Run, Forrest Run.

10 years after launching their first Graduate Programme, Shane Mulholland from FD, reflects on the hundreds of graduates that have walked through the doors of Newry HQ and the opportunities that exist within.

Life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.
Like Forrest Gump’s mamma, I have heard a few graduates at FD talk about their experience across our graduate programmes, in the same way as life and that box of chocolates. Yes, there is an element of truth in that, but it’s far from the reality of what lies in store.

We have three distinct graduate programmes –

  • OPTIONS – which typically hires STEM degree backgrounds but can include Business & Law and offers role in Data Science, Financial Engineering, Trading Technology and Software Engineering on a global scale –
  • FUTURES – designed to launch a career in FinTech based locally in NI –
  • EXPLORERS – a unique Business Development opportunity with global travel.

We have hired hundreds of grads across these programmes since their inception, with great success across the board. I am biased obviously but I don’t know of a better career start for a graduate with aspirations of travel and gaining experience across a variety of roles. At the interview stage, job offer, during induction and throughout the initial graduate phase, applicants are made fully aware that when you join you won’t have a choice in role or location you are assigned to – and we need exactly the type of person that is excited by that. As we have matured, some offers are made with an exact role and location in mind, but across the graduate programmes, we are looking for a hungry, ambitious and flexible workforce. It cannot be any clearer than that, and so I bemoan the posts I read when it seems to come to a surprise to some that they cannot handpick their role or city to work in!

Generally, most come on board with that understanding, and are very clear in their drive to experience as many roles as they can, in as many cities as they can, or to make the most of the singular opportunity that might shape their first 12-18 months on client project. I must add that whilst we look for flexibility, some new graduates end up working on a project for a longer term – in some cases having a unique cradle-to-grave experience of project delivery, again what is not to like about that? However, there are some who end up in a role that they don’t like or see value in – that’s the “box of chocolates”! We encourage those guys to work with us, liaise with the Engagement team and seek out new opportunities in the right manner.

I don’t know if Momma was right or if, it’s Lieutenant Dan. I don’t know if we have a destiny, or if we’re all just floatin’ around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happenin’ at the same time.

The recent launch of our FD Alumni and chapters in New York, London and Dublin made me contemplate this. Some left after the graduate stage of their career, keen to follow society’s advice to work somewhere else and experience a different work environment and culture – others lasted a lot longer but over time, either felt the need to move also, or were simply wooed by a client they had worked for during their time at FD. Genuinely, the atmosphere and feeling of gratitude towards FD as a career launchpad and training ground in those formative years was palpable in those I talk to at those recent gatherings. I listened to the level of appreciation of our Basic Concepts and Technology training that many felt held them in good stead for years’ after their initial phase.

But what made people move on or stay – that’s the question that has always intrigued me. Was it destiny to end up in a particular city, work on a particular project, fall in love with that city and/or one of it’s inhabitants like so many of our Alumni did (a calculation of the many FD relationships, marriages and offspring would be interesting but I digress) or did that “breeze” just take some from A to B and right through Z? I don’t have an answer but I would argue this – simply through diligence, persistence and following protocol, any graduate at FD can shape their own career path and therefore their future. Even if you join not knowing exactly what you want to do, or if your first one or two deployments are on projects that you are not taken by; the knowledge you gain, the attitude you bring, the relationships you build and the legacy you leave behind are crucial in framing your next steps. It’s maybe only in a later stage of a career, that you look back and realise this – but it’s advice to be taken. Find out what you like, find the role you want to have, and drive your day-to-day towards that. Ask questions, learn around the subject, speak to the correct people and make your move with a plan in place.

The Army was real easy. You just have to stand up straight, make your bed real neat, and always answer every question with ‘Yes, Drill Sergeant!’.

Like any training programme, I believe those in HQ who work with and develop the many recruits each year, at times receive an unfair review. The very structures that many graduates warm to on joining a programme can, in some cases, fast becomes a chore or a sense of big brother watching every move. Life can be very simple and clear at FD – have the right attitude, be adaptable, strive for new learning, complete CMTPs, fill in weekly reports with thought and diligence, be commercially aware, keep your eyes and ears open, complete your expenses on time and accurately, follow the protocols, build a fantastic reputation for yourself on location and in turn for the Company – essentially “stand up straight and make your bed real neat”! These are not hard things to do. Do not look for shortcuts, do not try to game the system, and good things will come your way.

The army-style drill sergeant analogy is obviously untrue. The team can play a huge part in guiding those who may be unsure if they are on the correct career path. They can encourage, and in many cases help develop the confidence required to persevere and to flourish. Opportunities exist to chop and change, to change stream and even graduate from the programme midway through. We are an employee-first Company, keen to support the individual and to help harness the talent within. But, we have practices and protocols to follow. Those that do, thrive.

In summary, there is no better start to a graduate career, anywhere! As I said, I know I am biased, but we have great training, great camaraderie, great mentoring, great locations, great job roles. I wish I could ask our Alumni to come back and speak to our new graduate intakes and share their views and experiences, however as George Bernard Shaw once put it, “Youth is wasted on the young” – that may well be the case. But we take great pride and heart from the many graduates who take the advice well, work extremely hard to achieve and build very fine careers for themselves. Many of our senior staff came through our graduate programme – I look to Conor Twomey, James Corcoran and Karen Roche (all three in our original Options programme intake in Aug 2009, see pic above) for inspiration for those fresh juniors – “they ate the chocolates, floated on the breeze, and stood up straight”. We have long developed a reputation in the marketplace for that “FD DNA” in the many senior engineers and technologists that now are dotted around various locations in the world’s leading institutions.

10 years have rolled past in a blink of an eye – we look forward to seeing what the next 10 years bring and the graduate careers we can help launch and develop.