At Starling, we want everyone who joins the team to learn lots, make an impact and spread their wings across different parts of the business, especially people who are at the start of their careers. This week, we spoke to three members of the Starling team in their early 20s about the roles they’ve held at Starling and heard their advice for others starting their career.
Hannah found out about roles at Starling a year ago at the London Startup Fair, held at University College London (UCL). At the time, she was in her final year of studying Philosophy and Spanish at King’s College London. “I worked for a startup tech company during my summers at university and I knew I wanted to stay in the tech industry,” says Hannah, 23. “From my interest in tech, I started to find out more about fintech, mainly by going to events and meeting people.”
When she applied for Operations Support at Starling, she noted a start date of June 2018 when her course would be finished. But after her interview in February 2018, Starling offered her a role and she did two days a week, took a break for her exams and then went full-time last summer. She quickly moved from verifying customer accounts as part of the Operations Support team to being an Operations Team Leader managing the rotas and tasks for 15 people.
She is now in her second week as part of the Business Development Team for Banking Services. This pillar of Starling is opening up the technology we built from scratch to the challenger banks, e-money institutions, governments and companies that need access to fast, efficient payment systems. As a regulated, licensed bank, Starling was able to join payments schemes such as the Faster Payments Scheme (FPS) and Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) as a direct member. Starling can, therefore, act as a sponsor to enable real-time payments for other businesses. We can also enable businesses to build their own product on top of our back end technology. In her new role, Hannah will help manage and guide new clients through the payments and banking-as-a-platform services offered. The Banking Services team of 10 people currently have 20 clients, with many more in the pipeline. This is the part of the bank that is enabling further innovation and competition within Financial Services.
Hannah’s advice to others starting their career is to find a company that interests you and then look at the roles they’re offering rather than thinking of a role you might be good at and finding companies offering that role. “Trawling through roles on job sites works for some people, but for me, the company is such a huge part of the job. The most important thing is to care about what you do.”
Nick Rice also started at Starling as part of the Operations Support team, going from intern to temporary Team Leader to Product Designer. He joined on 1st November 2017 and started his role in Product exactly a year later.
In just a couple of months, he’s worked on screen designs for merchant categorisation, bank statements for a custom date range and an option allowing business customers to open a personal account. His most recent project was Round Ups, the feature that rounds up transactions to the nearest pound and puts the change into a savings Goal. “I like being able to make tangible changes,” says Nick, 23. “It’s great to see how many people love Round Ups and to see them using the screens that I designed in the app.” Other than Round Ups, his favourite feature is Settle Up, a tool that enables Starling customers to be paid back or split bills quickly and easily straight from the app.
While he was working as an Operations Team Leader, he was given the option to spend some time with the Starling Legal team in order to build on his degree. He studied Law at the University of Sussex. But like many graduates, his degree wasn’t necessarily something he wanted to pursue as a career. “When I left school and I didn’t really think about what I wanted to do, I just picked a course I knew I’d enjoy and went with it,” he says. “I’d always been interested in design and had experience in it so I spoke to Ben Chisell who leads the Product team and he gave me the task of coming up with a new feature, or improvements on an existing one. Two weeks later, I showed the screens and flow I designed for a new in-app experience to the Product Team and they agreed for me to spend one day a week with them and that’s now turned into a full-time role.”
If Nick were to give his 18-year-old self advice, he would encourage being more proactive - a lesson he’s certainly learned and one that has stood him in good stead at Starling. “Make connections, express interest early on and don’t expect a manager to do it for you. If you’re given something to do, go and do more than expected - don’t be afraid to look too keen.”
His second piece of advice is not to be afraid to branch out when looking for jobs. “If you’re not having much success getting a job that you have your mind set on, look at different roles you can start in and move up from. It’s easier to get a job you want when you're already in a job.”
During his year at Starling, he has seen huge change not only in Starling as a product but also as a company. “It’s changed drastically, especially the sheer number of people working here. When I joined, Operations Support was one bank of desks in a corner and now it makes up part of a new floor. The growth in customers is also huge. A year ago we had 40,000 customers and now we’ve got more than 400,000.”
Steph is the current Starling record holder for moving roles. Within 3 weeks of joining Starling as an office administrator, she became Technology and Acquisitions Assistant to Chief Information Officer, John Mountain. Along with day to day tasks, she helps recruit engineers for John’s team and works with the Marketing team on SEO analytics. “I’ve never felt so secure and happy in a job. I’m very lucky to be in the role I’m in - there’s so much opportunity,” says Steph, 21.
Prior to Starling, she worked as an office administrator at the hospital her dad had been admitted to. “I had been working in London for a recruitment agency but when my dad got ill, I wanted to be closer to home,” says Steph, who grew up in Chelmsford. When her dad started getting better, she felt she could start looking at roles based in London. She already had a Starling personal account so when she saw an advert for the office administrator role on LinkedIn, she immediately applied.
“I always wanted to be in tech or finance but before Starling nothing fitted what I wanted to do,” she says. “I also knew that there were more ways of getting to where I wanted to be than studying for a degree. University isn’t the only way. Fair enough people who want to be a doctor but I’d rather get experience and work my way up.”
There are also many other ways to do courses and learn outside of and beyond university. Steph is currently studying for the Professional Bankers Certificate with the Chartered Bankers Institute. “Now I’m in the banking sector I want to get a deeper understanding of what’s going on. A lot of people don’t do it until later but I want to build up my knowledge from a young age.”
Her advice to anyone coming out of school is not to feel pressure to follow the crowd. “If all your friends are going to uni but you don’t want to, you don’t have to. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to rush into a job - you can take a year to figure out what you want to do and work in a bar or shop until you do. You’ve spent so much time grafting for exams, you can take a breather. It will help you be in the right frame of mind when you go into a full-time job.”
What Steph loves about Starling is the way it’s changing attitudes towards banking. “Whenever I opened my high street bank app, it was so boring and it gave me a negative view of money. With Starling, the design of it is so much brighter and more creative and it makes me want to take better care of my money. Having a photo of where I want to go on holiday as a Goal makes me want to save for it and Round Ups makes it so easy to save without even noticing.”