Straight from the bursars’ mouth: What makes BBD’s Bursary & Beyond Programme so special
Each year, BBD welcomes a class of bursars ranging from students in their first year all the way through to postgraduate students in IT and related fields. This falls in line with BBD’s commitment to fostering an inclusive and thriving industry, whilst widening the skills pool, identifying talented individuals and offering them the opportunity to upskill.
However, BBD’s Bursary & Beyond Programme offers not only financial support, but gives bursars a window into the industry and their own career trajectory. Here’s what some past bursars had to say about their professional and personal growth while in the programme.
Dipping in before diving in
Starting out in any career can be daunting. Exposing students to how the IT world works during their studies enables a seamless transition from student to working professional. “Being a bursar gives you a taste of what the software industry is like,” explains Duncan Vodden, a bursar from 202.; “It prepares you and gives you an idea of what to expect – it basically gets you ready to go from day one!”
Adding to this, Emma Coetzer, who was part of BBD’s Bursary Programme in 2018 and 2019 and who is a junior software engineer at the company, says: “I learnt a lot about the industry and how teams are actually run. It’s very different from how it’s taught in varsity!”
The programme helps solidify the students’ career paths by providing a roadmap where at the end of their studies, they join BBD’s year-long Graduate Programme, which offers full-time employment as a junior software engineer at the company.
“I already knew I wanted to work with computers, I just didn’t know how I was going to do it. So being approved really assured me that I would become a software engineer,” says Governor Baloyi, a BBD bursar for three years. “This programme isn’t just a bursary that pays for your studies where you finish and don’t know what you’re going to do. It means when you finish, you’ll have a job with BBD.”
Teamwork makes the dream work
During university vacation, all bursars join BBD’s unique Vac Week experience, where they meet and mingle with one another and with BBD’s expert team, are given a true taste of BBD’s culture and are split up into teams to work on a project that they must deliver and present together.
Oftentimes this project puts bursars out of their comfort zones, stretches their abilities and exposes them to entirely new tech that they wouldn’t necessarily have had the opportunity to experiment with.
Some of the projects bursars have worked on in the past include:
- Designing a voting system for a Raspberry Pi for BBD’s annual technology conference, esc@pe.
- Performing the travelling salesman problem using a robotic ball and Google Maps API, where Google Maps must tell the ball which city to visit next. This would be tracked via a camera using machine learning to draw the ball’s movement across the screen.
- Creating Pictionary via the web that uses a mobile phone as a pointer to draw on the canvas.
“Of the many things the programme teaches you, I would say the most important thing is teamwork and good communication. The projects you are given can’t be done by one person. They need to be done within your team – where you delegate parts of the project and help each other to accomplish a goal,” says Vodden.
Echoing this sentiment: “I learnt that software engineering is a lot about teamwork and it’s really important you work with your team – you’re not the only person on the team that’s important,” shares Jason Parry, a bursar in 2018 and 2019, who now works in a BBD team servicing a financial services sector client.
“The Vac Week gives you an opportunity to get a little bit more comfortable with the company and get to know the faces around the office so that when you start your job as a software engineer, you feel more comfortable,” explains Vodden.
Adding to this, Baloyi speaks to some of the connections he built that have carried over into his career: “Vac Week was a chance to meet the people at BBD and my bursar peers. I met a lot of people who inspired me and who I can look up to.”
An environment primed for learning and growth
BBD’s programme aims to enable growth for bursars both personally and professionally. For Parry, this meant gaining technical skills and learning how to conduct himself in a working environment.
Whereas for Coetzer, this meant learning about her communication skills and how she can alter them to work with different people and in different circumstances. “BBD gives you so many opportunities to grow,” she explains, “whether you’re a grad or a bursar – it doesn’t matter what your role is in the company, you are constantly given the opportunity to do more and be more.”
Over the course of the year, bursars are encouraged to learn as much as they can. Lucky Nkosi, who entered the industry through the Bursary Programme and is now a key player on ATC, BBD’s in-house research and development team, responsible for specialised consulting, learning and both the Bursar and Grad Programmes across the business: “One of the key things I learnt was that it’s okay not to know something. What’s not okay is to stay not knowing. This field changes so much – what you know or what was the thing to know five years ago isn’t necessarily the thing to know today. To just survive, you need to be open to the idea of learning.
“But to thrive, you need to be hungry to learn!”