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Thomas Smith

Career Path: Functional Lead
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Brief biography of your career so far:

I've never really fully known what type of job I want, but I enjoy technology and I enjoy working with people. The ITMB course covered both technical and business skills which I knew long-term would open more doors for me to go down whatever route I wanted. For my placement year at Nissan, I worked in the ServiceNow team, administrating and maintaining an application used by the whole Nissan workforce to submit IT tickets, that were then managed by the service desk. This gave me a good understanding into not only how applications work, are developed and maintained, but also the business side of running a service desk and managing tickets. Coming into DXC, my plan/goals were to gain as much technical knowledge as I can, with a view to moving into a people-facing role in years to come, as possibly an IT consultant. Where I can work with clients to solve their problems. I applied to the technical stream but after looking at my CV and past experience, I have been placed into the Project Management stream which is very client-facing. Throughout University and prior, I had a job as a bartender in the Utilita Arena, I am also heavily involved in sport. I have been a football referee for 8 years and a coach for 6, both have given me skills I would not have learnt anywhere else. These skills help me in the role I'm in today.

What are you doing now?

Currently, I am working at DXC Technology as a Graduate Functional Lead. A Functional Lead is similar to a Project Manager. I have accounts that I work on where I manage resources being sold by DXC to our clients. I also oversee their management of IT Services/Systems such as ticket management and asset management. I give advice on how to improve their processes. I do all this working with a more experienced Functional Lead who is guiding me through the learning process and I am picking up a lot from him about the role.

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

I am from Ingleby Barwick near Middlesbrough, so I wanted to stay relatively close to home. Newcastle was the perfect city to move to for the social side of the university experience. I chose Northumbria because it was one of only 9 or 10 Universities in the country tat offered ITMB as a course, and I felt it was important to take this course over Computer Science/Business management for the route I wanted to take. I was getting an insight into both.

What was it like studying at Northumbria?  

The studying was great and we had a mixture of lectures, seminars and team assignments. My course was relatively small in numbers compared to others, meaning gaining feedback was easy and the tutors had a lot of time for us as there wasn't as many students. The sessions suited what we needed to learn. For example our computing modules would be all practical which for me was the best way to learn.

How connected was your course with industry? 

I would argue my course is the best throughout the whole University for being connected. Right from the first introduction in first year, we were shown all the organisations linked to our course and how we could fit into them. There was a lot of help on professional skills, such as creating a LinkedIn profile, connecting with people from organisations, how to build a good CV, all of these skills may seem basic but without them I wouldn't have secured a placement year and a graduate role. We had plenty of guest lectures and events where we could meet employers and find out what they had to offer. The course would always adapt to the current industry to ensure what we were learning was relevant. I completed a placement at Nissan who were one of the organisations heavily linked with the course.

If you took on a placement during your course how did you feel this helped you in your career/ with your studies?

If I had been asked at the time I was on placement, especially early on I would have said it's not helping at all. However you have to do your best to learn as much as possible on your placement year to take back with you. Looking back now, I would say a placement is invaluable, right from the minute you begin applying. I started applying for placements in the first few months of second year. It is important to get in early. You learn so much about application processes, interviews and CV's/Cover letters by just applying and this is something that may go unnoticed. The placement itself can be really useful in understanding how to conduct yourself in a working environment, where there are people of all ages and experiences. You can learn so much from their careers that you can take away. Finally, the year helped me with my final year project. Without my placement I would have had no idea what to complete my project on and this may have hindered my chances at getting the best possible classification. Also, if you are lucky and perform well on your placement, you may be offered a full time job for when you graduate! The main aspect to take away is the experience of applying and taking part in real world jobs, it is very useful for post-university.

What was the best thing about your course?

The uniqueness of the skills offered, not only at our university but across the country. this course was only offered to 8 or 9 universities which already puts me in a niche market as a graduate, as oppose to a course such as business management or computer science. The lecturers/tutors were fantastic at working with us and helping with any problems we had, as well as setting us up for life after university and I can't thank them enough for this!

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

The uniqueness of my course definitely gave me an edge going into the working world. I felt confident in my abilities, technical and soft skills. I knew how to present myself and how to take on the application process. The skills learnt through the modules also gave me a wide range of knowledge that can be applied to many industries. Northumbria also offers a lot of extra curricular activities. I played football in the university leagues and we got the opportunity to play at St Georges Park, the England training ground, from a tournament we entered through university. I highlight this because the university and the city of Newcastle offer so much. It is important to enjoy your time at university socially, to ensure you are in a good frame of mind to complete work. If you don't enjoy the non-work side of university, then the work can take over. It is important to have a balance and Northumbria and the city of Newcastle offer this.

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

In first year there was a focus on technical basics, understand programming etc. Also we focused on soft skills such as presenting. We would do group presentations on a bi-weekly basis which helped grow confidence and improve those skills. Second year there was a build on from the technical skills learnt in first year. We covered a range of language such as Java, HTML, CSS. There were project management modules introduced where we worked with a real-life client to complete a project. This gave us exposure to real world work. Final year my project focused more on work I had completed on placement and helped me develop my knowledge further and also improve my technical skills. Throughout the 3 years, there was a constant focus on professional skills such as interview techniques and CV writing which will be used throughout my career.

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

Living in Newcastle was great. It is important to make the most of it as Newcastle is a fantastic city and you may not get the chance to return. I enjoyed my course and the people I met on it were great. I enjoyed the social side and all the extracurricular activities available.

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

For me, Northumbria is now one of the very top universities in the country. Throughout A-Levels, other universities sell themselves on being a 'red brick' university. For 1% of courses this might be important. However for the majority I can guarantee that employers care more about you and what you can offer as oppose to what university you went to. Northumbria offered me a unique course that has single-handedly put me into the position I am in today. So I would absolutely recommend Northumbria. It is important to focus on yourself, what you want to gain out of University and where you want to be after it Northumbria ticks every box, and on top of this, Newcastle is a great city!

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

Exciting Memorable Invaluable

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