Case study

Systems developer — Andy

Being proactive, by creating and developing a useful project, enabled Andy to showcase his skills and landed him a promotion opportunity…

I now work as a systems development manager for a small financial enterprise, having progressed within the sector on the strength of my proven skills and willingness to learn. And as part of that I manage a team of developers responsible for running banking systems.

After graduating from Newcastle University with a BSc in Information Systems, I worked for a year in an entry-level technical support job. I then proposed a project to the management of the organisation, which involved producing a system to give staff technical help while on calls. They allowed me to develop the project and I used it to document my project and technical skills. After the successful completion of the work, I drew on the experience in applying for my next role.

The role was a great opportunity, and the hard work put in on the previous project suddenly felt very worthwhile. I became an IT assistant/web developer for a small ethical financial services organisation.

Working in a small organisation resulted in me picking up new skills very quickly, as the areas of responsibility are not as clearly defined as in a large one. I quickly diversified my skills and gained experience in finance and other areas such as understanding marketing analysis. Without doubt, having a range of skills is invaluable when working for a small but ambitious organisation.

My degree was relevant, although not as directly as I would have expected. The organisation was looking for a degree-level applicant for the position, however it was my prior project work which had impressed my recruiters, and as I later found out, my willingness to learn new skills. Nevertheless, once I was in position, I found that my degree gave me a lot of confidence that I could adapt to the new role and contribute effectively. I was comfortable working on multiple tasks and had developed an aptitude for trouble shooting, which I had developed both during my academic studies but also my extra-curricular activities.

I have loved my time with the organisation, and since being recruited have moved from my original post to a systems development manager role. It is in this role that I am responsible for a team of developers working on our financial software, as well as for the usual IT manager responsibilities such as procurement and project management. As with any other job, sometimes there can be frustrations. Managing projects can be rewarding but demanding and it's important to keep a healthy work-life balance.

For others wanting to work in IT, and specifically for those wanting to work for a small organisation, my advice would be to ensure you can demonstrate your work. This is especially true if you have little relevant work experience. Be passionate about your work, show that you have identified a need and resolved it. I am now responsible for recruiting junior developers and I value those applicants who develop their programming skills in their own time and have developed their softer skill set through extra-curricular activities to evidence that they can work with people at all levels of organisations.