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Welsh Data Science Graduate Programme Case Study: Cerys Owen

What attracted you to the Welsh Financial Services Graduate Programme?

Did you want a career in finance?

Coming from a numerical background I always felt the logical career path was to go into finance, perhaps accounting or training as an actuary. To be completely honest, this never really excited me, I just knew I was good with numbers.

Can you tell us about your experience on the programme?

The programme was a great way to get the experience that is so highly demanded by employers. It really opened my eyes to the vast amount of opportunities within the finance sector, not just the standard accounting paths that we so commonly associate with it.

I spent time in Product Development & Compliance and Wholesale Car Financing, both of which allowed me to work on projects and gain experience I otherwise never would have.

I learnt to apply my analysing and problem solving skills to produce market research, analyse the competition and market share, to develop and improve products, to improve client relationships as well as processes and systems within the businesses. Product Management quickly became a prospective career path for me.

I also discovered a passion for project management through working on many different projects and then becoming project manager for the Welsh National Finance Conference.

Without being part of the scheme I don’t think I would have realised that any of these career paths would appeal to me. It provides you with the opportunity to experience new things, which is hugely beneficial when starting your career, even if it’s just to rule out something you don’t want to do!

Studying towards a Master’s Degree in Financial Services Management allowed me to further my education and develop the essential skills and knowledge needed in the Finance Sector. The work-based learning assignments really put you at an advantage in your placements as you were able to look at things from different perspectives and work on projects that really benefit the organisation you were placed in.

At the beginning, the experience sometimes seemed quite daunting; working full time, moving between organisations and studying for a master’s degree, however you get to do this alongside a great group of people. The other graduates on the programme quickly become friends, forming both a brilliant social network as well as a brilliant support network. This is something that can’t be underestimated and I still use to this day.

What path has your career taken since finishing the programme?

Following the programme, I secured a permanent position as the Assistant Mortgage Product Manager at Principality Building Society and around 18 months later received a promotion to Mortgage Retention Product Manager, my current job role.

Do you think the graduate programme helped accelerate your career?

Without the programme, I don’t think I’d have ever considered the career path I’m now on, and certainly wouldn’t have been able to find it and progress so soon. The insight into the sector and the skills developed during my time on the programme helped me choose a career that I’m excited and motivated by and want to continue to progress in.

Quite crucially, the programme showed me how beneficial on going education can be throughout your career – to continue to learn and develop as the sector continues to do so too. I have recently completed the CIM Diploma in Professional Marketing and an ILM qualification as part of Chwarae Teg.

If you were to go back and start the programme again is there anything you would have changed or done differently?

The placements on the programme were normally 6 months. While it seems like a fairly long period of time, it flies by. I think if I could go back and do it again, I’d try and make more of my time spent at each organisation.

You leave each placement with a great understanding of a new organisation and area of business but you’re surrounded by people that are great at their jobs and have a wealth of knowledge and experience – I’d ask more questions, get stuck in sooner and leave with an even deeper understanding. You never know when you’ll need it!

What has been the highlight or biggest achievement of your career so far?

The highlights of my career so far have been securing a promotion to Mortgage Retention Product Manager, working as Lead Product Manager/Product Owner on an ongoing project and leading a project and event to provide support to those impacted by the Tata Steel crisis back in 2016.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking of applying?

Apply! You won’t find another experience or opportunity like it. I found a career path that I love and frankly, didn’t know existed. The skills and experience I gained through the programme have been invaluable to me in the years since and will continue to be throughout my career.