NAB trains its execs to talk tech

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NAB trains its execs to talk tech

Presses them into learning to code.

NAB has revealed a program it undertook this year aimed at getting executives' "hands dirty" by learning how to code and talk shop with the bank’s developers and IT teams.

The program took the form of a new channel added to the bank’s instance of tech workforce development tool Pluralsight, which is already used to upskill technology staff.

Head of digital learning and technology Jay Patel told PluralsightLive that the program was designed “to give our executives an overview of what was happening in the tech world, and actually see if they could get their hands dirty with things like coding.”

“It's actually giving our executives an opportunity to get their hands dirty and probably connect better to the people that were actually working in their organisation,” Patel said.

“I expect leaders to actually recognise what their people are doing, and use the same language, so if someone's doing Python, then our leaders should at least know what Python is and what the implications are, so that connection happens.

“At the moment in the Covid world, we're very much about driving engagement and customer satisfaction depends very much on how engaged your employees are. It's very much about how leaders understand what their people are doing, role model the work or the process of work, but then also use the language in terms of content and context to actually explain to people that we're all in the same boat and we're doing the same job.

“Building that connection is really critical.”

Patel said that with Pluralsight already set up as “the main workstream for our tech workforce”, NAB had “built out a channel for our executives” from that.

“The channel was actually to get them starting to get some basics around things like cloud and security, and then the next step in that channel was very much but how do you program and how do you code,” Patel said.

“We launched a set of face to face events where, in partnership with different vendors, we got executives to be a lot more aware of the ins and outs of the deep tech stuff that was happening, everything from AI to coding.”

More broadly, Patel said NAB had seen a sharp rise in the use of Pluralsight and other digital learning platforms during the pandemic.

“In terms of numbers, about a year ago we were trading at about 900 learning hours a month on our platforms,” he said.

“Last month we closed at about 11,000 hours a month, so it's a massive increase.”

He said that pre-Covid, people mostly pursued digital learning in the late evening or early morning.

“Now we just see spikes all over the place as people learn at their own convenience,” he said.

Cloud training

NAB’s highly-public shift into the public cloud is as much about infrastructure transformation as insourcing the company’s IT following a long period of outsourcing.

With that came a substantial training program, most visibly in the form of the cloud and data guilds that have trained and certified large numbers of staff.

But Patel said that the bank’s initial forays into cloud training did not necessarily have the desired impact.

“We had a philosophy where we would actually train up our IT techs in terms of everything to do with the cloud,” he said.

“What we actually found was that we were training a lot of people on multiple platforms - starting off with AWS - and then actually not seeing what I thought was important in the sense of training people: making sure that they were certified. 

“So we put in place a set of steps and a roadmap to make sure that whoever works on cloud also ends up in some form of a qualification or a certification.

“AWS was first, and we're the second highest AWS-certified workforce in the Southern Hemisphere. So that was a big win and now moving into a multi cloud strategy, we'll hopefully follow the same steps with Microsoft and Google down the track.”

More broadly on digital learning, Patel said the bank is “continuing to roll out present state and future state learning for the whole of the bank in Australia, but also around the world as well.”

He noted that some of the most radical technology shifts enabled by training were now behind the bank.

“When it comes to new technologies, I think we've done that radical shift of old to new, and it's almost [now] about incremental change,” he said.

Training was now being geared towards enabling those smaller changes, knowing that - in aggregate - they could still create significant future opportunities for the bank.

He said that the bank is using Pluralsight products like Role IQ, Skill IQ, and Flow to understand skill gaps and the training journey progress of staff and teams.

“They're incremental steps that I see as being essential for us to keep moving in the right direction,” Patel said.

“As we move away from legacy [systems] to cloud, all these small changes start to become more and more important and also more significant for us as well.”

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