23 January, 2023
#30 Portrait of a woman in finance: Luna Zhang
1. Can you shortly present your role as today in the organization (in 1 sentence)?
I am an IT trainee at KBC, and am currently working as a project collaborator in Surf Studio (a laboratory to explore and implement innovation).
2. What brought you to finance ?
I studied Statistics and Data Science during my master’s education. I believe my academic background has given me a strong foundation in analyzing and interpreting data, which is essential in the finance industry. Besides, with the changing needs of clients and the impact of financial business expansion of external technology companies, people who work in the financial sector are required to constantly adjust and innovate in the context of changing era. There are all kinds of nifty tech challenges that we need to solve within the financial industry. So there are a lot of opportunities for me to learn and improve my technical skills.
In addition, I am a very detail oriented person and I always exercise discretion at work. I think the financial sector suits me because I always strive for perfection.
3. What did you learn recently regarding gender equality ?
With the rapid digital transformation in KBC, the importance of diversity and inclusion is magnified. The HR department in KBC is trying their best to hire more women to reduce gender bias in the workplace, for example I recently participated in an event called “Think about IT” which was aimed to attract more female young graduates to work in KBC IT, and I have talked to several female students and promoted our IT traineeship program to them. Meanwhile, we are also making tremendous efforts to enforce gender equality, diversity and inclusion by launching programs such as Womentoring, a one-to-one mentoring program for female colleagues in IT to help and support women advance in their careers.
The fact that I am accepted in KBC as one of the first 6 IT trainees has already proved that KBC is highly involved and active in enforcing diversity and inclusion into their company culture and strategy. Gladly, KBC is doing more than pay lip service, in fact “one inclusive team” is one of our IT strategies to promote a diverse way of thinking and working and build a diverse workforce.
To be honest, as a representative of a minority in KBC being female and Asian, even though with languages barriers, I don’t feel I’m being discriminated. Instead, I am given as many opportunities as other male Belgian IT trainees, and what touches me the most is that every colleague I have met is willing to switch to English and tries their best to include me in their conversation. I felt this inclusion from the beginning of my recruitment process until now and it is the major reason why I choose to work for KBC.
4. What was one of the decisions that had the most impact on you or your career?
When it comes to the most impactful decision I have made in my personal life, I should definitely mention the decision about moving to Belgium to start a new life with my boyfriend in 2018. This decision has been life-changing regarding my social network and my personal and professional development. Leaving behind familiar surroundings and support systems and adapting to a new culture and way of life was challenging for me. I was at the age of 22 and it required a lot of courage, faith, dedication and hard work. Even though I have been through some hardships, it has been a rewarding decision as it opened my mind to endless possibilities and new perspectives.
Additionally, I should not forget to mention another important decision I have made during my life in Belgium. I quit a stable job as a waste management project engineer to pursue a master’s degree in Statistics and Data Science at KU Leuven in 2020, and then transitioned into a new career in the IT field. It may have sounded like a bad idea to quit the job during the Covid pandemic as it led
s to instabilities and uncertainty in my life with loss of monthly income. However, I saw the pandemic as an opportunity for change, and it has forced me to take a look at myself and think about what I really want for my life, including my job. I think life is too short to stay in a job or an industry that I am not passionate about and it is never too late to make a change. I know that I want to be surrounded with like-minded people and am open to new opportunities and have a drive to continue learning and developing new skills. Therefore, I took the risk and went to pursue the major that I am passionate about - Statistics and Data Science - at KU Leuven, to achieve my personal and professional goals and aspirations. It turned out to be one of the most significant decisions I have made so far. The two-year studying experience offered me an opportunity to gain systematic knowledge about statistics and data science, to work collaboratively with students from different backgrounds and to explore further career possibilities in the IT field.
Five years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined myself living in the house I bought in the center of the European Union, having obtained a master’s degree from a top university and transited into a new career in the IT field as a trainee in one of the best banks in Belgium. I believe life is change and change is good. It is not about right or wrong, it is about making decisions and doing it right.
5. Any message to share with female students interested in finance, or with young women starting their career?
Don’t be intimidated by other’s opinions. No one can define what you are capable of by your identity. Believe in yourself and be proactive and eager to learn, this is how you slowly work your way up the ladder and build trust with your colleagues and managers.
If it is possible, find a female mentor in your workplace who can guide and support you in the workplace.
Interviewed by: Ilse de Muyer