30 August 2023

Career week at Exness: how to foster your career development every day

What do you want to be when you grow up? An important question to plant the seeds of ambition in our minds when we’re young, but one that becomes relevant again once we’ve reached that goal or hit a skill ceiling. What do you want to be when you’ve grown out of your current responsibilities, peaked at your job position, or simply hunger for a change?

The answer takes quite a bit of research, learning, and even soul searching, which may be a long and complicated journey. Luckily, at Exness you don’t have to embark on it alone. The company recently held a specialized Career Week event that aimed to highlight the numerous tools and people available internally to help employees foster their career development. We’ve asked Kris Korepina, our Talent Development Specialist, to go into detail about Career Week, how it came to be, and how it can help Exnessians grow in whichever direction they choose.

Your career is an adventure with twists and turns that crosses your path with other talented people and opens doors that you never knew you had the key for."

Kris Korepina Talent Development Specialist

The first step to progress

Growth is at the core of Exness. I joined the company as it was growing in size, and contributed to the process directly: my responsibilities involved hiring IT specialists, analysts, and other experts. Regardless of their job title, all Exnessians are talented individuals who seek opportunities to both apply their existing knowledge and expertise, and also to expand it.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve shifted my duties by joining the Talend Development team, where I specialize in career development, providing the very people I hired, as well as other employees, with the help and advice to further their career path. Exness offers plenty of tools to build your dream career based on your skills, aspirations, and a multitude of opportunities that you can both find and create for yourself within the company. In reality, though, these tools aren’t always noticed and utilized by employees - if at all.

Understanding why our career toolset wasn’t as popular as we’d like among our people required looking at it from their perspective. The rich feedback culture at Exness allows us to keep an eye on employee satisfaction, engagement, and other topics using thematic surveys, Feedback Fridays, and 1-on-1 conversations. These tools brought us to the discovery that quite a few employees aren’t comfortable discussing their careers or making a bold career move, like trying to apply for vacancies from other teams. Their direct managers may be interested in keeping them in the current team, and HR BPs simply have dozens of other people to consult on business matters. This leads to career discussions either having a low priority or being delayed indefinitely. Even people who knew who to talk to regarding their career path may have felt intimidated to take the first step and ask for help and advice.

Having identified the issues and roadblocks, we had a clear message to drive home: “Your career starts with you, but we’re here to help every step of the way”. The only thing missing was a platform for delivering this message on a company-wide scale, and making it common knowledge.

The birth of Career week

Career development has always been a hot topic on the agenda, having been raised before during management town halls, career-themed open talks with employees and individual 1-on-1s with managers. Still, the necessity to talk about it on a more global scale has been cooking up for a while. We wanted to create transparency and clarity that building a career isn’t painful. It’s a game with distinct rules, and following them makes it fun and healthy to play and win. We’re here to help you follow these rules.

The moment our team gained exclusive ownership of the topic, we’ve been moving steadily in that direction: collecting employee feedback, talking to HRBPs, taking note of what people ask about, what they’re missing, their career-related worries and pains - all to map out the internal demand. On the supply end of things, we’ve been gathering relevant information, useful exercises, and approaches to assemble the educational package that would become the launch of our Career Development products.

Initially, we’ve come up with the idea of a Career Day: a tight schedule of webinars and presentations combining all relevant messages and tools in a clear and accessible package to be delivered across the company. The project soon proved to be too ambitious for its time constrictions: the sheer volume of content wouldn’t fit into a single day, and create the risk of different information pieces competing for the attendees’ attention.

The format then evolved into what we now know as Career Week: a 5 days-long career-themed informational buffet of webinars, master classes, and training sessions, carefully scheduled to realistically allow more people to attend, and passionately delivered by engaging speakers. Employees would pick a day, a topic, and join at will. 

And join they did!

We had 350 unique participants in total, with the ‘rotating session’ format allowing everyone to take in as much information as possible. People had a look at a manager’s mindset when identifying future leaders, did workshops on choosing a career, discovered the available career tools, understood what makes a good expert and a good manager, learned how to make an effective elevator pitch, and much more.

Most importantly, they finally started feeling confident behind the wheel of their metaphorical career vehicle, deciding which turns to take and knowing when to step on the gas pedal.

Own your future

While the tools, techniques, and consultations we provided allow to clear up an employee’s otherwise foggy vision of their future, we wanted to move the focus to the employees themselves bearing the responsibility for their career advancement. Our goal is to remove the existing bias that your career depends only on your higher-ups, and that not getting specific offers from them means you have no options at all.

Key among these career ownership tools is the IDP, or the Individual Development Plan - a roadmap-type document designed specifically for the employee to “keep their eye on the prize”. It’s their personal guide to always remember where they’re headed and what needs to be done to keep heading in that direction. IDP is not a demand from the top-down, it’s your wish: formulated, structured, and planned out. Our job here is to help you pick out specific techniques of getting there, and to open your eyes to helpful or even necessary steps and decisions that previously may have seemed impossible - like approaching and striking a conversation with a high-ranking manager of a team or division you’d like to work in.

Applying this knowledge makes the career approach clearer and simpler than the herculean effort it may be perceived as by some. Your career is an adventure with twists and turns that crosses your path with other talented people and opens doors that you never knew you had the key for.

It’s more than a strong and important message - it’s a philosophy that changes your perspective on your future.

What to do for constant career development

So you’ve enriched your knowledge during Career Week and decided to take ownership of your future. What’s next, and how do you get there?

Contrary to what many would assume, occupying all your free time and losing sleep to educational books and Udemy courses just to gain new knowledge isn’t the way to go. You’ll likely enjoy the dopamine from learning, but can you really call it career development if it doesn’t match where you’ll be in 5 years?

A fundamental and crucial step to getting your career moving is defining your skillset. Ask not who you want to be in 5 years, but what your strengths will be. Regardless of the position you’ll be occupying, you’re likely to possess a similar set of talents and competencies - so focus on those and improve them over time.

For instance, software development requires understanding architecture, how it’s built. Focusing on this competency becomes the main career development strategy. You can’t just change job titles and give up if you don’t get one. Rather think about what projects and people can help you strengthen this competency in the long run, and move from that. Doesn’t have to be a long list of 10 competencies, even 3 will do, as developing just one of them to an expert level will take time. You know the saying that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. So you better know what you want to become an expert in before investing the time.

  • Define your top 3 desired competencies;

  • Talk to people who are considered role models in the subject;

  • Make an approximate plan of movement, learning, and application at work;

  • Find someone to discuss your progress with.

Don’t drown in texts and courses - a focused, dedicated hour a week is the baby step that will accumulate and make a big difference over time.

The sky's the limit

Was Career Week a success?

The advantage of participating in every step of the event is hard to measure or put in numbers, as you never know how engaged the person is, how likely they are to apply their newfound knowledge, and when. But as long as the attendee gains clarity of how career advancement works in the company, we can say with certainty that our efforts didn’t go to waste.

For many, the results were immediate: we had positive feedback from participants excited about discovering new tools, fresh IDPs began popping up left and right, people started signing up for career consultations, choosing coaches, mentors and experts. Even simply inquiring about career advancement programs shows there’s a surge of interest from people seeking constant career development. 

People now understand that they’re responsible for their career and have the tools to advance it in the direction they want, that we’re ready to talk to them about it, and help them if needed. After all, the career consultant service isn’t all that beneficial for the business - it’s there to remove the fear of growth and to provoke internal mobility.

The event’s technical organization, its end result, people’s positive reactions, and their immediate response give us reason to be proud and push us to do more.

Career Week isn’t a one-and-done thing. It’s unlikely that we repeat the exact same format again, but it could become an annual brand. There’s enough educational material to plan similar events for the whole year and beyond. We’re off to a great start, with plenty of reason to envision a bright future for our Career Development products, as well as for our employees who use them.

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