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Elaine McRoberts graduates this winter with a degree in Leading Customer Operations.

After completing her a-levels, Elaine went straight into general nursing from school, when having a degree was not needed, and worked in hospital operating theatres before making the move to study Midwifery.

Married and now a mother of three, Elaine found difficulty finding work as a midwife, so decided leaving the medical world and took up childminding as it afforded more flexibility in balancing her busy home and work life.

Approaching a particular life milestone, Elaine knew she wanted to make a change as she explains:

“I was coming up to an important birthday and thought to myself: life begins at 40. It was around this time that I saw Danske Bank – or Northern Bank as it was known then – was hiring. So, I just went for it, having no banking experience, and was successful with my application.”

Throughout her time at Danske, Elaine has tried her hand at many different roles and in 2020, after 16 years in the organisation, she became aware of an opportunity to complete a degree apprenticeship at Ulster University’s Belfast campus while continuing to work at Danske Bank. Ready for a new challenge, Elaine decided to go for it:

“Up until that point, I hadn’t gotten the opportunity to complete a degree. My nursing qualification came from Belfast Southern College of Nursing and Midwifery, and training was completed in-house at the hospital. As a mother, grandmother, wife, and daughter of octogenarian parents, the thought of returning to education was daunting. I wanted to prove to myself, and to others, that I could do this.”

One week before the first Covid-19 lockdown, Elaine was thrilled to find out that she had been accepted onto the degree apprenticeship programme. She spent the next two and a half years studying remotely and despite little face-to-face interaction, has still managed to forge friendships with course mates – most of whom also work at Danske:

“When I did eventually get to meet everyone on the Belfast campus, it was great! I already knew one other person graduating this winter but met new people face-to-face who also work at Danske Bank that are graduating too. We’re all good friends now!”

Elaine has been working at Danske Bank for 18 years and works in the Bereavement Support Team. As part of her final project, Elaine was tasked with developing a new business process that could help in the day-to-day role which would then be presented to her Head of Department.

Elaine’s presentation went down a storm, and she was then asked to present her final project to the Chief Operating Officer. Impressed by her pragmatic and can-do approach, Danske Bank are now in discussions to implement this new process in the new year.

Graduating this winter and with a degree to her name, Elaine is urging others like her to consider going back to education:

“Brace yourself and just go for it. You get to a stage in your life where you need a change and a challenge, Ulster University gave me that opportunity – education has no age limit. My family, tutors at Ulster University, and colleagues couldn’t have been any more supportive of me. 

“I remember a time when I was feeling stressed and wasn’t sure how I could continue my studies but then my grandson who was playing in the same room turned to me and said: “Granny if you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything”. That is something that has stayed with me and encouraged me to persevere during hard times. I hope I can inspire him throughout his journey in education and I hope my story helps others too.”

Elaine is working at Danske Bank part-time, empowered by her degree apprenticeship to continue progressing in the business and coming up with even more ways to streamline the process for herself and her team.

Find out more about the degree apprenticeship programme Elaine is graduating from: