WA financial institution Bankwest has taken new steps to actively foster talent and grow the data science community in WA, with the establishment of an intern program and a graduate development program, both in data science.
The six-week internship program launched in January and the first four graduates on to the new data science graduate development program start this month (Feb 18).
Bankwest Executive General Manager of Customer Solutions and Insights Pieter Vorster said the programs are part of Bankwest’s focus on leveraging data science and analytics to help deliver the digital products and services expected by customers.
“As part of a growing focus on being an insight led business, we’re turning our attention to helping develop home-grown talent and increase the size of the data science community here in WA.”
The first two interns to join the program were Nazanin Sabooniha and Tim Howat, both of whom are studying Masters degrees in Perth.
Nazanin said: “I came to Bankwest hoping to use the knowledge and skills I’ve learned at university to put something into practice in the real-world environment. And just a couple of weeks in I’m already doing this. It’s great to be able to apply the theory to something real and see it work.
Tim added: “I wanted to make the connection between what we’ve learned at university and how that’s applied in a real work scenario. Also, for Bankwest and this industry, I wanted to experience applying these skills to create value, enabling possibilities for customers.”
The graduate development program
Pieter said: “For too long highly skilled and capable STEM grads have picked up their degrees from university, packed their bags and jumped on a plane out of Perth, taking their skills and abilities with them.
“To lose those kind of skills to Sydney and Melbourne or overseas cities is not good for Perth, the state’s economy or the business community.”
The new Bankwest graduates will spend two years in the data science team at Bankwest, rotating through different areas of specialization. At the end of the two years they will be able to apply for permanent roles at Bankwest.
A family affair
One of the graduates to start with Bankwest is 26 year old Jonathan Kok, who arrives with a degree in data science from University of Western Australia.
And for Jonathan working for Bankwest is something of a family tradition as his mother Veronica worked for the West Coast institution for around 25 years as a senior IT specialist.
“Mum always really enjoyed working here so when I saw a graduate development program was being started in my field I jumped at the chance.
“I’m really excited to be starting in my career at such a well-established company and it’s great to see a business outside of the resources sector focusing on data science,” said Jonathan.
Pieter added: “When we received Jonathan’s application we had no idea his mum used to work here but his CV certainly stood out. Then once we brought him on board, we discovered the link – it’s nice to be able to welcome his family back into the Bankwest fold.”
Since joining Bankwest in 2018 Pieter has spent time meeting with companies and executives throughout Perth’s business community and he said there is a broad consensus over the steps that need to be taken to tap into the potential of data analytics.
“There’s an opportunity in front of us for WA to become an exporter not just of minerals and agri products, but also of technological solutions, innovative products and game-changing ideas.
“It’s universally recognised that here in Perth we have the ability to manufacture insights and ‘ship’ internationally, thanks to our ideal location based on our time zone.
“Similarly, it’s agreed that Perth’s big enough to support a meaningful tech, innovation and data science community and infrastructure, but small enough to nurture the industry better than would be the case in other larger, more fragmented cities.
“And finally, we all agree on the need for a different approach if we’re to finally loosen our dependence on the resources industry which has undeniably served this state well to date.
“This new internship and graduate program are steps on that journey and I’m really looking forward to helping them launch their careers,” he said.
Bankwest was recently named as one of Australia’s top 50 employers for graduates in a survey conducted by the Australian Association of Graduate Employers.