Huge congratulations to Fiona for securing a role on the Technology Full-Time Programme at Morgan Stanley! We caught up with her to discuss her time as a summer intern at the firm, find out what she's looking forward to about her graduate role and hear some insight into the culture.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background
I came from a state school that was in special measures most of the time I was there - meaning I got very used to teaching myself from quite a young age. I always knew I loved maths and proceeded to study at university (believing I was destined for a career in research!) However, I did one Java module in my first year and realised I’d found a new interest: programming! I spent most of my free time teaching myself more programming languages and techniques until I felt comfortable enough to apply for a software development role. After a lot of hard work, I got an offer at Morgan Stanley which was one of my top choices. I completed their summer internship and as a result got a graduate role - managing to take my little side hobby and turn it into my career!
How has Bright Network helped you in your career so far?
Bright Network allowed me to read others’ experiences and different company’s cultures so I felt sure I was applying to the correct organisation. Though my decision was facilitated through my own research also, it was reassuring to get information from other people of my own age range and background so I could see if I felt like I would be a good fit for the role and for the business.
What inspired you to apply for this company?
Alongside its worldwide reputation, I was really attracted to the variety of sectors of technology available within Morgan Stanley - from the very front-end work to dealing with more of the back-end operations. It was important to me to work in a business with a lot of variety as I wasn’t sure exactly what type of tech I wanted to do. The internship was a 10 week long, personal project which meant I could work as part of a real team in the company and also develop my skills individually on my project. The graduate role particularly appealed to me because the training is so good! We receive 15 weeks of intense technology training and, as someone who doesn’t come from a computer science background, this felt like a great way to get my programming skills on par with some of my more experienced peers.
What has been the single most important thing you learnt in your first week of your role?
Though I haven’t started my graduate role yet, I completed the summer internship for the same role last year. The very first thing that I realised was necessary was to not be afraid to ask questions. Coming into a software development role from a non computer science degree meant that there were some gaps in my technical knowledge - but rather than being ashamed and trying to figure everything out myself I realised that most people were friendly and willing to help. Utilising your colleagues’ expertise is often much quicker and informative than a google search; however, you can’t expect people to go out of their way to teach you everything if you never ask!
What would a ‘normal’ day look like for someone in your role?
During the internship we had a variety of career development talks and networking events, so my days would often differ. However, my day would often start by me catching up with my manager and telling him what I intended to do for the day and seeing if there’s anything he wanted me to change or add to my project. After that I had a lot of freedom with how I approached the working day (providing I got the work done!). It would often be a mixture of me working independently, calling colleagues or setting up meetings so I could ask questions and learn more with occasional team skype calls. I am curious to see how my working day changes when I am a full time member of staff and not an intern working on a project!
What do you find most interesting about the sector you’re in?
I feel that technology is one of the fast growing sectors; not just in Morgan Stanley but worldwide. Technology has become intertwined in everything we do and is vital in how society functions nowadays. Due to this rapid development, it can be challenging to keep up with all the changing technologies, but that makes it one of the most interesting sectors to follow!
What was the application process like? What was the hardest part? What did you enjoy the most?
I applied online for the role, uploading my CV and cover letter and answering a few questions about myself and why I had applied. Not long after, I was sent an online assessment to do - I remember this vividly because I really enjoyed it! It was an interactive assessment mimicking you responding to messages at work, it was really immersive and made me realise I felt like a good fit for the role. After this, I was invited to have a telephone interview and then my assessment centre. The AC was challenging but enjoyable. I got to speak to people who already worked there and ask questions, work in a group with the other applicants and had 3 interviews targeting technical knowledge and soft skills. The interviews were challenging but the questions were interesting and I felt like they adapted to your level of knowledge; allowing you to show yourself in your best light.
What is the company culture like?
Morgan Stanley has four core values which I believe encompass the workplace culture very well: doing the right thing; putting the client first; leading with exceptional ideas; and giving back. The company works as a whole, not on an individual basis. It isn’t about trying to show off and do things by yourself, everyone on a team is valued and contributes together - even as an intern I was always welcome to participate in team meetings and I never felt afraid to question something. I was also lucky enough to work there during the firm’s Global Volunteering Month where all employees are encouraged to take some time to volunteer and give back to the community, really exemplifying the “giving back” core value. I think more large companies should be required to do this, it is amazing the impact we can have when we all give a little back.
Have you had the opportunity to get involved in any activities outside work?
I went to many networking events during my internship - including those organised specifically for interns, optional volunteering, talks from senior members of staff and drinks with the LGBTQ+ network! I met people of various ages and sectors within the bank which not only allowed me to build my professional network but also make new friends.
Anything that has surprised you since you started?
I was (pleasantly!) surprised how welcoming everyone was and how willing people are to help you. If I was stuck, I was never made to feel stupid for not knowing the answer to something, a colleague would always come over to help me and explain everything so I could tackle it in the future - I learnt so much in a relatively short span of time! For example, I once mentioned to another employee in a different team that I was curious about another type of tech and he spent his morning showing me around, explaining his role and introducing me to different teams and managers.
Do you feel university prepared you for what is expected of you in your role?
Yes and no. I believe the fundamental problem solving skills and time management skills I gathered from my degree helped me tremendously in how I approach a project. However, mathematics degrees are often very focused on individual work; therefore working in a larger team, presenting to others and making sure other people were aware of my progress and problems was challenging to me at first. My first instinct was to just do all my work and then tell my manager afterwards, but I quickly realised communication and regular updates are vital for a good project.
Finally, any tips for anyone who’d like to apply for a similar role at Morgan Stanley?
Don’t be intimidated and just go for it! I always had a little voice in the back of my head telling me I’d never break into technology due to not doing a computer science degree, but I was completely wrong. Technical knowledge is brilliant but it can be learnt more easily than interpersonal skills, so don’t forget to learn how to work in a team, ask questions and present to others.