“Girls, come and join us”

Information technology is only something for men and banks are only something for bankers? Sarah Cardoso and Birge-Svenja Grunwald break with these tereotypes. The young talent and the manager both work in the IT department at Commerzbank. And they are encouraging women to take advantage of the career opportunities.

Sarah Dilara Sönmezisik Cardoso is a rarity. Not because she has a long name, which is a result of her Turkish and Portuguese roots. But because she is very often one of just a few women among men. That was already the case at school in her advanced mathematics class, it was the same at university, and it is no different now. She is one of the six young women among the 35 IT trainees at Commerzbank.

“Being a bit exotic does not bother me,” she says. “But it would be nice if more women finally took the plunge and got involved in IT.” Because: “It is worthwhile. There are so many exciting things to learn and to discover.” At present Sarah is making new discoveries in the Big Data Solutions cluster. Together with her colleagues in the “Data Lake 202X” cell she is working on establishing how a big data platform can be migrated to the cloud. Prior to this, as a member of the “Financial Cockpits” cell in the Digital Banking Solutions department, the 27-year-old had helped to integrate external bank accounts in online banking. The working methods of the team: agile and cross-functional. This means that IT experts and product specialists work together closely. “I am happy that I can try out so many areas here and find my limits,” says Sarah. “This is one of the reasons I decided to come to Commerzbank.”

Dolls and toy cars

“You can really help shape things here,” says Birge-Svenja Grunwald, the head of IT Skill Management at Commerzbank. “From mainframe, through blockchain, to cloud – in the world of banking there is a lot to be done.” The career opportunities are therefore also extremely diverse, she adds. Opportunities that women should not pass up. “Unfortunately there are still not enough women opting to study a subject or take up an apprenticeship in the STEM fields,” explains Birge, who came to IT as a career changer. “Although they actually have the competence for these areas! The reasons for this are often related to clichés and outmoded roles in society. It has been a long time now since I came across a nerd dressed in an Hawaiian shirt and Birkenstock sandals who would much rather be programming on his own in a cellar,” says the departmental head before letting out a laugh. “But this is frequently the image that young women still have of the IT world.” And in part the foundation for the later choice of career is laid in a person’s upbringing and education.

Sarah Cardoso never wanted to be “typical”. As a child she had both dolls and toy cars, and was always interested in technology. But she could see that after secondary school women are guided in a certain direction. “Whatever you do, don’t study technology or engineering as one of your advanced courses,” is what her fellow female students said at the vocational college she attended at the time. Sarah chose psychology. Not because of her classmates, but because she wanted to become a psychologist. But things turned out differently once she had completed her university entrance diploma and her federal volunteer service: because she could not find a university place to study psychology, she opted for the “Psychology in IT” degree course at Darmstadt University of Technology. It was only later that she noticed the bias towards information technology in the course. “I had to leave my comfort zone, and I bombarded my fellow students with questions.” Sarah was given the answers to her questions and then the bug got her – a passion for programming and developing. And since May 2020 she has been developing her skills in these areas at Commerzbank.

What am I going to wear tomorrow?

“To be perfectly honest I really did not have a bank in mind as a potential employer,” explains Sarah. Then she got into a conversation with Commerzbank at an IT job fair. “The 18-month IT trainee program with a personal choice of assignments was so convincing and the culture seemed so friendly and cooperative – I was hooked.” After the first few months in the bank her expectations have been more than fulfilled: “What I particularly like is the classroom concept of our trainee intake. We get on together really well and we exchange views and findings on a regular basis.” The six young ladies are particularly close, sticking together when it counts: “In our WhatsApp group we even discuss what we are going to wear the next day,” says Sarah with a laugh. But the best aspect of her trainee program is something else:

I have the feeling that the company is interested in me, in my personal development.

Sarah Sönmezisik Cardoso

“It is a win-win situation,” explains Birge, who is responsible for the IT trainee program. “The bank gives the young talents space to develop and at the end of the trainee program it has top personnel for the vacant positions. Our clusters pitch for the trainees, all of whom have a permanent employment contract,” reports Birge, who is currently still one of the few female managers in IT. At present. And so Birge and her colleagues have committed themselves to recruiting more women for the next trainee intake. “Diversity is elementary for the success of a company. This applies to IT just as much as it does to all other areas.” Which is why: “Girls, come and join us. IT and banks are sexier than you think.”

Sarah Cardoso
Copyright: Sarah Sönmezisik Cardoso
Sarah Dilara Sönmezisik Cardoso

IT Trainee

After obtaining her university entrance diploma, in 2012 Sarah Dilara Sönmezisik Cardoso completed federal volunteer service, working with handicapped children and dementia patients. After this the native of Heilbronn studied ‘Psychology in IT’ at Darmstadt Technical University. Following a six-month internship at Daimler in the User Interaction department she began her IT trainee program at Commerzbank in May 2020.

Birge-Svenja Grunwald
Copyright: Privat/Birge-Svenja Grunwald
Birge-Svenja Grunwald

Head of IT Skill Management

After studying fitness economics Birge-Svenja Grunwald joined the occupational health management department at Commerzbank as an intern. Afterwards she completed an HR trainee program through to 2010. In 2013 she moved to IT personnel development and completed an extra-occupational master’s degree in General Management. She has been the head of the Skill Management department since 2015.

The IT Trainee Program

The IT Trainee Program at Commerzbank lasts 18 months and trainees are given a permanent employment contract. From mainframe through to blockchain – trainees choose their own three-month deployment phases. International assignments are also possible. Be it Welcome Week or joint undertakings – thanks to the classroom concept the trainees are a tight-knit bunch. Moreover, there are also buddies and mentors on hand to provide advice.

More about the IT Trainee Program

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