Steer Your Personal Development as a Young Professional

Michiel Heeneman, Data Scientist

Michiel Heeneman studied Finance and Data Science and went looking for a place where he could become a specialist in his field. He found it at Rabobank, where he has been doing the Advanced Analytics Young Professional Program since April 2022. As he put it, “A bank that has the data of more than 9 million customers: a Data Scientist like me can hardly resist that!"

“In this program you spend a year and a half in a single role, so the role should definitely be a good match for you,” says Michiel. “Fortunately, Rabobank spends a lot of time finding a role that really suits you before the start of the program. It starts with a meet and greet day—different teams give presentations about what they do, what the average workday is like, and what kind of tasks you can expect to be doing. That helps you figure out which teams and what kind of role appeals to you while also teaching you a lot about the bank in a short period of time.”

“There are many places for Advanced Analytics Young Professionals to end up,” Michiel added. “Most of us are working on developing the bank’s credit risk models. They are used in the credit approval process and to determine capital buffers, among others. But there’s also a team that is developing a model that can test the bank’s financial health in a variety of economic scenarios. It’s also possible to work as a Data Scientist in the bank’s knowledge center, where research into climate risks (and other topics) is taking place.”

Gatekeeper Role

After the first few meetings, presentations and trainings, Michiel went to work in the Financial Economic Crime department as a Data Scientist. “As a Data Scientist, I focus on transaction monitoring, which basically means I maintain and improve the models that are used to detect suspicious transaction behavior.”

His department is important, as Michiel explained: “As a bank we have the important task of protecting society from financial crime, for instance, preventing money laundering and terrorist financing. Because this is a high priority, we invest a lot in innovative technologies and advanced models. That way the bank can comply with all the regulations in the long term, and we can focus on other risks that are worth investigating.”

The Boss of Your Personal Development

In addition to his work as a Data Scientist, Michiel has a lot of time for personal development. “What I like most,” he said, “is being in charge of my own personal development. The program offers trainings that build your soft skills in particular. You get to choose which other trainings you want to do and you have set times at which you focus on your personal development.”

“My job as a Data Scientist is multifaceted. We develop complex models and work with challenging material, but we always have to link them to a clear message and be able to explain ideas persuasively to stakeholders. Hard and soft skills are both important.”

Close-knit Group

When asked about his perception of the culture at Rabobank, Michiel described it as “really pleasant.” He explains: “I expected everyone to be wearing suits and that there would be a very hierarchical culture, but it’s anything but that. The flat organization and the open culture means that everyone is easily approachable. I wear sneakers to work every day,” he laughed, adding, “if I turned up in a suit my colleagues would probably look at me sideways.”

The Young Professionals are a tight group, according to Michiel: “we spend a lot of time with each other. We work together a lot, we socialize every Friday after work, and we see each other outside of work too. Last summer, a group of colleagues even went to Italy together on vacation.”

Besides the good atmosphere, it’s also easy to grow your network quickly. “Since you end up in a group of Young Professionals who all work in different roles and departments, you end up knowing someone everywhere in the bank. If I need something from a particular department, I can always find another Young Professional.”

Making an impact

Michiel has a clear idea of what he plans to do after the Young Professional Program. He really wants to be a data specialist and pointed out that, “Rabobank is an excellent place to do that. There are more than 9 million customers, each with their own transaction pattern. As a Data Specialist, that’s a real treat to work with. Knowing that my model could also have an impact on society is really satisfying. In my view, the mission that’s written on the front door—Growing a better world together—starts with the employees themselves.”