A career in tech? That’s not really an option for me is it?

Delighted to have a guest post from one of our alumni Katie Barker-Ward, Transformation Consultant at business and technology consultancy, Waterstons

You studied History? How on earth did you end up in IT?!

I am often asked this question. I want to tell you about my experience with the aim of demonstrating that there are opportunities for all in tech. Skills from even the most apparently unrelated degrees are relevant.

My degree focused on gathering numerous kinds of information from several sources, examining and analysing that information, understanding the broader picture and finally presenting that information in various forms.

After university, the IT Manager of a Manufacturing company saw my CV and felt that the skills I had from my degree (including a project in which I analysed census data) suited a role he had. He invited me for an informal chat. Although I didn’t know much about IT, I was attracted to the job as he explained that I would get to work with departments across the business, with people on the production line, those in offices and the Directors. Soon, I was a member of the IT team and got stuck in, learning on the job. It was all very challenging, but above all an extraordinarily rewarding way to start my career.

Yes, before this first break, a job in the tech world (specifically IT) was not on my radar at all, but with almost 5 years’ experience I can tell you two things:
1. There are a wide variety of jobs in the tech industry (both “technical” and “non-technical”).
2. Having a computer-related degree is not a pre-requisite for working in IT.

1. There are a wide variety of jobs in the tech industry.
A key element of IT for business is understanding exactly that – IT must support the business, it cannot exist for its own sake. As such, there are numerous business-facing roles within the IT industry.

You could work as a Business Analyst and help key stakeholders define business requirements for an IT system. You could work with companies to reengineer processes in order to streamline working practices. If you are organised and have a passion for keeping things on track you could work as an IT Project Manager; IT is a heavily project-based industry. If you enjoy writing, you could work as a Web Content Manager. You could work with organisations to help them implement new systems. These are just a few examples.

2. Having a computer-related degree is not a pre-requisite for working in IT.
I began learning many of the skills I now have during my first job; data analysis, SQL, first and second line support and system support and implementation – I even crimped a few cables! Whether or not you’ve done a computer-related degree there is always an element of learning in an IT job. It’s a fast-paced industry as technology is constantly changing and improving. As such, you need to be able and willing to learn new skills such as different coding languages. So, even those who studied computing at university might find that what they learnt is outdated just a few years later. In any case, that’s the point of your degree; it’s not about what you learn, it’s about teaching you how to learn – the ultimate skill that you can carry forward into any walk of life.

Still not convinced?
I now work for a Business and IT consultancy, Waterstons. Our staff come from a variety of backgrounds; our head of cyber security studied Astrophysics. Some have studied Chemistry, others Linguistics and one of our founders studied English.

Think for a minute – your everyday life is integrated with technology. Your University application was processed through an IT system. Your exam timetable is shared with you through an IT system. Every time you use a computer within university premises, you are likely to be connecting to the IT network. Your intranet is an IT system. Your university has a website. When you travel by train or plane, the ticketing is administered through a system.

People have built and now maintain these systems (“technical” jobs) but other people will have figured out the required functions of the system or trained people on the systems or project managed the creation or implementation of those systems (“non-technical” jobs).

So, yes, a career in tech could be an option for you.

But how?
It might still seem like a big leap but here are a few ideas as to how you can explore the world of tech:
• Attend a careers event or similar at your university and chat with the exhibitors (they will be looking for a wide variety of skills).
• Research online – the National Careers Service is a good place to start. Your university will have a careers site too.
• Book an appointment with your university’s careers service
• You could even call Waterstons for a chat!

I am fortunate to have found a career that accommodates my desires to both analyse problems and create solutions, and to spend time with people. I hope that you find something equally rewarding – and who knows, it might in a sphere that you never thought possible!



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