Graduate Diaries: Cyrano Embling

07 December 2016 / Published in News & Stories

This is the latest entry in our Graduate Diaries series, highlighting some of the talented ASB Future Me graduates as they share their experiences progressing through the programme.

Life is a journey. Let me tell you about mine: from branch banking in Hamilton, to the ASB grad program in Auckland. On this journey I’ve learned lessons – a lot of lessons – about myself and today’s business environment. Lessons like managing change before it manages you, and adapting to change, to stay relevant and ahead of the game.

This is my story.

I graduated from business school in 2014; young, ambitious and ready to take on the world. I knew what I wanted: a boat and a plane. I figured the fastest way to those goals was banking. I joined BNZ in the Chartwell branch in Hamilton. I did notice that no one else in the branch had a boat OR a plane, but that didn’t put me off. I then got in to the ASB graduate program. I jumped at the opportunity, and in a heartbeat packed up my life and moved to Auckland.

That’s when the challenges started.

My first rotation wasn’t about relationships or the front line. It was barely about banking. It was the ASB Business Ventures team, and they were right in the middle of building Plus by ASB. It was a full IT build. We were working with internal and external partners, stakeholders and suppliers, including world-class Fintech companies who were coding the new platform. My first task was to manage a procurement process, with two top IT companies pitching for our contract. Welcome to the deep end. I was a fresh grad who knew nothing about coding, bank IT systems, integration or contract negotiations. I was already terrified. Then the General Manager of Business Ventures doubled down on the terror levels: “Cyrano! Work up a recommendation on which one we should choose!”

Are you familiar with Impostor Syndrome? They might be renaming it Embling Syndrome. I was sure it was only a matter of time before they realised I had no idea what I was doing, and sent me back to Hamilton.

And this was when I had a lightbulb moment.

Those articles I’d read about digital disruption and “the digital age comes to your workplace” were totally true. It wasn’t an overseas thing. It was happening here in New Zealand. To me. I realised we all need to be able to actively manage change and be a part of it. Adapting to what’s happening means we can stay relevant and ahead of the curve. Trying to postpone the change, or being dragged forward like a losing team in a match of tug of war, only prolongs the difficulty.

So I started small. I knew I wouldn’t become a code-ninja overnight, but there was always YouTube and the power of educated guesses. I knew I could grasp some key concepts and present something back to my team.

From here the learning continued. To be relevant, I only needed a high level of understanding. I didn’t have to know everything. So I broke down some key jargon and absorbed some basic principles, (like hosted sites, how API’s work, the role of a wireframe) and from there I could fill in the gaps. Once I mastered my fear of the unknown and my mind monsters, I gained the confidence to ask questions. Another light bulb went off: people didn’t expect me to know everything. To be honest, they seemed thrilled that I knew anything at all. Everyone was there to help.

Change can be scary for anyone; even the best of us.

But if you manage that change, and look at it as a mostly positive thing (while accepting there may be some negative things), it’s easier to adapt.

What job today hasn’t been changed by technology? All of our roles at ASB certainly have. We might not be replaced by robots, but we all need a level of familiarity and competency with technology, especially with our reputation as New Zealand’s most advanced bank.

ASB has a term for this. When I started, people talked about being “T-shaped”. I assumed they were mad, of course. Now I see the importance; being T-shaped means having depth and understanding in different competencies. You have a core area of expertise: the downward stroke of the T. The top of the T represents your other “second-level” competencies in different areas. For me, it was essential to develop my T bar with IT skills so that I could be competent and relevant for my Business Ventures team. Technological integration is crucial. I can proudly say as a new technology native (technology immigrant?), that I now appreciate and embrace the opportunities of technology. I use new software tools to my advantage, instead of avoiding it for as long as possible.

The skills and experiences from first rotation have been infinitely valuable for me. They have helped me become more T-shaped (or possibly 7-shaped – more skills needed!) and will definitely help me reach my goals and aspirations.

As an adult it’s scarier to learn new things, especially when you have so much time and energy invested in old ways. But it’s nowhere near as scary as being left behind. The mind monsters of fear and self-doubt attack us in the face of change, but as I found out sometimes the things that seem the scariest are not that hard to overcome at all.

I’ve found that change itself is never as scary as our fear of the change.


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