HR manager Gillian Bray explains what's required of graduates looking to pursue a varied and technically-focused career developing asset finance software for ALFA
What do you look for in an employee?
We want people who are bright, inquisitive, technically-minded, and fun to work with. We have a collaborative company culture and while we give our employees plenty of responsibility, we ensure that they're fully supported. Induction and pre-project training lasts around 10 weeks, so new joiners need to be ready to learn. If you have a 2:1 or better, and As and Bs at A-level, we know you are bright. Add to that the motivation to learn about technology and asset finance, and you have a successful CHPer. This is why we have achieved IIP Silver status, Best Companies accreditation and are one of TheJobCrowd's Top Companies for Graduates to Work For.
How can a graduate stand out?
We receive thousands of applications for around 30 graduate places. It's easy to blend into the background. The most memorable applicants are those who really know their stuff about what we do. There's no point in rehashing an advert and using that as a cover letter. Think about what makes you right for the role and tell us your story. Are you interested in the technical direction we are taking? Are you excited by the opportunity to work on the various parts of a project, rather than pinning yourself down to one career path? We're not run-of-the-mill, so you shouldn't be either.
How is the graduate programme at ALFA structured?
You'll spend four weeks in our training room learning all about ALFA: our industry, software and the technologies we use. You'll then spend six weeks putting all that into practice in a heavily supervised team before moving onto a project. Over the next couple of years, you'll undertake further core training at regular intervals, teaching you in more detail. Your training will then start to differ as you spend your annual five-day training budget on the things that interest you. For some, that might be technical conferences, while for others it's project management accreditation.
What advice would you give to graduates looking to work in the IT sector?
Get some experience to show that you genuinely know what you're getting into. If you're from a non-technical background and simply want to learn to code, you could develop skills through sites like Coursera, which lets you add course information directly to LinkedIn, enhancing your profile in the eyes of potential employers. With some basic coding skills, you can start writing software for fun. If you're already skilled in software development, you could volunteer with the Barclays Code Playground and run sessions helping youngsters to learn the coding basics.
Alternatively, you could: get involved with an open-source project like Google Summer of Code; work on pet projects and share the source code on public repositories such as GitHub; take part in coding competitions (hackathons), where those with no professional experience get to work in teams with more experienced people. This is a great way to experience a 'real' project and work in a multinational team of developers.
How can graduates find out more about ALFA?
From the ALFA website or at one of the many fairs we attend in the autumn.