From lab-white to suit-tight

"My name is Egbert and I work as data innovator at a bank". And everybody laughed. This was last year, during a get-together with my former colleagues – a group of biomedical scientists. "How on Earth did you end up at a BANK?".

Working at a bank is something I never even considered. And I’m sure this will be the same for many graduates of, say, medical or social sciences. But it is possible. And there are many like me. Therefore, I decided to write this blog. As encouragement. Just to give it some thought!

The backgrounds of innovation specialists

I did some (non-biomedical) research on career paths. What are the backgrounds of my peers, working as innovation specialist at a bank? Are they all economists?

I retrieved the full career paths of 370 professionals who at some point worked for a bank in the Netherlands, with titles such as ‘innovation manager’ or ‘innovation coach’. I did a bit of grouping – of education and job titles into categories – and made a visual.

The insights? Sure, most bank-innovators (~50%) did an MBA or studied econometrics or finance. But there are plenty from seemingly unrelated areas – social sciences (8%), design (8%), physics or biomedical sciences (4%), and law (4%). Some went through a traineeship; most didn’t.

Interestingly, the time between finishing such an ‘unrelated degree’ and starting as innovation manager at a bank is only around 4-5 years on average. That tells me the perceived ‘career switch’ must be a lot easier than you’d think. For reference: for economics graduates this is around 8 years on average. See below for an overview of the most common career trajectories.

Image showing all possible paths from various educations (like marketing, economics, engineering and business) to a first job, to working at a bank
Paths from education to working at a bank.

Why diversity is so important

There are economists, but also designers, IT-specialists, all-round innovators & entrepreneurs, and anyone really. To me it is a fine product of present-day society where diversity is considered an asset. It feels good that organisations look at people’s genuine interests and personalities.

So, if you ever walk into the innovation department of a bank, you will find a diverse group of people with a creative and entrepreneurial spirit. And many weirdos from science. Sounds like you?

About the author

Egbert Clevers
Data & Analytics Expert

Egbert is Data & Analytics Expert at Rabobank’s Innovation Factory. His passions are to recognise opportunities and design data concepts, translate business challenges into data solutions and develop data solutions.

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