Lola Adeoti | Natwest

Lola Adeoti | Natwest

Lola Adeoti | Natwest

My IT journey has been an exciting one, from age 6, I was lucky to attend a science-based summer camp where I saw first-hand experiments and was introduced to topics such as magnetism, chemistry the planet and my favourite topic, robotics.

The early introduction made choosing STEM subjects in secondary school an easy decision and I excelled in these subjects. I went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering. I was one of the few girls in a class of 40 students and it was not an easy ride navigating the intricacies that it presented. On graduation, I got a job as an HR officer which was different but another challenge, I pivoted to Human Resources as my new calling but my path to IT was reignited when I was asked to support the implementation of an HR single shared cloud-delivered platform, I jumped at the opportunity and have never looked back since. In the last few years, I have slowly acquired extensive experience supporting the successful delivery of Business Change Projects and IT Projects / Programmes and attained vast exposure designing and implementing successful programmes and projects across different regions (i.e., EMEA, US and Asia).

I am currently the Release Train Manager (RTM) in the financial crime technology community at Natwest. I have been instrumental in the build out of a new, industry leading platform that combats financial crime, using data and modern technologies to stop the bad guys doing bad things. Having been an RTM for just over a year I have already made an impact by leading the first major implementation on the new platform in March 2022, working across 5 technical components and embracing the “One bank” ethos by bringing together technology teams from across the bank. I play a significant role in implementing new product enhancements and critical defect fixes to support the ongoing evolution of the platform, working in close partnership with stakeholders in Operations.

It is often said that if you want to have a good life with a successful career, emotional satisfaction, and trustworthy friends you must work hard, so with everything I am determined to lead by example by putting in my 100% . I am focused, energetic, never afraid to ask the difficult questions and always bring a can-do attitude to every technical role that I become involved in.

Rebecca Brindley | Natwest

I was always interested in coding, computers, and design – I was told I couldn’t do both Art and Maths – I did!

I started building websites on the family computer, one reason I lead a Code Club and support STEM Ambassadors now, you can always learn. Having completed multimedia degree I went back to building websites for a variety of small companies (something I keep my an eye on now). I have a variety of experiences some more technical coding html/CSS and other more design related, like a usability tester. I have led architecture migrations of platforms. The best thing I have done watching lab tests, you never know how people will use your experience and what you will learn. I now lead a team delivering the NatWest customer experience change, as a Digital Product Owner across a content management system. I get to work across all the disciplines that led me to this role, I get to speak to many people and their journey into and on with technology.

My next challenge is leading the Digital Accessibility journey across NatWest.

Asia Sharif | NatWest / ChainVerse

I am an award-winning software/data/blockchain engineer, engineering, mentor, public speaker, blogger, and the founder of ChainVerse and TechNewbies.

I transitioned into technology from a non-technical background in January 2021 and participated in multiple engineering boot camps, and mentorship programs to aid my growth within tech.

I aspire to build a technology school that provides scholarships for women and people from underrepresented backgrounds, as I am an advocate for helping others and the greater good. I come from an underrepresented background with no opportunities as I come from foster care and homelessness. Through adversity, I am where I am today, an inspiration and a role model for many young women.

Elissa Webb

Elissa Webb | NatWest

Elissa Webb

I began my journey in technology on my high school robotics team, after which I studied computer science at Connecticut College.

I joined NatWest group on the Technology graduate programme, during which I worked in varied areas like application management, colleague technology adoption, and innovation. During my graduate programme, my team and I won our annual Innovation Challenge with a sustainable banking mapping proposition that we pitched to senior leaders and members of the board. We took this project forward after presenting to our CEO and other members of the bank’s executive team and winning funding.

In my current role, I’ve joined the bank’s Commercial Banking technology function. I’ve been a front-end specialist for multiple third-party applications, co-ordinating communication and fixes so that our customer-facing staff can best serve our customers. I am part of the first DevOps pilot team in Commercial Banking, learning testing and development skills while training other members in operations.

Beyond my day job, I co-founded a Coding Club for our Early Careers colleagues to learn the basics of coding in Python and support them in their projects. I’ve spoken at Insight Week and the Female STEM Bootcamp encouraging young women pursue STEM fields. Additionally, I’m a member of my area’s Junior Management Team. On the JMT, I’m leading a virtual networking initiative and pushing forward conversations about racism and diversity through presentations in all staff meetings and other materials.

Beverley O'Neill

Beverley O'Neill | NatWest

Beverley O'Neill

Quantum computing could change the world, from impacting medicine to upheaving AI to breaking encryption. Beverley is working at its coalface and determined to ensure that women are represented in the next computing revolution.

Beverley currently works as a Quantitative Analyst on NatWest’s award-winning Quantum Computing Lab (Celent Model Bank 2020 Award for Innovation Frontier). Working with bleeding-edge technologies and in collaboration with a team of experts, she is testing and developing quantum algorithms, leading the charge to solving some of the bank’s most complex problems.

Beverley has spent her career in financial services leveraging applied data science, advanced analytics, and AI to fight fraud and improve credit decisioning so that people, families, and businesses can thrive.

She holds a PhD from the University of Manchester in algebraic topology, a highly theoretical field of maths aimed at putting equations to shapes and spaces. Separate to her studies, she was an advocate for applications of algebraic topology. She gave seminars, set up reading groups and won funding for interdisciplinary work on how topological techniques can supersede standard data analysis techniques in medical statistics research.

Kristen Bennie

Kristen Bennie | NatWest

Kristen Bennie

Kristen is a creative leader, innovator, producer and connector of people, ideas and strategies.

She brings the future into focus at Natwest through customer led design, purposeful collaboration, insight and ideation, emerging technology and strategic partnering. She cares passionately about the future of design, technology, people and education.

Technology has been part of her career since her first role and has always been at the heart of her career. She is an advocate of learning by doing and her career has involved the development and delivery of new brands, products, services and software always working at the intersection of strategy, design and technology. In her role today Kristen is Head of Strategic Partnerships and OX for Natwest Group. She shapes the innovation and partnerships strategy across the Bank, created and leads 'OX", the globally recognised state of the art innovation centres in in London and Edinburgh responsible for defining, designing and delivering new to market customer focused propositions for growth enabled by a variety of technologies.

Kristen is passionate about taking ideas from inception to first market launch, then scaling. She regularly advises and educates colleagues, clients and partners on the impact and the importance disruptive technologies.

Kristen’s Board memberships include the Natwest Group Scotland Board, the Board of Fintech Scotland, the Board of CodeClan and the Board of Governors at The Glasgow School of Art. She was recently honoured by IBM as one of top 35 Women Leaders globally in Artificial Intelligence for her work using AI to transform customer experiences.

Innovation challenge, national apprenticeship week, Justina Blair featured

Why I chose an apprenticeship over university

Innovation challenge, national apprenticeship week, Justina Blair

By Justina Blair

Deciding to choose a degree-apprenticeship route over the traditional university pathway was undoubtedly the best decision I've made and one my future-self will thank me for.

Modern culture places enormous value in university degrees and celebrates them as one of life's top achievements. In doing so we have created a culture that normalises taking on debt.

It is often assumed as fact that a university degree will improve your career prospects, but ask yourself this - why are there hordes of university graduates working in low-end jobs?

I attended an all girls Catholic school, and while apprenticeships were mentioned by the careers' department, it was clear that a university degree was the standard measure of success.

I was a high-achiever at school and my A-level grades were what you might expect from a top university student.

It soon became obvious that my career advisor was suggesting that pursuing a university degree would be the right path for someone like me.

Perhaps this is the viewpoint of past generations who wholeheartedly subscribed to the belief that a university degree is a launchpad for a successful career.

On the contrary, employers I have spoken with seem to value experience equally if not more than a degree!

A significant number of  young people seem to go to university with the common misconception that their degree will be a golden ticket that will land them their dream job.

There are very few who seem to be aware that university degrees are often considered the bare minimum and that employers place equal value on experience.

So my question to those of you reading this that are considering university is simple: Why not find a way to meet the criteria your future employer is looking for?

These are the questions I asked myself while filling out my UCAS application, spending hours perfecting my personal statement and reviewing various university courses.

When it comes to academia, I excel, but being book-smart is like being a pawn on a chess board without the hands-on-experience of a queen.

Just over a year ago, apprenticeships were mainly focused on vocational subjects, but more recently an array of STEM apprenticeships have become available.

This was all well and good but I had reached my first obstacle - deep down I still wanted a degree.

With a three year undergraduate degree costing £27,750 plus 6.2% interest for every year you do not pay the FULL amount back, I felt very uncomfortable at the prospect of taking on such an enormous debt.

It seems the wording of this has changed to: “RPI plus 3%” RPI is currently 5.4%.

Even though you do not start paying this loan back until you are earning over £25,000, that interest is adding up meanwhile, and I did not want to be earning lower than that amount.

Was it justifiable to allow an 18-year-old to commit to such a large debt? To others this topic has been normalised. But for me debt is debt.

I then met with the managing director of an engineering consultancy in the city and secured myself a five year degree apprenticeship in environmental science.

This company would completely fund my degree, I’d attend university one day a week and work for them gaining that pivotal experience. But I was still not satisfied.

Was this a career that would allow me to excel as a female in business?

Back on the search, I came in contact with LTSB (Leadership Through Sport and Business) a social mobility charity that prepares and supports bright young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into meaningful roles at blue-chip level companies.

They were advertising a digital innovation degree apprenticeship with Natwest which immediately stood out to me but I was slightly nervous about applying as I am a BAME female.

My apprehension soon dissipated as I enrolled in LTSB's bespoke preparation bootcamp where I gained a lot of useful experience and learned how to talk to CEO’s within a professional setting.

It was the perfect time to come out of my comfort zone, and be around others from different age groups, all in preparation for working life.

Here I am, four months later undergoing my four year degree apprenticeship in technology and innovation, earning while I learn.

With the help of my mentor, who LTSB introduced me to, I have had support at every career crossroad throughout the last year.

I am very grateful for LTSB who have made the transition between adolescence and adulthood a lot less nerve-wracking. With their assistance I secured a job working at a bank led by a female CEO, Alison Rose, I'm being paid the same as my male peers, and I am more confident than ever that I can navigate my career beyond my four year degree.

Having a degree brings me security but for others, a level four apprenticeship could suit better - both are effective pathways to set yourself up for a successful career.

An apprenticeship in tech finance was an attractive prospect for me as I saw the industry as a growth sector and thought the position would develop my ability to be change ready.

Unlike my peers at full-time university, I am already improving my employability; I have the confidence and ability to speak to professionals and I've already begun developing a professional network.

A degree-apprenticeship offers you both workplace experience and a degree, so why wouldn't you take advantage of such a great opportunity and earn while you learn.

Choosing an apprenticeship over full-time university helped me gain confidence, independence and respect and it can do the same for you too.

Justina BlairAbout the author

Justina Blair is a digital innovation technology apprentice at NatWest. She has previously debated in parliament and is undertaking a Bsc in Digital and Technology Solutions.