In October 2019, Starling launched its apprenticeship scheme with the aim of increasing diversity in technology and finance. “We recognise that there is more than one avenue into the workforce,” says Becci Freeman, people business partner for technology at Starling. “So we teamed up with talent accelerator WhiteHat to help find a group of people from a range of backgrounds, ages and levels of educational qualification.”
Starling has hired four software developer apprentices who will be with us for at least 18 months, maybe longer. The apprenticeship scheme is Level 4, which is Foundation Degree equivalent. At the end of the 18 months, they will receive the Level 4 Software Developer qualification, certified by BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT.
The apprentices have quickly become part of our core developer teams, working on projects such as the Management Portal, the tool that customer service and operation teams use to track, organise and enable processes across the bank.
“We didn’t want to create a predictable and rigid, must learn X to pass Y programme. We don’t want to put people into a box,” says Becci, who coordinates the scheme. “Learning from scratch is hard and everyone needs something different. WhiteHat understood that.”
To kick off the apprenticeship scheme, our recruits spent five weeks with WhiteHat as a general induction, followed by six weeks training at Starling from software engineers. After that, they were straight into the developer teams. Each apprentice is paired with a Starling software engineer, who themselves have become key to the scheme’s success. They check in, give advice and are on hand to help when needed. The apprentices also have a coach from WhiteHat for further support.
Agnieszka Boruta: Buying a one way ticket to London at 21
“I’ve got a job that I love,” says Agnieszka Boruta, who works as part of Starling’s Marketplace and public APIs team. The Marketplace, enabled by public APIs, is the space in the app where personal or business customers can sign up to third-party products. “I’m learning how to integrate various third-party services and different ways of authenticating. My team is also maintaining the developer portal where anyone can connect to their bank account via our public APIs.”
Agnieszka, who grew up in Białystok in Poland, moved to London when she was 21. “It was my first ever flight,” she says. She touched down in Heathrow on a rainy, dark September evening with no job to go to and a room she found on Gumtree. Fast forward three years, she was studying Geography and Business Management at Queen Mary University of London, while also working part-time to pay the bills and teaching herself how to code.
Agnieszka, 27, began by processing data for her course before moving on to making simple tools such as QR readers and image recognition tools. Later, she developed an interest in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. “One of my friends used to teach girls to code and he told me how many girls don’t believe in themselves, that they’re shy but they’re much better than they think,” she says.
“When I was fifteen, I thought about becoming a software engineer but I had another talent: art.” Her paintings, drawings and photographs won many awards. Today, she applies that creativity to coding. “There are so many approaches to doing something,” she explains. “It’s all about building things, and aesthetics as well. I’ve always wanted to work in a place where I can make a difference and create something meaningful.”