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  • Role: Software Developer
  • University: Manchester
  • Degree: Computer Science
  • Organisation: Bank of England

Matthew Watson

I studied Computer Science at Manchester University. I’ve always been passionate about computers, and it was a natural choice for me to carry on my interests into higher education. After really enjoying my course, I was determined to find a job doing interesting and technical work with computers. I wanted to do something useful and rewarding, and the Bank seemed to provide good opportunities to do this.

When I first applied here, I didn’t really know what the Bank did! It caught my eye initially because it had attractive pay and benefits, and was based in London. After I started researching, I discovered that it offered a very different kind of career to the other jobs out there.

There aren’t many organisations in the world that do what we do, so we have some very unusual requirements to deal with. That was a big attraction for me, and I was also really impressed with the professionalism of the selection process and the general atmosphere in the Bank.

Day to day work

I work as a software developer, doing a mixture of application development and support activities. As with most people in the IT department, my role changes regularly. And at any one time, I get the challenge of managing several different pieces of work.

The variety is great. Sometimes I’ll contribute as part of a team to develop a large system, and other times I take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of a smaller piece of work. It’s very satisfying to take ownership of a problem and be allowed to see it through to completion.

For most tasks, I work closely with colleagues around the Bank to understand their requirements, and provide systems they need. I enjoy building relationships with colleagues, and I’ve been able to develop lots of non-technical skills. These have been in areas like effective communication, leading meetings, and prioritising tasks.

The Bank’s very flexible about how you structure your day. I prefer to start at 10.00, and finish between 16.00 and 20.00, depending on my workload. Usually I spend the first few minutes catching up on what’s been happing that morning and then plan tasks I have to be getting on with.

It’s a big mixture of activities. It could be, for example, diagnosing and fixing a problem with the Bank’s website, developing a data-warehouse, migrating a system from UNIX to Windows, working on a project to develop a C# application, or supporting the trialling of a brand-new system. Some tasks are straightforward and take five minutes, while others involve coordination between five teams and could last many months.

Another important aspect of my work is having regular informal meetings to keep in touch with colleagues. On a typical day I might have a 15 minute progress update first thing with my project team. I would expect to be in contact with someone from the wider business every day. Some days I spend the whole time dealing with people from all around the Bank.

Challenging project work

The most interesting project I’ve worked on is developing a data-warehouse from scratch. We wanted to enable the business to answer ad-hoc queries about all the financial assets the Bank holds. I used cutting-edge Microsoft technologies (SQL Server Integration Services and Analysis Services) which had not been used previously in the Bank.

It was really exciting to explore the possibilities of this software and I had the opportunity to influence the standard approach we now use. The work I did has led to many other people now using these tools, and I still get plenty of questions from colleagues trying to develop similar systems.

Supportive culture

There are many things I like about the Bank – but the best has to be the truly collaborative and supportive atmosphere here. People are approachable and happy to help, even senior management. In all the areas I have worked in there is a real sense of working to achieve a common goal. Perhaps this culture stems from the fact that we are working for the benefit of the UK economy, rather than shareholder profits. Certainly the culture is far from cut-throat, and that’s a great plus from me.

I’ve also been struck by how much faith my colleagues have placed in my opinions and abilities. Right from the beginning I’ve been able to contribute to real projects and systems that will actually be used.

What aspects of your job do you enjoy most?

It feels really good to be the expert in a particular field and be able to help people across the Bank with their work. I love it when someone turns up at my desk and asks my advice on something.

Tell us about your most stressful experience on the job? What is its downside?

The most challenging experience is always when you’re taking responsibility for a live problem. Every so often, a system that has been running happily for months or years suddenly develops a problem and it’s your job to fix it. Fortunately, the times when this has happened, I’ve always had plenty of support from my team and it feels really good at the end of a long stressful day to have solved someone’s problem.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned since graduation?

I’ve found if you prove you can do a good job with something you don’t enjoy, you can get more opportunities to do something you do enjoy.

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