Justina Blair

Digital Innovation Degree Apprentice


NatWest Group Ventures aims to keep the bank relevant to it's Small Medium Enterprises (SME) community through digital innovation. I am surrounded by all things tech and product! This means I learn how to code on the job. My day to day role involves working towards becoming a developer and project manager: running website releases, publishing blogs, developing and coding pages alongside mini-project management roles in initiating these projects. I am additionally an ambassador for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) community volunteering workstream.

I knew quite instantaneously after joining the bank, here I do not have a job, I have a career- I have flourished and developed as an employee, team-member and ambassador. It honestly makes me so joyful to be able to partake in that real innovative journey of growth, I cannot wait to meet so many more influential individuals and role models from opportunities that present themselves in my pathway. My passion is driving the potential of others. I have been able to capture the impact and inspiration my voice as an apprentice has had in the wider bank: from being on the NatWest group business hub, intranet and LinkedIn, panels inspiring young students from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter the STEM industry, presenting to the venture management team with the 2019 cohort to launch the first apprentice podcast Tempar Talks, being on the Leadership Through Sport and Business Social mobility and economic recovery panel . It has been amazing starting my journey on the same day as the first female CEO because it means myself and the 2019 cohort can reach yearly milestones alongside Alison.

My day to day role involves working towards becoming a developer and project manager: running website releases, publishing blogs, developing and coding pages alongside mini-project management roles in initiating these projects. I am additionally an ambassador for D&I community volunteering workstream, Black Professionals Network and the Multicultural Network.

How many words can I fit in this section? I grew up in South London, and attended an all girls Catholic secondary school. I invested hours of my time studying for my GCSE exams. All of my GCSE grades ranged between A*-B with my best performance in English Literature where I received full marks. I remained at my secondary school initially for sixth form but felt I was unable to be my true authentic self and had outgrown the same environment I’d spent 5 years in. Against advice, I switched to my local college to undertake a full-time science course for my A-levels: Biology, Chemistry and Physics. (Which is not as scary as it sounds). Yet again I had broken the stigma of grades expected from individuals sourcing from my background. Beyond my A-Levels became the University application process and hours of perfecting personal statements, and then receiving university offers. While apprenticeships were advertised to us, breaking that mould of measuring success by a university degree is extremely difficult to do. Especially when likened to myself, your GCSE/A-level grades reflected that of a top university student. At 18, I was not comfortable signing the lengthy contract with student finance. To others this topic has been normalised. But for me. Debt is debt. So the research phase began. When it comes to academia, I excel, but being book-smart is like being a pawn on a chess board without the hands-on-experience of a queen.   Just over a year ago, apprenticeships were mainly focused on vocational subjects, but more recently there is an array of STEM apprenticeships available.  But I had reached my first block.   Deep down I still wanted a degree. I then met with the managing director of an engineering consultancy, securing myself a five year degree apprenticeship in environmental science. This company would completely fund my degree. But I was still not satisfied. Was this a career that would allow me to excel as a female in business?  Back on the virtual search, I came in contact with LTSB (Leadership Through Sport and Business) a social mobility charity, which prepares and supports bright young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into meaningful roles in major companies. They were advertising a degree apprenticeship with NatWest group. I was educationally gifted but faced a  risk of unemployment as a BAME female. Apprehensive at first, I found myself completing a preparation bootcamp and talking to CEO’s in professional environments. It was the perfect time to come out of my comfort zone and be around others from different age groups, all in preparation for working life. Here I am, a year later undergoing my four year degree apprenticeship in technology and innovation in the NatWest Venture: Esme Loans, earning while I learn. I see my future at the bank, here I have a voice. LTSB had been there for me throughout the process. Being 1 of 2 females that joined in my 10 person cohort, drives my potential further, I have the ability to stand-out and break further conventions: Was I expected to receive top grades in all of my exams without a tutor? Was I expected to love Science as a female? Was I expected to be thriving in the STEM industry? Was I expected to become a developer in coding? For me those questions are rhetorical, I am not a statistic, nor am I an expectation. I deserve to be where I am because of who I am.

My future holds success and leadership, and I will remain in the STEM industry. I love having an impact on others and inspiring young people to take the leap of faith I did, so a future of public-speaking, networking, building conversations, becoming a manager and being innovative are all in my foreseeable future. By choice, not destiny.

I love to set myself mini goals, whether that's disconnecting from the internet to read books on growth or exercising. I run three times a week, meditate daily and love to film and edit natural moments.

"Going beyond the beyond, begins within."