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Phil Conway

Career Path: Staff Solutions Architect & Advanced Customer Engagements, VMware
Location: Newcastle, UK

I had an interest in computers from an early age, fuelled by an interest in playing computer games and listening to electronic music. I was forever tweaking the software and hardware of my (limited) parents' computer to try and get the memory, processing power and disk space to play games that it was never really designed to work with.

I took the natural path of studying Computing at A-level, and followed this up with a Bachelors and then a Masters in Computer & Network Technology at Northumbria. Since then, I spent a brief time working at Electronic Data Systems, before being accepted onto a BT Postgraduate programme and joining a network support team which provided management and monitoring for a WAN network on an outsourced government account. From there, I moved to HP Enterprise Services, providing similar support within the Datacentre space for similar customers, learning lots about network/application architecture, security architecture, network engineering and load balancing.

What are you doing now?Phil Conway

I'm now working for VMware, a software vendor well-known for their vSphere hypervisor and associated products. VMware now have a series of SDN (software-defined network) products that cover the WAN, LAN and datacentre spaces. My job (initially), was to help existing network teams in how our SDN portfolio could be used to their advantage and I was engaged to assist them after they'd bought the product. I've since moved into our Advanced Customer Engagements team, where we provide a similar level of support with our emerging products and their new features. I still deal with networking, security and load balancing primarily, but I've also dealt regularly with containers and automation. My work now involves showing our customers how they can use our products to provide the level of security, assurance and network connectivity they're used to, with new technologies (Kubernetes) they may not be familiar with, and how they can automate network deployment for these new platforms.I help advise our customers at partners, not just on a one-to-one basis, but also at our conferences - (which can be a bit scary with hundreds of people listening to you and asking you questions!).

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

Out of the local universities, Northumbria had the strongest reputation for computing-based courses, both in terms of the variety of courses and the depth of material covered. All of the other universities I'd looked at had a focus on software engineering, development and programming, rather than a balance between hardware and software. Looking back on the course I chose, this balance has helped prepare me for my current role by giving me an understanding and appreciation for all of the layers of the typical IT stack and how different choices in each has an impact on each organisation running it.

What was it like studying at Northumbria? (eg. were there a mix of lectures, seminars, team projects? Was the feedback constructive?)

There was a good mix of lectures, seminars, lab work and team work. Our lecturers were very well-versed in their subject areas and were up to date with modern thinking and theory. Their passion and interest in their subject areas helped to shape my own interests in the technologies I work with today and I'm grateful to them as a result.

What was the best thing about your course?

The lectures for the vast majority of our modules were relevant, interesting, and reflected current and historical trends in computing. They helped to shape my interest in areas of computing I hadn't previously been exposed to (or had considered).

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

Studying a masters at Northumbria gave me an edge when applying for my last 3 jobs. It help my acceptance onto a Postgraduate programme with BT Global Services, and carried lots of weight with my next two employers (both well-known American IT vendors who highly value postgraduate degrees). It was the most valuable year I could have spent studying.


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

Both of my degrees taught me that IT is a constantly growing field where new technologies and concepts come into play almost daily, and that in order to keep up with these, I'd have to develop a passion and discipline for self-learning and self-working. This is especially critical now, where I'm part of a team which is tasked with providing the enablement on our emerging technologies and cutting-edge products.

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

I felt like I had everything I needed to succeed, as well as it being right on my doorstep!

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

You won't regret it. I made this choice twice, and I am in a much better place with my careers than I thought was possible. Much of my success to date is a direct result of studying at Northumbria.

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

Well worth it!

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