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Guest blog post: Nationwide’s Women in Business

Kate1Kate Watson is currently Head of Group Digital Design at Nationwide. She joined Nationwide in 2000 as a Generalist on the Nationwide Management Development Programme. Read her story and her top tips:

“I left Birmingham University in 2000 with a BA in English. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left university – I had half an idea about working in Marketing, but I was also interested in the flexibility of a more generalist graduate scheme.

I spotted the advert for the Nationwide Management Development Programme in the university careers centre and decided to apply. I’ve always had savings accounts with Nationwide and liked what they stood for as a company so, although I wasn’t sure about a career in financial services (numbers aren’t really my strong point!) I thought I’d give it a go.

As I went through the assessment process and met people from Nationwide I knew it was where I wanted to work. The genuine desire to do the right thing for the customer shone through in everyone I met throughout the interview process and I still feel that ethos just as strongly 14 years later.

When I started on the graduate programme, my first placement was in the branch network where I experienced first-hand the challenges our branch employees face as they strive to deliver outstanding service to our customers. My second placement was in team management where I had a fantastic time leading my own team, then I moved into Marketing, which is initially where I thought I wanted to stay in the long term. As it turned out, Marketing wasn’t for me, so at the end of my placement I applied for a role in our internet team, running the nationwide.co.uk website. The graduate programme had given me lots of transferable skills and a great understanding of the business and our customers, which helped me to secure the role.

I’ve never had a rigid career plan, but I’ve always taken opportunities when they’ve come along. Although I’ve spent most of my career working in digital, I’ve held a number of very different roles. I’m also not a technology specialist – my skill-set is in understanding what makes a fantastic customer experience, facilitating great communication and making change happen. One of my career highlights has been holding leading roles on two major transformation projects: replatforming and redesigning our Internet Bank, followed by the launch of our Mobile Banking app. These projects were high-profile, fast-paced and very rewarding, and they made a huge difference to our customers.

Today my role is to make sure that all the digital services we launch provide fantastic experiences for our customers. My team works with projects to help them develop their digital propositions and we also support innovation and research & development activities to help keep Nationwide ahead of the curve. There’s definitely a serious side to what we do, as we always strive to deliver benefits for our customers, but we also get to play with cool new gadgets and devices, which is maybe not something you’d expect from a financial services company.

As well as my ‘day job’ I get to do so much more at Nationwide. We’re very active in Citizenship, so there are always opportunities to get involved in fundraising or volunteering activities. I’m an active supporter of the Women in Business network, which aims to support women to grow their careers, and I mentor a number of talented individuals from across the business. It’s a great way to use some of the investment Nationwide has made in my development to help others to progress their careers too.

So, I work in Financial Services, but it isn’t all about analysing spreadsheets or managing risk ratios. Yes, there are jobs like that, but there are so many diverse functions and departments, where a whole range of skill-sets are valued and rewarded. Reflecting on my career to date makes me realise how many fantastic opportunities I’ve had at Nationwide and I’m still excited about my future here.”

Kate’s top career tips

  • Never be afraid to ask for an opportunity. The worst they can do is say “no”
  • Don’t use too much energy trying to “fix” your weaknesses: Look for roles that play to your strengths.
  • Be yourself: If you get a job by pretending to be someone else you’ll be really miserable.
  • Be resilient: Most experiences that feel horrible at the time turn out to be valuable learning exercises.

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