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John Cavanagh

Career Path: IT Business Process Partner, GSK
Location: London, UK

I completed the ITMB degree in 2014, following spending a one year placement with GSK in London. The placement was a critical part of my development and, I have ended up never leaving the organisation. I wanted to work in an IT role, but not for an IT company. This allows me to focus on supporting the company to prosper, by leading process improvement, process re-design/simplification and deploying technology to enhance the organisation. 

I now manage an international team of 6 that focus on business partnering and IT support to GSK global communications and corporate secretariat functions. I am accountable for the IT-business relationship in this area and manage senior stakeholder relations. From the project management skills, to the technical skills in SQL database programming I am using skills I learnt on my degree on a daily basis.

What was it about Northumbria that made you decide to study here?

The passion displayed by the  subject tutors was a key influencing factor. Coupled with the fact that many of the teaching team had real industry experience so they could bring to life the theory behind many of the topics really drove me toward Northumbria. Plus the usual things like the great facilities in place and it being in Newcastle!IT Management For Business (ITMB) John Cavanagh

What was it like studying at Northumbria?

The vibe at Northumbria was great. Generally, you are surrounded by like-minded people so its a great place to study, learn and have fun. If you're not afraid of a bit of hard work, you'll get on well at Northumbria. The balance between lectures, seminars, group projects and self-taught learning time is good and you are given the opportunity to own your workload and development.

What impressed you most about our academic staff?

Their unwavering commitment to their students and their passion about their subject area. You can always knock on the door of the teaching team in Information Sciences and you'll get the support you need - provided you put the effort in too!

How connected was your course with industry?

Very - the ITMB programme is designed and developed by leading employers and backed by the TechPartnership. This means the content is truly applicable and in demand by employers, The programme is clever in that it tries to fill gaps in the IT skills market. This makes you feel like you'll be in demand post-graduation because what you have studied is so relevant. Group Projects give you the opportunity to be part of diverse teams and experience both the good and bad, which can be a learning curve. You also have opportunity to hone your leadership skills and lead some of these teams/projects which again is providing you with important development. Fortnightly guest 'guru' lectures were an opportunity to listen to industry experts talk about current hot topics and ask questions of them, the material was also recorded so you had a good reference point to go back and listen again if needed.

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/give your career an edge?

I think Northumbria has helped me on my way by providing a fundamental understanding of the basics, from a technical perspective, to softer skills in project and team management. I think with ITMB, you are also taught to be an enterprise thinker, i.e. what is the cause and effect of this particular technology relation action, on a wider organisation. This is invaluable. Northumbria actively promote the placement year, and I think this has really been a defining moment for me, given I've not left GSK since placement. The placement year, and getting that experience was critical. It completely changed my mind-set when I returned for final year and gave me a structure I hadn't previously had. Northumbria ITMB team are active players when it comes to engagement with industry and having had the opportunity to listen to industry experts, it gives you a confidence in the material you are being taught and how you might apply it in the workplace.

What was the best thing about your course?

The ITMB programme also offered the opportunity to attend annual competitions with other ITMB Universities. This was a great chance to work on a project put together by a big name employer and demonstrate your capabilities to an employer panel. It was also a networking opportunity, where you could get your name out there amongst employers.

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now throughout your career?

Probably the softer skills in project and team management are used on an almost daily basis. However do not underestimate the need to get a technical understanding. To manage a technical team, having that basic underpinning is vital so you can assess.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Northumbria University?

I was surrounded by a great cohort that all had high ambitions, so we motivated each other to get the work done and to further develop.

What advice would you give somebody who is thinking of studying at Northumbria?

Come with an open-mind, be prepared to work hard, come with lots of questions, be open to doing the placement year - you will not regret it.

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in 3 words?

Worthwhile, fun and memorable.

For more information about me see:

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