Shiwoni Dona studied a BSc in Mathematics at University of Leeds. She particularly enjoyed the applied mathematical modules especially statistics and data modelling and knew that she wanted her future career to contain elements of analysis and problem solving.
“I was looking for a sector which combined data elements and client-based work because I also really enjoyed interacting with people in my volunteering and part time roles.
Financial services stood out as a good match, but I wasn’t sure about the specific role as the sector is quite broad.
When I discovered Graduate Programme Wales, I knew it would be perfect as it would allow me to try different roles to identify my likes and dislikes. I was also attracted to the opportunity to gain an MSc because it widens my knowledge of the sector and allows me to exercise the theoretical concepts during placements.”
Shiwoni is nearing the end of her second placement now, where she’s been based at Vauxhall Finance in the UK Credit Risk Team.
“My current role involves tracking and forecasting losses and recoveries, whilst simultaneously implementing risk policies to reflect companies risk appetite. The role is very data driven where analysis and coding skills (SQL and SAS programming) are essential, alongside stakeholder management and communication as the analysis findings are presented to various departments.
At the beginning of the month, we complete business as usual activities, where we create the main datasets for the month and work on reports for other departments. Then during the middle of the month, I usually work on projects and ad-hoc requests.
The most recent project I worked on was the review of certain policy elements such as the minimum income and credit card utilisation to reflect the current economic model. I am also involved with the monthly risk council where I coordinate with the wider risk team to put together the council deck and I also minute the meeting.”
One of the greatest benefits of the Financial Services Programme is the opportunity to experience three completely different workplaces and their cultures.
“The structure Vauxhall Finance is very flat which is great because I get to expand my network and gain exposure to various different stakeholders. Everyone is very friendly and supportive towards my development, and people are happy to collaborate, and share their industry knowledge with each other.
There’s also a huge focus on the wellbeing of employees and my team has always welcomed and encouraged me to share my opinions and ideas which made me feel very valued.”
The Programme provides accelerated work-based learning and development, allowing graduates to be involved with real-world projects on each of their placements.
“Being able to present my analysis to the UK board including the Managing Director is definitely one of the career highlights so far. I was not expecting to do this at a graduate level but was very grateful for the opportunity and support I received within my team.
This analysis was later turned into a BAU report where I produced the automated code and the documentation to mirror the report in the future.”
One of the more challenging aspects of the programme is balancing work and study. Shiwoni said:
“Initially, I thought finding the right work/life balance would be quite easy because I worked part time alongside my studies whilst at university. However, this was certainly one of the most challenging elements because often the assignments would be based on the placement company which made the studying hours feel much longer.
There was also a big jump in terms of expectation from undergraduate to masters level, but the programme structure made this much easier as we would get a break starting a new module and our managers were really supportive of our university assignments.”
As the current financial services cohort approach their third and final placement, we asked Shiwoni what her goals are the future:
“I am quite interested in data analytics and can see myself in analytics-based consultancy positions in the future. This specific area allows me to apply the theoretical knowledge I’ve learned and enhance my soft skills such as interpersonal and communication skills.
The programme has been an amazing way to gain experience in various roles within financial services, so I’d encourage anyone who is interested in finance to explore it. It was also a smooth transition from university into the workplace, but my top tip would be to keep an open mind on every placement.”
Thanks Shiwoni and best of luck for the future.