Paul Day, an technology Consultant at a leading university, gives us an insight into what his role really involves and how to make it in technology.
What is involved in your current role on a day-to-day basis?
I am currently creating an technology strategy and roadmap for a University, which has recently come under private sector ownership. On a day-to-day basis I consult with key stakeholders to understand business needs, talk in detail with technology staff, talk to end users, making myself aware of technical developments and best practice in the sector (and what the competition are up to) and talk to suppliers, while pulling it all together into a 3-year plan that will help the organisation meet its full potential over the medium term.
What skills are required in your role?
A lot of it is about listening, but 'active listening' as it's known. In addition to that it's about developing relationships and, of course, getting up to speed quickly with some fairly complex business processes and emerging business and technical requirements.
What do you like about your role?
It's really fascinating to come afresh into an organisation and find out how it works, what works well and what doesn't and what the possibilities are for helping to move things forward. As a 'fresh pair of eyes' you can see things that some others can't and you are also at liberty to ask the 'dumb' questions - which often produce some interesting answers.
Describe a typical day
Technology is one of the few fields that continues to move and develop quickly and shows no sign of slowing down. The technology keeps changing fast and it's now at the heart of most businesses - yet technology skills are transferable. Most days I'm at the headquarters site and will have a couple of meetings in the diary with University staff. I'll also be working on one or more documents, so along with the strategy and roadmap, perhaps creating business cases for investments, interpreting the results of user feedback surveys, or working with procurement staff on how we can get better deals on hardware, software and services.
Why did you choose technology as a field to work in?
Technology is one of the few fields that continues to move and develop quickly and shows no sign of slowing down. The technology keeps changing fast and it's now at the heart of most businesses - yet technology based skills are transferable. That means it is possible to move between sectors and become productive very rapidly, once you become familiar with how that sector operates (which takes less time than most people might imagine). Things you learn in one organisation can be of huge value in the next. So - lots of variety, lots of change and lots of challenges!
How did you get to where you are?
I did a first degree in Ergonomics at Loughborough University (it's a science subject, about designing systems to meet user needs - and so is about technology AND people) and later an MBA at Henley. I've worked in a range of sectors - aerospace, electronics, computing, government, law enforcement, education - and in my time at IBM as a consultant, in banking, pharmaceuticals and media.
Who would be suited to this role/industry?
Anyone with reasonable technical skills plus the ability to engage with people, understand how business works and who is able to take a strategic view while still being able to dive into the detail while needed. But mostly - an inquiring mind!
From your experience, what advice would you give to candidates looking for a career at the top level?
Success in your career is mostly about energy and perseverance, along with a dash of self-belief. And remember, you will get knocked back plenty of times, but if you persist and remain positive you will (probably - no guarantees) get there. You need to keep developing yourself too - remain abreast of trends, take every opportunity to learn new skills, build on your experience - and also develop your network.
Interested in going even further in technology? Find out what a Chief Information Officer's day can look like.
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