young-leader-santander-ismael Santander Global T&O

Young Leaders, Santander Group is Committed to Talent [Interview]

19/09/19 7 min. read

Young Leaders programme

For some time now, Santander Bank has been implementing different initiatives to foster digital transformation and innovation. One of the strong points of these initiatives is that they are committed to supporting internal talent. The Young Leaders programme is one such initiative, with 280 employees from around the world being selected to form part of this adventure.

We sat down to chat with Ismael Alonso, one of our colleagues from Cybersecurity:

Pregunta [AM]: Voy a empezar con un clásico, cuéntame un poco de tu trayectoria en el Banco Santander

[Ismael Alonso]: Pues llevo ya unos añitos… trabajo en el Santander desde hace 8 años y medio. Entré como un joven  informático con la motivación de formar parte de una gran multinacional que apuesta fuerte por la tecnología y la innovación.

En estos años siempre he trabajado en proyectos con las áreas de Ciberseguridad y Riesgo Tecnológico. La verdad que he tenido la gran suerte de trabajar en varias áreas diferentes de Produban, del Banco y ahora en el área de Cyber de Santander Global Tech. Estoy  en el equipo global de gestión de ciberincidentes.

[AM]: Over these years, have you noticed the transformation the Bank has been undergoing?

[IA]: I would distinguish two clearly differentiated stages: in the first stage, the Bank had highly consolidated processes which allowed rapid and safe integration with the new banks acquired. During this first stage, the emphasis was on stability as opposed to speed of execution. In the second stage, which we are currently in, digital transformation and commitment to talent are the main factors driving the Group’s new strategy.

[AM]: And now you’re a Young Leader, how did that come about?

[IA]: Yes, it’s a really exciting challenge; one of the best experiences of my life.

The Programme has been very special from the outset, because the programme is grounded on the principle of meritocracy. That’s why all the members were selected directly by our colleagues by way of a vote on an internal social network which we use to recognise work well done by people with whom we share projects.

young leaders, talento grupo santander
Young Leaders meeting at Ciudad Financiera (Madrid) with our Chairman Ana Botín

[AM]: Aham, so, any employee could become a Young Leader?

[IA]: Exactly. There are a series of requirements such as having worked at least one year with the Group and being within a certain age range, and of course being voted by your colleagues. You can’t imagine how thrilled I was when my colleagues voted for me 🙂

[AM]: Let’s talk about the programme itself; what are you working on now? Any initiatives in particular…?

[IA]: The Young Leaders programme is a fantastic challenge for all of us. We’re currently working on various initiatives at the moment:

One of my favourites is the Business Competition, consisting of projects in which we form groups of employees from different countries to define, design and develop prototypes of new functionalities for the Group. These year-long projects use all the most creative methodologies (Design Thinking, Lean Startup, Agile…). All the projects will be presented to a panel of experts, and those with the biggest impact will be presented to upper management to evaluate their impossible implementation.

Every month we participate in one or various training programmes with the world’s leading experts in different fields: Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Blockchain, and so on.

Ylabs is another initiative consisting of formal meetings during which we come up with ideas and suggestions to address the Group’s main challenges and opportunities.

We also have inverse mentoring programmes, which give us a chance to inform management staff of innovative ideas relating to the current digital revolution and give them a glimpse into the factors driving our generation.

… And there are so many more initiatives; I could be here talking for hours about all the opportunities we have.

[AM]: Is there any aspect in particular that you would highlight?

[IA]: We’re undoubtedly placing much more emphasis on environmental initiatives; we want to drastically reduce plastic consumption within the Group. This is now a priority for upper management as well. In fact, Ana Botín participated in the TV programme Planeta Calleja so she could see the effects of climate change for herself. I think we all have a responsibility to leave our planet in an adequate state for future generations.

[AM]: What are you enjoying the most?

[IA]: Having the chance to get to know so many colleagues from different countries. In March, Santander Group held the 1st Global Convention of Young Leaders. This allowed us to meet everyone in person, because normally we connect via video conference.

[AM]: What did the Convention involve?

[IA]: During three days, more than 250 young employees from around the world had the opportunity to meet up in Madrid to start up new projects and attend leadership conferences. All the Young Leaders also participated in team-building activities and charitable initiatives, allowing us to develop the key elements that make up the Santander culture.

During this experience, I had the chance to meet truly brilliant people with amazing talent and the ability to tackle all the disruptive challenges that we’ll be facing in the coming years. 

Over the last year, I’m glad to say that I see Santander as being firmly committed to talent and digitalisation, which is allowing us to attract the best tech profiles on the market. I personally consider myself very lucky to be experiencing this first-hand in the Cybersecurity Department. It’s really exciting to be part of a multicultural group that’s promoting new ways of working and fully committed to the society in which we live.

[AM]: You’re getting very serious now! Can you tell us any anecdotes from these days during the convention?

[IA]: Haha, one of the activities we did involved building a Macgyver-style device with balloons, plastic straws and so on to launch an egg from a height of 3 metres without breaking it. I can’t stop watching the videos with the terrified looks on our faces as we launched the eggs: we really had a lot of fun!

[AM]: To cap off, surprise me; what are you thinking about now?

[IA]: That we’re enjoying all this so much and the good thing is the best is yet to come; these last few months are going to be very intense and I want to make the most of every moment.

Ismael Alonso

Santander Global Tech

Computer engineer, working in cybersecurity within the global incidents respond area. I love to be involved developing new disruptive projects and giving ideas that come true. I also love sports and music. Nowadays I keep playing within a small music group from my born-town and never lose any of my neighborhood football matches.


? My LinkedIn profile


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