‘Soft skills are as important as hard skills a lot of the time’

My Career Path: Business graduate Christina Walsh is working with the Central Bank of Ireland

Christina Walsh: ‘I would advise new graduates to be open to working in areas within an organisation that they are unfamiliar with, as there is no point in limiting yourself at the start of your career.’

Christina Walsh: ‘I would advise new graduates to be open to working in areas within an organisation that they are unfamiliar with, as there is no point in limiting yourself at the start of your career.’

 

What did you study and where?
I graduated from a BSc in business & management from TU Dublin in 2019. I am currently studying an MSc in management for sustainable development with DCU part time while working.

What attracted you to your current role?
As part of my degree, I was required to undertake a summer internship between my third and final year. I was lucky enough to do my internship with the Central Bank of Ireland, which is how I found out about their graduate programme. What attracted me most was the emphasis placed on both personal and professional development, with opportunities for further education, secondment and extensive professional training.

What I like about working in financial regulation is the overview we have of the financial system. Rather than viewing the economy from the perspective of one entity within an industry, we look at it as a whole. Furthermore, we are required to look at how effectively it operates and what improvements can be made. I am studying these improvements from a sustainability perspective. I’m interested in what role the financial industry can play in achieving what is required under the EU Green Deal and how the landscape is changing in favour of more sustainable investing as a result of shifting investor interest and regulatory requirements.

The most challenging thing about moving into the working world?
I still have one foot in education so I’m currently marrying it with full-time work, which can be challenging from the perspective of time management. I’ve found that I work best early in the morning, so I capitalise on this by doing assignments before I start work. Investing in a coffee machine also helped massively.

Studying while working simultaneously is more achievable than people realise, although it depends largely on the programme you study and how much support you receive from your employer in terms of funding and extra leave. I would always encourage graduates to seek out an employer that is willing to invest in their professional and academic development.

A key benefit of the Central Bank’s graduate programme is the opportunity to avail of the academic and professional training supports scheme. This allows successful applicants to receive full funding for a relevant program of study and to avail of a supportive study leave allowance. This has been instrumental in my decision to study while working.

Do you have any mentors in your workplace?
I have been lucky enough to have some excellent mentors in the Central Bank. Their perspectives have been invaluable in opening my eyes to the possible trajectories my career could take. In addition, it’s encouraging to have professional female role models to be able to emulate, particularly when I am used to looking at a male-dominated finance industry.

What is the most valuable thing you have learned since you joined the workforce?
Soft skills are as important as hard skills a lot of the time. Being able to introduce yourself, communicate your ideas and ask questions are undervalued skills in the college environment but will take you far in the workplace.

How has Covid-19 affected your start in the workplace?
I was in the office for six months before we had to move to working from home, so I’ve had a taste of both ways of working. I feel very privileged that I started work in the office, as joining a team remotely can be daunting and challenging at times. The only physical impression people get of you is from video calls, so you have to adapt your communication as non-verbal cues can be lost when you’re a small square on someone’s screen. Aside from this, I have found remote working to be hugely beneficial from a time and money saving perspective.

One piece of advice for new graduates?
I would advise new graduates to be open to working in areas within an organisation that they are unfamiliar with, as there is no point in limiting yourself at the start of your career. Choosing a graduate programme that allows you to rotate is a huge benefit in that it allows you to gain a broader depth of experience than a single placement does.

I would also emphasise the importance of growing your professional network. Work opportunities often arise through people you know so the larger your network, the more opportunities you are opening yourself up to.