What did you study? When did you graduate?
I studied at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). Did a dual degree of Bachelor of Commerce (Finance) and Bachelor of Science (Psychology). Graduated in May 2019.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Sydney in the suburb of Mosman, located on the lower North Shore. I attended Mosman Public school up until year 5 and then moved to Wenona School in North Sydney for the remainder of my schooling, years 5-12. Through my schooling at Wenona, I was given the opportunity to participate in various leadership positions in my senior years: Sports Prefect, House Captain, Netball Captain and Swimming Captain.
In 2015 after completing school, I commenced my four-year degree at UNSW. During university, I was fortunate enough to attend Baxter college where I lived on campus. During college, I was appointed the positions of Basketball Captain and Assistant Treasurer. University life also gave me the chance to participate in the UNSW Women’s basketball team at Uni-games in 2016 on the Gold Coast. Further, in my third year of study, I did a semester exchange abroad at High Point University (HPU). HPU is in the city of High Point, North Carolina, USA. Here, I was fortunate enough to hear some influential and amazing speakers at this college such as Steve Wozniak who co-founded Apple. My exchange experience helped me grow personally and academically as it pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to embrace and be fully immersed in a new culture which played a big part in shaping who I am today.
During university, I held a few different jobs. It was great that I could keep connected with my old school by being a sports coach and a selector for water polo, basketball and netball. After finishing my sports coaching, I became an IGSSA (Independent Girls School Sports Association) venue co-ordinator, where it was my responsibility to ensure the netball and basketball venue at Wenona ran smoothly. For example, my responsibilities included: scoring, first aid and incident reports, and venue set up. My final employment before joining TAL was at a company called HSC CoWorks, which delivered academic coaches to students in years 11-12. I completed four years at this company and worked my way up to Development Team manager, where this team consisted of five senior coaches in the company. We each had a panel of approximately 10 coaches (staff) and trained/ supported them in how to effectively coach and manage their students with techniques and study tools offered by the program. This brings me to when I joined TAL in August 2018, part-time whilst I was finishing university where I was first employed to be an Operations Co-ordinator, which involved working on a contingent worker project and other administrative tasks. A couple of months later I then took a role as a Team Assistant on TAL’s Asteron Life acquisition project for the People and Culture stream. I rolled off this role into the graduate program as the inaugural Business Graduate commencing 2019.
How did you get to your current job position?
I commenced working at TAL during my final year of university part-time. I started as an operations coordinator within the People and Culture team where I was brought on to work on a contingent worker project. After this project finished, I moved roles to be a team assistant on the Integration project. The integration project was TAL acquiring Asteron Life from Suncorp. Whilst working at TAL I had been approached by recruiters to apply and join the graduate program as the inaugural Business Graduate. After a couple of interviews, I had successfully landed the role. I have now been working as a Business Graduate for just over one year. I did apply for other financial services company’s graduate programs, however, when reviewing the program details, TAL’s seemed the best fit for me.
How did you choose your specialisation?
During my university studies, I took a keen interest in wealth management and insurance specific subjects. Additionally, I also enjoyed studying people and behaviour in psychology. Fusing these interests together, I wanted to work for a company that helped people and one where I could use and develop my technical skills, hence landing on life insurance and then TAL.
I did consider other areas within the financial services industry, but for me, being in life insurance at Australia’s leading life insurer was the best option.
What was your interview process like?
My interview process for TAL was a little different from the normal graduate route as I had already completed a phone interview and online assessment to perform the roles I did at TAL whilst at university. However, when approached to apply for the graduate program I had two face to face interviews before being offered the role. It is hard to recall exactly what questions were asked at the time, but the general theme was that TAL was looking for individuals who were motivated to succeed, eager to seek out opportunities and really take responsibility for their own learning, and someone who was a cultural fit. My tip for future applicants to show these qualities would be to really demonstrate and express their personality throughout each of the interviews. It is important to show your passion and commitment to TAL’s purpose and demonstrate that your values align with the company’s.
What does your employer do?
TAL is one of Australia’s leading life insurers. In 2018 we paid almost $1.62 billion in claims. TAL offers life insurance through retail, direct and group channels. TAL strives to help Australian’s lead a life full of choices, options and freedoms, to support them when they need us most.
What are your areas of responsibility?
The great thing about the TAL graduate program is that it is so diverse and there is a magnitude of exciting projects to work on.
My first rotation was in our Investments team. Here I had the opportunity to work on projects, be involved in regulatory discussions, quarterly reporting to our platforms, creating commercial dashboard for financial reporting on investment products, assisting in transitioning products from Asteron Life (Suncorp) to TAL in the acquisition and meeting with fund managers. And that was just rotation 1!
My second rotation was within our Retail Product area in the New Products and Proposition team. This rotation for me was filled with exponential learning. I was responsible for various deliverables to assist in launching a new diabetes product called Specialised Protection. For example, drafting adviser guides, stakeholder management, form and correspondence review, training on the product for advisers and customer engagement research. This rotation for me was challenging but also rewarding in terms of building new skills, technical knowledge and also developing confidence in my contributions to the team.
My current rotation which has just commenced is with the Retail Distribution team and with Affinia which is the licensee subsidiary of TAL. Through both these teams, within the first month, I am already assisting with projects related to the changing financial advice industry and assisting on team projects involving both internal and external stakeholder consultations.
TAL provides an environment that creates opportunities outside my team. Within the wider organisation I like getting involved with volunteering, mentoring and being a part of company-wide initiatives.
In summary, my responsibilities as a graduate are diverse in nature and size of the task. Each rotation has presented me with new opportunities and challenges to work through to build my industry and TAL acumen. I am glad to be in a role and organisation that allows me to contribute to the business and really values my opinions and views.
Can you describe a typical workday?
I would say there is no typical workday at TAL, I sit across various projects involving multiple teams plus completing ad hoc tasks when they surface. I usually start my day by going to the gym (and coffee!), just to feel motivated to put my best self forward at work. In my current retail distribution/Affinia rotation, each day in terms of work is different. One day I will be on the road with our BDMs completing adviser appointments to help advisers understand the TAL product and offerings we have, and the next be devising a project strategy plan. TAL is great with giving each of their staff (even junior like us graduates) autonomy about being your most effective and productive self within the workplace. To date, the last thing I worked on was doing research to animating strategy (both super and non-super) flyers to assist clients in understanding the technical strategy’s advisers employ when they seek financial advice.
What are the career prospects with your job?
The career prospects after completing the graduate program are endless. I think one of the key features and goals of the graduate program is to develop both your personal and professional skills to become an influencer and leader within the business. I really believe TAL is invested in each of its graduates to empower them with the skills to achieve anything. After completing the graduate program, you are equipped with skills in four different areas of the business and I think TAL recognises this as a core capability and differentiator. TAL provides all graduates with the opportunity to seek employment in teams that align with both their interests and strengths. To be completely honest I have really enjoyed aspects of all my rotations so far and am still on my journey to finding the role I want to go into at the end of the program.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Yes. The role of the Business Graduate encapsulates various parts of the TAL business and is the broadest graduate role that TAL has to offer. This is great as you get the opportunity to explore many teams that allow you to acquire and use different skills and ways of thinking. It is a very developmental and growth role that welcomes people from various backgrounds. There are other streams of the graduate program including Finance, Distribution, IT and Actuarial which require backgrounds that are relevant to each of those streams, more so than my role. If someone did want to give the Business stream a go, in all graduate programs there is a six-month elective rotation that gives graduates the chance to go into an area that is out of the business unit specified by their program. This is quite unique to TAL as you get to experience a role that deviates from your specialisation. Therefore allowing you to investigate other teams which is great when you are trying to figure out what roles and areas interest you.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
If I had not pursued the financial services direction, I think I would have followed the psychologist route. I have a major in psychology within my science degree and I even think doing this really helps in my current role too. I think the technical and relationship environment of my current role suits me, so I am happy with my choice.
What do you love the most about your job?
If I had to sum it up in one word it would be - opportunity. This includes being able to network with colleagues across the business including senior leaders, engaging in a diverse and interesting range of work, be given responsibility, and being encouraged and able to learn and make mistakes in an environment that is safe and supportive. I also really enjoy the extra-curricular activities TAL has on offer. For example, I am quite involved with our Community Foundation. Through this I am an active participant in ABCN (Australian Business and Community Network) which partners business with education through structured programs, which involve corporate volunteers mentoring students in the workplace, and I am also about to embark on a volunteer program to the Northern Territory with an organisation called NASCA (National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy), which aims to utilise the power of structured sporting and culture programs to harness the life aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. These are awesome initiatives that allow me to give back to the community and I really value that TAL promotes us to get involved.
In terms of the tasks I enjoy, I definitely prefer project-based work that is high intensity, collaborative and has a defined end goal, rather than tasks that are more “business as usual”.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job?
I wouldn’t really say this is a limitation, but something that can be challenging at times is to keep up with learning new things and delivering, which can be a bit stressful at times. My insurance knowledge was very basic before starting at TAL, so it did take me some time to understand the products sold and the processes used here.
My responsibility levels have changed each rotation depending on the nature of the tasks that the team has been working on in each rotation. For example, I had greater responsibility to own and deliver tasks whilst working on a new product within the Retail Product compared to my Investments rotation. However, overall on the graduate program, I have been given more responsibility and autonomy than I initially thought I would, which has been a confidence builder throughout!
I have found that there are no expectations of me to work on the weekends. All my managers have advocated that the weekend is time to relax and embark on activities you enjoy. Typically, things are always busy at work, but each day at work I keep learning and growing to become more skilful and knowledgeable about TAL and the industry.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?