Why did you choose a career in the industry?
I started programming when I was nine as a hobby and thought it was great fun. I was really drawn to both the logical and creative skills needed to craft a working programme out of lines of code. I was naturally drawn to science and particularly maths at school so it wasn’t a hard decision for me to choose Computer Science & Maths as my university degree. I graduated in 1994 from the University of Manchester and started my first proper job that September as an analyst/programmer, although I had found various programming jobs during my university summer holidays which were great experience.
What is a typical day like for you?
Each day can be different as I perform a number of responsibilities in any given week. For example, I can spend a day at a client site working with the project teams and clients to make sure we are doing the best we can to solve the client business problems. This draws on my enterprise architecture and delivery knowledge to really get under the skin of what the client’s programme goals are.
I also do business development, shaping up the outline solutions for our clients and estimating the effort and skills required to deliver them.
My Head of Consulting role means that I do a fair amount of management such as strategy and career coaching. I actually thoroughly enjoy the pastoral care aspects of my job which isn’t something I ever expected to do. There’s something very thrilling about seeing someone that you work with develop.
As an added bonus responsibility, I’m quite active with our Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. I’m particularly passionate about encouraging more people into STEM careers.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I really enjoy the variety and the challenge. I need to feel that I’m always learning something new. Working in technology I know that things never stand still so I don’t get the chance to get bored.
What would you like to achieve in the future?
I’ve never actually planned my career in advance – I’ve always moved onto the next challenge which looks both interesting and important so I think I only ever look half a step ahead. I do know that I have invested over 20 years in being a technical consultant so I am unwilling to give up on using my technical skills. Right now I’m enjoying having the opportunity to be involved in client strategy as well as my own company’s strategy although it can be challenging trying to fit everything in.
When I started out as analyst/programmer I didn’t have any knowledge of the consulting industry let alone expect to have the sort of role that I currently hold. All I was interested in was designing the software and knowing up to date programming languages!
What are the current challenges the consultancy industry faces?
There is a huge shortage of skills – there just aren’t enough people to go round. Every employer faces this problem and it seems to be getting worse. The lack of diversity in the industry is particularly concerning as whole demographics are not choosing this industry – making the skills shortage worse and it’s well proven that more diverse organisations outperform those with ‘group think’. It’s also a shame as it’s a great career to be in – I don’t daydream about doing anything else as I know I would soon get bored (although I must admit on a dark winter morning I do aspire to be living somewhere sunnier!).
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to get into the industry?
Please don’t be put off by some of the negative stereotypes portrayed in the media. Careers in the digital industry are a far cry from ‘The IT Crowd’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory’. It’s also not essential to have a formal education in technology as the industry covers a really wide range of job roles such as business analysis, business change, project management and user experience as well as the more technically focused roles that you would expect, although it can help as there is a perennial shortage of developers.
Having a passion for solving client problems and developing your own capability are the most important skills someone could have. The ability to communicate clearly is an often overlooked attribute as sharing your ideas either with your own team or with the client is important to success.