A head start on your career path: stories from our graduates
As a relatively new and nimble company, the quality of our people couldn’t be more important at Hummingbird. We’re lucky to have some very experienced project management, IT and data experts to support our clients but we also know the value of bringing new perspectives and energy into the team.
With our approach to graduate recruitment program, we make sure that learning and exchange of value is a two-way street. And while we expect our graduates to work independently and use their initiative, we know that success comes from having the courage to make mistakes and learn from them. This commitment to taking the journey together and trusting that both sides want to invest their best is the foundation of the Hummingbird experience. It’s part of our brand, but it’s also there in how we operate.
Todd Whaley – CEO
For graduates seeking their first career role, the experience of choosing where to apply, or even how to go about looking for an employer, there can be a lot of ‘brands’ to explore. Graduate programs always seem enticing, but they sometimes call to mind the story behind the poem The Walrus and the Carpenter. If it’s been a while since you read the Alice series by Lewis Carroll, the Walrus talks some naïve oysters into going for a stroll with him. His playful nonsense takes a sinister turn when it becomes clear that his moonlit promenade will end in Walrus feasting on his oyster friends.
I’m not suggesting graduates are going to be consumed by burnout if they get on board with programs offered by companies that offer hundreds of graduate roles every year. What I am saying is that it’s too easy for expectations on both sides to misalign. The result for the graduate might be a small career setback, or it could be a big knock to their confidence and a conviction that working in a certain sector or role is not for them.
Voices of experience
My advice to graduates wanting to avoid this outcome is to go straight to the source. Speak with others who’ve joined the program, find out what their expectations and goals were and whether they’ve been met. In the spirit of this advice, I’m sharing notes from a conversation with three of our amazing graduates Eden, Kathy and Sidney. We talked through how they navigated the job market after university, what they expected and what they’ve experienced since joining Hummingbird. Here are five key insights they shared:
1. Get Networking
Both Eden and Kathy agree that the graduate job market is pretty competitive, which can be a little daunting and draining too. “Everyone was saying that people doing STEM degrees would find it easy to walk into any role,” says Eden. “But it really felt like there was a lot of competition out there.”
“I was applying for graduate programs in 2020 during the early peak of COVID,” says Kathy. “There really weren’t many jobs for graduates at the time and it was normal to be applying for 30-40 programs.”
While Kathy found her first role through a recruitment program with a big corporate, her role at Hummingbird came about as a result of having conversations with an ex-colleague, Venesa, who left to found Hummingbird. “Don’t restrict yourself to the formal pathways for finding a role,” Kathy advises. “Think outside of the box as to how you might find that opportunity that’s a good fit.”
Sidney agrees that it’s better to check out the type of roles on offer by doing more informal research, rather than restricting yourself to graduate programs. “In Uni they were always telling us to network and get ourselves out there in the community we want to work in,” says Sidney. “Talk to tutors and lecturers as they’ll have lots of contacts in the industry and can arrange an introduction.”
2. Questions at the ready
Whether you’re in a formal interview or just having a chat over coffee what do you need to find out about? In these situations, it’s important to remember that you’re choosing the role and the organisation as well as putting your best foot forward in the hope they’ll choose you.
“Ask if there will be a chance to get to know who your manager is and meet the team you’re joining,” says Kathy. “Ask about their working style as you’re going to be spending a lot of time with them.”
“Ask about what a day in the life of your role there would look like,” says Eden. “What software, tools and programming languages will you be working with?”
Sidney suggests checking what sort of roles are available throughout the business. “There’s always the potential for your first role to be a bridge to the next,” he says. “Working in IT can be so many things and my job title now – Junior Business Intelligence Developer – is one I didn’t know existed when I was at Uni.”
3. Take a step up …
Getting to grips with the responsibilities of working life can be a little overwhelming to start with. But our graduates agree that having the opportunity to step up to challenges is a far better way to learn than watching from the sidelines. “In my first role I was expecting to be working on things from day one,” says Kathy Nguyen. ” The reality was pretty different. I worked on a handful of isolated tasks and did online courses. And the managers seemed really busy and didn’t have time to give us on-the-job training.”
“At Hummingbird, I’ve learned so much through rolling up my sleeves and just giving things a try,” she adds. “It’s a really fast-paced environment and my role touches on all sorts of things from financial management to resource management. It’s challenging but you never stop learning.”
Sidney agrees the work is challenging but rewarding. “You think you’re an adult in Uni but when you start working you have a lot more responsibility,” he says. “At Uni you’re accountable to yourself. Sure, you have deadlines to meet but it’s only yourself you’re letting down if you fall behind. At work you want to make sure it happens for your clients.”
4. … but know that your team is there to help
While Sidney thinks being motivated and accountable is a great upside of the Hummingbird working culture, he also knows that asking for help is expected. “At Uni, when I was up against deadlines or trying to solve a problem, I would always just knuckle down and work through it myself,” he says. “Here at Hummingbird, it’s easy to seek help from people. Each team member has expertise across all these different areas. I’ve never felt anxious or worried about reaching out for help.”
Eden agrees that one of the things he’s learned since joining Hummingbird is the value of good communication. “Uni can be quite isolating in how you work,” he says. “Communicating with each other about what needs to be done here at Hummingbird is really important. We use DevOps as the main planner for all our work and you can’t just add notes that only you can understand. That just holds things up and there’s real value in every member of the team being able to easily find out what’s going on.”
5. Find mentors who treat you as an equal
All our graduates say they learn much more from their role at Hummingbird because of the working relationship they have with their more experienced team members. “You can approach anyone and ask them for help,” says Sidney. “You’re on the team and that means you’re treated as an equal. The culture here is really supportive and you just know that everybody wants us to succeed. They’re training us to be independent in how we think but give us all this knowledge to draw on.”
Although Eden hasn’t been with the company as long as Sidney and Kathy, he’s feeling just as welcome. “It’s a really great environment,” he says. “It’s super inclusive and you can speak to anyone, they all make themselves available to talk through things and help.”