Taking ownership of your career path

In September 2022 Luna Zhang started her traineeship at KBC IT; an entirely personalized learning experience of 27 months during which she will be encouraged and supported to develop her own career path. Let her story inspire you.

Why did you choose to become an IT trainee?

Luna Zhang

I was finishing my master's studies in Statistics and Data Science at KU Leuven and like other students, I was faced with the chicken-and-egg problem; you need work experience to land a job, but you need a job to gain experience. So I decided to apply for graduate and traineeship programs. That seemed like the best way for me to see how a company works and develop essential hard and soft skills.

The traineeship at KBC exposes me to several IT domains, which will make it easier for me to choose a career path. During the course of my traineeship, I will work in different teams. Being involved in different projects offers me learning and networking opportunities that will help me to build my career.

And why at KBC?

Compared to other companies, KBC doesn’t approach the recruitment process as a test. Everyone makes you feel comfortable. In the final stage of the selection, I met Isabel Van Mele, who is the CIO of KBC. I didn’t really know what to expect, but she mainly wanted to find out who I am as a person and what I’m passionate about.Being a candidate can be stressful, so I really appreciated that they focus more on your potential than on the hard skills you already have or may not have. And no one put on their poker face 🙂 The atmosphere here is casual, warm and welcoming. Not formal at all.

How have you experienced your learning process so far?

Honestly, excellent. There is a great onboarding program, an online learning platform that recommends online courses for you depending on your career goals, and a Youth Community for knowledge sharing. I also get extensive support from my personal mentor, scrum master and delivery manager.

The structure that’s in place for onboarding new people is impressive. The Learning Partner from the IT department, Geert Nijs, uses the workflow to allow you to grow your skills.

So you feel you are well supported?

Absolutely, the support I get from experienced colleagues is not only extremely valuable but also crucial for my job satisfaction. And I have weekly sessions with my mentor and my delivery manager who guide and coach me.

There’s also an initiative called ‘Womentering’. It’s set up specifically for women who join the IT department. Personally, I’m supported by Chloé Van den Bergh, who was nominated for “Young ICT Lady of the Year 2023” by DataNews. She encourages me and supports me shape my career in IT.

It’s a great initiative, although personally, I haven’t encountered any struggles yet as a woman at KBC IT. Being Chinese and having a limited background in IT, I have had some difficulties, but mostly because of some language barriers. Thanks to mentoring, this is getting better and better.

How do you feel about diversity and inclusion at KBC?

Being Chinese and a woman I’m definitely a representative of a minority 🙂 but at KBC I have the same chances as everyone else and don’t feel excluded from anything. For example, when I’m in the vicinity my colleagues all switch to English in a heartbeat so I’m automatically included in the conversation.

KBC is actually highly involved in nurturing diversity and promoting diverse thinking. Rightly so, because it’s essential for every organization. Not only from an ethical perspective but also to create value and be competitive. You simply need people from different backgrounds to achieve that.

Do you already have an idea of what your next step in IT could be?

I’ve expressed an interest in taking up an analytical role, possibly as a functional analyst, or a role in which I apply my knowledge of statistics and data science. My delivery manager, Ingrid Creten, has already reached out to colleagues to see in which team I can gain experience in that field. Soon, the general managers of different domains will also present some projects to us, so all 6 trainees can be matched with new assignments.

The entire trajectory of the traineeship is personalized and tailor-made. It’s not predefined. That challenges me to constantly ask myself what I want, to be proactive and to take ownership of my learning experience. Perhaps that’s not for everyone, but I enjoy it. Adaptability is an important skill. It’s one of the skills that I’m honing thanks to this experience.

Which other skills are you currently developing?

Being resourceful, learning quickly, communicating effectively with different people, teamwork, adopting a growth mindset, … Come to think of it, these are all related to adaptability somehow. And these are all skills that you can only develop by working together with others on different projects.

To give you an example: for Group Inspiration Day - an event that’s aimed at uniting and inspiring all the different branches of KBC Group - I was asked to organize an activity on relatively short notice. So I had to reach out to peers, plan and prepare everything and take into account the expectations everyone had. It was a valuable experience and fun to do.

Do you have any advice for other young graduates?

The best advice I can give is to be yourself. Speak openly about who you are, what you find important and where your passions lie. Whether you have a degree in politics, educational studies, business management or IT, you might be surprised at the job opportunities within IT.

So, don’t feel too much pressure when you are applying for a job, an internship or a traineeship. If you are the right candidate, it will be clear.

Excited to join KBC IT? Check out our vacancies!