Case study

IT graduate — Mahbub Ali

Since joining Jisc's IT graduate scheme, Mabs has been working in the data analytics (DA) innovation team. DA content insight manager, Matt Clarke sat down with him to learn more about his experience and offer advice for other IT graduates

What attracted you to the Jisc graduate scheme?

Like many people across the globe, my career journey had its fair share of complications due to the pandemic. After leaving university, I realised I didn't want to start a career in the engineering industry and began to explore other career paths. Growing up, I've always been interested in information technology (IT), but it was difficult finding a graduate scheme in this field that didn't expect extensive prior experience.

I finally managed to land a graduate scheme with a construction firm that was meant to begin in September 2020. However, due to the pandemic, I was let go just two months before I was due to start. After this, I decided to continue applying for jobs and randomly came across Jisc, leading to me doing some research into the company.

My initial impressions of Jisc were positive and their slogan of 'Technology for good' is exactly the type of company I was searching for - a not-for-profit organisation that wants to improve the world of education and research through technology. This is why their IT graduate scheme was a perfect fit for someone like me trying to break through into the industry with zero experience. The scheme is flexible, allowing me to rotate around different teams, thus enabling me to gain experience in all aspects of IT.

What interested you about data analytics?

My first rotation in the scheme was in data analytics. In all honesty, I didn't understand what DA did on a day-to-day basis, nor what I could achieve throughout my time with them. I quickly realised however how important DA was to the higher education (HE) sector.

What did you get up to during your time in data analytics?

I joined the newly created innovation team that were investigating whether Jisc could use data and analytics to help graduate recruiters.

When creating products, there's a process known as 'design thinking,' which we implemented in the team and involves interviewing customers at the start of the project to fully understand their problems, issues and pain points. From this research, we created personas to determine the exact customer segment we were creating a product to help. Once product ideas had been formed, the team created wireframe prototypes that we tested with users to further refine them.

When wireframing, I learned how to use software called Figma to create a prototype and also used other software called React to look at natural language processing. At this point, I was coming to the end of my time with the team, but I can safely say that I learned so much. As well as all the technical software and data skills, I also learned a great deal about the sector.

What were your highlights of working in the team?

The social aspect of the team and DA in general. Everyone is so friendly and made me feel right at home from the get-go. Even now, I'm still in contact with some of the team even though I have moved on to another team.

Other highlights include the skills I picked up throughout my time in DA - learning how to use different software and how to use the 'design thinking' process, which I'll be able to apply in future career projects.

Do you think data and analytics will be important for the future of the higher and further education sectors?

I believe it will play a vital part in the future of these sectors. The data we gather and can analyse efficiently and effectively will be critical to the sector when it comes to understanding students better and monitoring change.

What advice do you have for upcoming graduates about finding and securing the right job for them?

Don't settle and chase a job that you actually enjoy doing. Graduate schemes should be a two-way street - not just what you can do for the company, but also what they can do for you.

What have been the three biggest things you've learned as a graduate?

  • Be patient when starting out. You may not be leading projects from the outset, and may have to do some menial tasks, but it's worth it for the learning and experience.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help. People are really friendly and willing to help.
  • Adjusting to working from home can be difficult but finding the balance between work and home life is key and will benefit anyone that works from home as a graduate.

What are your career aspirations for the future?

I'd like to lead projects that I'm passionate about and take senior positions within Jisc or another company.

Find out more

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