Sonal Jain

Employer: Goldman Sachs International
Job Title: Engineering Apprentice
University: Queen Mary University of London
Programme Title: BSc Digital & Technology Solutions Degree Apprenticeship
Start date: September 2020

Recommendation by Dr Mahesha Samaratunga, Lecturer, QMUL

I would like to recommend Sonal Jain for the Tech Industry awards. Sonal has had an excellent academic record for her first year and she has displayed academic rigour in her assessments.  She takes initiative in all her academic activities and works well with her colleagues.  As a first year apprentice, she already displayed a higher-level application of key knowledge, skills and behaviours in all her on programme training.

In conversation with Sonal

Please describe your current role.

I work as an Apprentice in the Wealth Management Engineering team at Goldman Sachs. The team is involved in the full project lifecycle (analysis, design, development, release, support) across a wide variety of projects including new business initiatives, automation, efficiency, analytics and controls. In the Wealth Management division, we aim to transform the ways in which we work with clients to achieve their investment goals and financial well-being. My role draws upon my knowledge of programming and analytical skills to build components of reliable, scalable platforms that improve how Goldman Sachs’ clients and internal teams conduct business practices. As a member of the team, I provide support in completing various tasks of the software development lifecycle including requirements gathering, design, implementation, and testing of the systems the team builds and maintains.

What do you do on a typical day at work?

During a typical day at work, I spend the morning working on my individual programming tasks, developing code for the system that my team is working on. I collaborate with other team members who are working on similar parts of the project or ask for their guidance when developing an individual component, resulting in frequent Zoom calls with developers. In the afternoon, we have a daily team meeting, which provides the opportunity to discuss the status of the project, solve challenging issues regarding development and learn about relevant company affairs. Additionally, I regularly attend meetings with project stakeholders, designers, and business teams involved in the system to gather requirements, discuss progress and receive feedback. I schedule networking sessions with individuals from different teams and divisions in the firm; working remotely posed a challenge with regard to integrating into the firm and recognising the vast nature of the company, so I actively book meetings to network and learn how different teams work at Goldman Sachs.

What has been the best experience of your Tech Industry Gold degree apprenticeship?

One of the most enjoyable experiences during the programme was delivering a presentation on the component of the system that I had developed for the team’s project. Having worked on a front-end component of the project with 2-3 other team members, I was given the opportunity to present this to help the rest of my team understand how the component worked and how it was integrated into the system as a whole. I was complimented on my ability to communicate complex software concepts with the aid of informative and useful diagrams, providing clear and focused explanations, as well as using an interactive demo to illustrate the functions of the components. After this presentation, I was given the responsibility to help onboard new developers from another team who wanted to use this component of the system, so, with another team member, we set up and ran a series of training sessions for the new developers.

What has been the most challenging experience of your Tech Industry Gold degree apprenticeship?

The most challenging experience was maintaining a steady work-life balance during the first few months of the programme. Working from home, with a virtual onboarding, made it difficult to adopt to the working lifestyle. Although Goldman Sachs created a welcoming environment and provided plenty of support, I underestimated the importance of regular social interaction with people you work with. To overcome this challenge, I reached out to the older apprentices who provided useful tips and advice to make the onboarding process a lot easier and helped me adjust my work-life balance.

What has your employer done to help with your degree apprenticeship that you particularly appreciate?

Goldman Sachs provides thorough and effective support throughout the programme, which enables apprentices to thrive in a motivating and dynamic environment. I found having the buddy system to be highly beneficial towards the onboarding and support processes. When I joined the firm, I was given 3 buddies who I could reach out to for additional support – an older apprentice buddy, a team buddy, and a mentor buddy; they were welcoming and helped me settle into my role and the firm. Having regular meetings with them allows me to seek advice regarding aspects of work-life and discuss my future career plans.

What has your university done to help you with your degree apprenticeship that you particularly appreciate?

As part of our university degree modules, Queen Mary’s provides tailored apprenticeship modules known as ‘work-based modules, which involve apprentices learning theoretical tools and analysis techniques that can be applied to real-world practices. Typical work-based tasks include: conducting research at work and writing a report on your findings; gathering and modelling data to provide recommendations for your company, and interviewing firm employees to investigate the real-world applications of theoretical concepts. I find these modules particularly interesting as they give us the opportunity to explore and examine the discrepancies between the theoretical approaches and the reality of real-world corporate computing practices.

 What advice would you give someone considering a  Tech Industry Gold degree apprenticeship?

A Tech Industry Gold degree apprenticeship is an incredibly worthwhile and unique opportunity that equips you with fundamental technical skills, as well as accustoming you to the corporate environment. Despite facing the challenges of combining part-time work and university life, the benefits of such a programme are endless, including the opportunity to collaborate with engineers, designers, and business teams to have a direct impact on real projects. I would recommend this degree apprenticeship to tech-enthusiasts who are confident in their ability to manage a demanding workload and have strong organisational skills to juggle work and study life.

What are your career plans?

I aim to leverage technology to optimise financial operations in the investment industry by building a strong foundation in data science and machine learning. As a technology strategist, I would like to work in collaboration with investors to provide strategic perspectives to drive successful investment decision-making. Through networking and engaging with financial and technical professionals, I have gained an insight into how various models, technologies and strategies can be implemented in investment teams, while actively building my financial markets knowledge.

Anything else to add?

I am eager to share my experiences of being a degree apprentice and would strongly recommend students to explore this path. Within my first 6 months at Goldman Sachs, I have participated in over four student events to promote this programme by answering queries and discussing how the Goldman programme works. Externally, I have engaged with students at my high school and through LinkedIn to give them a greater insight into this valuable learning opportunity. Recently I have enrolled to become a STEM Ambassador and I intend to leverage this platform to encourage students to explore university alternatives so they can make an informed decision about their future in a technology career.

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