Finding your way professionally isn’t always easy. Until you join a company and start to explore your place within it, the multitude of roles and career trajectories that are available remain somewhat of a mystery.
Raphaelina has a varied career history that has played a vital role in bringing her to Starling. Through Passport to Starling, she discovered what it was she really wanted to pursue – so for the benefit of others who might be interested in a similar career path, this is a summary of her journey, along with some tips and tricks she’s learned along the way.
Like many millennials, my degree didn’t fully prepare me for where my professional life would take me – which, so far, has been a career within the investigations department of a bank! Studying International Relations, I had a good understanding of financial sanctions from a political or macroeconomic perspective and I could discuss economic sanctions, trade barriers, tariffs and restrictions at a higher level, but what it meant for a business at the granular level I was yet to find out. I enjoyed using analytical skill to assess the effectiveness of governmental or economic policies in real life events that impacted thousands of people, and I knew had a passion for justice and people. However with a degree like International Relations it can be difficult to know exactly what job you want to go for, because there are so many potential paths to choose.
How it all began
Back in 2016, I joined the Starling Customer Service team as part of the Passport to Starling scheme. This scheme starts you in customer operations before allowing you to choose if you want to grow into another area of the bank. It’s a great idea. In general, customer service gives you a really thorough understanding of the product and the customer in question, which you can then take with you into another role. Most companies wouldn’t encourage such a sense of mobility between a contact centre role and the rest of the business, but Starling really sees and understands its value. During my time at Starling, something I’ve noticed (and liked) is how readily ambition is encouraged and championed here.
By December 2016, Starling was preparing to launch its current account to new customers and was establishing its fraud investigations unit, which I thought could be very interesting for me in the future. One evening after a Customer Service shift, I was making a joke to my boss Patrick (Head of Customer Service Operations), that in five years time I wanted to be the head of this new unit in Starling Bank. Julian our Chief Operating Officer happened to be walking past, and I was prompted to repeat my private goal – and I was amazed and excited that my statement was followed by the response “let’s see what we can do to make it happen”.
What’s involved in a role in investigations? I like to think of our team as similar to Sherlock Holmes, without the tweed jackets or the need to put ourselves in unnecessary physical danger. We protect our customers from misuse of their accounts or cards by monitoring data for unusual activity and conduct investigations when needed.
Finding the one
It wasn’t a completely straightforward route to this career path. I’ve had a number of roles whilst I’ve been looking for the one that makes me want to get out of bed in the morning. Prior to Starling, I worked as a Private Equity Research Analyst. My role was to deliver impartial market intelligence to my clients in order to add value to their investment opportunities. I enjoyed extracting and finding information on poorly documented industries and learning from experts in their fields. There was definitely an investigative quality to the role which I enjoyed, however, I felt I wanted to use my strengths and skills to contribute to a wider sphere and impact ordinary people.
I’ve not only been given the support I needed to join Starling’s investigation team but when I also decided in February 2017 that I wanted to learn more, I enrolled for a course run by the International Compliance Association. Starling fully supported me and allowed me the time I needed to study. This is only the beginning, but I can’t wait to see what the future holds, and I owe a lot of it to Passport to Starling for giving me this opportunity.
For those that are also looking for the career path that’ll motivate them every day, here are the tips from what I experienced and learnt.
Try to experience as many areas as possible and find out what each one does. Having a bird’s eye view of any company as a whole – rather than a myopic, small-scale vision of just one area – can be incredibly beneficial for finding out what you actually enjoy and find stimulating.
There’s often a lot of pressure on graduates to establish want they want to do quickly. Unless you complete a very specific degree, definitely spend time shadowing and learning from others already in the role so you know what you’re getting yourself into.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a time frame. Once you find the area that interests you, lock in a goal (or two), figure out how you’re going to do it, and give yourself a timeframe to get there (but don’t punish yourself too much if you need extra time!).
If you’re already quite competitive (or so I’ve been told in many a quiz) this can seem like a natural step, but it is important to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) about it. Write it down and make sure others know about it. It is a great way to hold yourself accountable.
Be proactive and ready to learn (from people). I learnt a great deal by working closely with others on projects and cases. Be proactive, set up meetings, or even meet for coffee with others who have or continue to work in the space. You’d be amazed how happy people are to help or give advice – and all it takes is that first message or call. The worst they can say is no – and chances are, they won’t.
Make opportunities for yourself – and take risks. Sometimes you need to identify gaps or where you see a need, don’t be afraid to get involved or put yourself forward. Make your own opportunities and run with them – there are lots of people who actually end up creating their own jobs after identifying a gap in the system.
How you know it’s the job for you. You’ll know it’s the right job for you when you’re intellectually challenged and stimulated every day. It’s the right job when you find your work genuinely interesting – for me personally, I love being able to pull and use data and information from various platforms ultimately to paint a bigger picture. By working alongside other institutions and law enforcement agencies, we are ultimately able to protect our customers, which is the most rewarding part of all for me.It’s great to know that your role makes a genuine difference.