curve ahead of them - they need an engaging and welcoming induction programme with their technology sorted for day one ready.  

Our induction programmes involve the talent from the start – they don’t sit at a table and read through a manual whilst a range of managers are paraded in front of them; we show them how they already fit within the technology team and bank’s culture, facilitating a comfort that enables them to promptly shake off that ‘newbie’ or imposter syndrome so many experience during those early weeks. 

graduate programme planning and feedback workshop ANZ Bank

Graduate programme planning and feedback 

When I began shaping the ANZ Technology Talent programme, I quickly learnt that you can’t reuse the same format each year

Adapting to the new environment can be very challenging for them so we focus on making the transition as easy as possible whilst also ‘keeping it real’ – I love the moments when things click for them a few weeks in and when they reflect back at the end of the internship about how far they’ve come and how much they’ve learnt.

anz graduate programme ANZ Bank

Emma Parker with two of her colleagues at the ANZ technology team - transformation analysts Ashleigh Regan and Miki Zhouling Yan 

Our interactions, from their first conversation with us as an applicant through to the end of programme, regularly remind me that this is the beginning of their career journeys, they ‘don’t know what they don’t know’ and therefore trust my team to get the fit right; that we’ll give them the best opportunity for a positive start. 

To facilitate this, we involve the rotation managers from the selection stage at the start, and also ensure our leaders have the time and enthusiasm to provide guidance and coaching throughout the talent’s journey. 

Give talent control – make it flex

On the first day of this year’s internships we were asked, “do you have a league of legends club?” I replied, “No but go create one!” Next week a club was started! 

What our teams and ANZ need from the programme changes within each year but it’s proved beneficial to enable our talent to ‘create their own freedom’. 

Gone are the days of using interns as a low cost employee option – it’s about providing high quality hands-on learning experiences in a field of interest and I am regularly challenged in my approach to the programmes we offer at ANZ.

Having a programme that offers participants a high calibre yet flexible experience is a valuable foundation to building a great technical team. 

We recognise our talent brings an entirely new perspective to how we work – they challenge our teams with their curiosity and excitement; their drive to learn and carve opportunities to make a difference, to make our organisation better. 

In being involved in the direction their rotations take them, the talent joins the teams with passion and excitement to contribute. 

Our graduate and intern rotations are therefore flexible and, for each placement, there are opportunities for the individual to find their own thriving area within ANZ. 

Hearing our interns share highlights and learnings make my role incredibly rewarding. 

During a recent fortnightly retrospective, one of our summer interns shared that a highlight of his week was being able to show his mum a feature he had worked on go-live in our GoMoney app – he was so excited that his Mum was one of the hundreds of thousands of people that would be using a feature that he’d help develop. 

Learn from your talent and your community

Just as we continually evolve and transform how we operate, so to should our internship and graduate programmes. 

When I began shaping the ANZ Technology Talent programme, I quickly learnt that you can’t reuse the same format each year; the critical piece was having our current graduates/interns ‘reality check’ me and have a voice in shaping a programme which constantly evolved and adapted. 

We need to be mindful of the talent coming in, the changing needs of the industry and what our talent and team are telling us during each programme.

I’ve realised many organisations were missing out on the opportunity to work with the diverse talent that New Zealand has – not because they aren’t offering graduate or intern (talent) programmes but because their approach can be too prescriptive

Each year we use the feedback from all participants and their teams in order to ensure next year’s programme is continuously improving. 

Our programme also isn’t tied to an idea or process. As a result, it facilitates strong relationships with our community partners and provides feedback and energy that has been fundamental in ensuring our talent gain the experience we are driving for.

For example, when our graduates join a technology team after their 18 month programme, we ensure that it’s the right team for them, that they’ll have the mindset and foundation to learn the skills that will be required of them to be successful. 

Our graduates and interns are also included in our learning curriculum. This past year our students learnt relevant skills for the future, such as cloud, agile, cybersecurity and also personal skills - resilience, conflict and facilitation and, interview techniques. 

One of our most popular additions this year was adding lunch and learn sessions to broaden visibility and understanding of the wider tech shop we run, hosting discussion panels on a range of topics including data engineering, payment solutions and career development pathways. 

Staying back to follow up with the attendees is a highlight of these events. It’s such a great opportunity for feedback such as the comment I received last month where the intern found the session so eye opening it had given her lots to think about, boosting her interest in pursuing a career as a developer.

internships ts Thinkstock

Talent outside the box 

The vast amount of enjoyment I get out of helping guide and shape talent certainly inspires me and my team to continue to take things up a notch each programme and carve out an ANZ Technology Graduate and Intern identity. 

It’s been important to challenge the way we work and behave by developing and hiring from a diverse pool of thought, experience, age, background and, skills set. 

We’ve broadened where we welcome talent from and do not limit our talent to those who have attended tertiary providers. 

Instead we’ve seized the opportunity to partner with our community, welcoming anyone who’s passionate about technology, including women returning to work and experienced talent from other industries. 

Talking to anyone returning to work after an absence is humbling. One woman talked about her loss of confidence - the industry had changed so much in such a short time she didn’t feel her skills and experience would ever be up to scratch. 

This comment brought a number of articles on the Confidence Gap to mind – and reminded me how this sense of disconnect from the industry creates a number of emotional barriers. 

Consequently, we spend a lot of time helping these women develop a more positive level of confidence, providing guidance in the skills we’re needing whilst also providing them with opportunities for ongoing development to close that gap, discussing trends, skill sets and practical elements such as resume and interview techniques. 

next generation it workers staff talent digital transformation Metamorworks / Getty Images

Working with future technologists

The skill, experiences and mindset the interns bring to our organisation has increased our demand for internships and similar programmes.

For example, as a gold sponsor of Summer of Tech, ANZ hired 23 interns this year - the largest amount of SoT interns across New Zealand, up from eight in 2018. Our teams increasingly see the value that the fresh talent brings with many of last year’s interns hired straight out of the programme.

In addition to our graduate and intern programmes, we take part in a speaking series talking to students about what it’s like to work in the industry and sharing skills through workshops such as Interviewing 101, agile and- human-centred design. 

This approach has also seen us get involved with school programs that teach New Zealand children about technology. 

Working with younger future technologists requires a different approach and we’re conscious of not talking ‘at’ them. 

They can also be hard to read – you’re coming to talk to them about something they may not yet realise they already know about or have opinions on. 

So it was great last year when one of the Summer of Tech Bootcamp participants commented on how he found our “encouragement of everyone to participate refreshing” and that the greatest thing was how we “never pressured anyone to speak but instead encouraged and congratulated it.” That made me smile a lot!

As one of New Zealand's largest tech shops, we are proud to be contributing towards the NZ tech sector in this way, helping build future technologists and providing career defining opportunities. 

emma parker profile photo 2 ANZ Bank

Emma Parker

Emma Parker is technology transformation manager, leadership coach, and capability lead at ANZ NZ. Reporting to CIO Craig Bunyan, she leads ANZ Technology’s delivery of internships and training and development opportunities through programmes such as Summer of Tech as well as four scholarships across AuT and WelTec including best female technologist, Pacific and Maori awards and best overall technologist. 

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