Many young adults, like myself, see University as the opportunity to spend another three to four year’s out of employment and to maintain the ‘student life’ that we were so used to living. I must confess, the thought of working at the age of 18 used to petrify me and made me even more determined to hang on to my youth for as long as I could by going to University. When I went to University, I was at a difficult stage of my life and unfortunately dealing with losing a Grandparent to that horrible illness we call cancer. I had been so excited to go and live on my own and start a new adventure all the way through high-school but when it came to it, I thought I’d made a huge mistake and didn’t want to leave home. Despite this, after many trips to IKEA and many meltdowns, I was on my way to start my Business Management and Entrepreneurship degree at the University of Chester.
My first and second year at Uni were a bit of a blur. I spent both of those years either in a lecture, cooking pasta, asleep or drunk, which was just the ‘norm’ for students. After two years of no routine I was incredibly bored and ready for a change. I hated not having a real structure to my day, with no real targets, goals or tasks to complete. It takes a lot of self-discipline to pull yourself to the library to finish assignments when you are given around four weeks to complete each one. It was often the case that I would leave everything until the last minute and panic to get assignments finished in the final days before the submission deadline. I do think that I work better under pressure and when I don’t have a choice but to ‘just do it’ however I’ve learnt now that this isn’t always the best approach.
Before I knew it, I was starting my final year and heading into the dreaded dissertation stage. I based my dissertation around the impact that female role models have on women in the IT industry, and was lucky enough as part of my research to interview some really inspiring women that I now get to call work colleagues. I would say that this was the turning point for me and is what made me consider pursuing a career in this industry myself. Researching and analysing everything that I could find about inspiring people in the IT industry made me divert my focus from university life and being a student, to employment life. When I had found out I had got a 1st in my dissertation and a 1st in my degree, it gave me the direction I had previously lacked for my future career. I found a new interest in IT and the impact it has on everyday life and was fortunate enough to get a job in my current role as a Business Analyst at risual.
I’ll be the first to admit that I struggled to merge myself into a ‘professional working woman’ from the ‘lazy hungover student’ that I perceived myself to be at the time. The first few months at work were incredibly difficult for me as I tried to adjust to waking up at a ‘normal’ time and get myself up and dressed to make my 9am starts at the office. After my body-clock adjusted, I realised how insignificant this was compared to the other hurdles that I would later face. For a long time I felt as though I was a ‘fish out of water’ and spent most days battling with myself over the thought that I did not belong in the fast-paced IT industry as a Business Analyst. The talent and knowledge that surrounded me, especially with all the ‘tech talk’ I overheard, made me feel really out of my depth. All of a sudden you feel like you are starting from scratch again, which is a weird adjustment after spending the last 13 years in education from Year 1 to building and working your way up to go to Uni and get a Degree… and then what? You feel like you are back to square one again and having to complete the same cycle. I am fortunate enough to work with people who are always there to lend a helping hand and spend the time to sit and explain things through to me, but it still took me a while to feel settled. Luckily, I feel like I have found my feet as a BA and I love to work with clients and watch their journey through business, cloud and digital transformation. I feel as though I can relate to some clients that are worried about taking a step into the unknown and are having to build out strategies for how to move forward in the constantly evolving IT world. When I work with project teams and have conversations with end-users, their main concerns revolve mainly around how they will keep up and adapt with the changes to technology and systems that their organisations are implementing. The reason I can relate is because that was exactly how I felt when I first started at risual. It can be very overwhelming when you are expected to learn new operating systems, applications and ways of working alongside maintaining productivity in your day to day job. The reason why I love my job is because I can be involved with the client from the beginning of a change, rollout or a project and advise them throughout their journey to make sure they get the best out of a solution. I think that my experience of feeling uncertain in my place in the IT industry and as a Business Analyst allows me to acknowledge and appreciate the struggles and resistance that some clients have when making a big change themselves. It helps me put the end-user perspective at the fore front of any conversations and decisions made in workshops before moving forward. My main passion as a BA is to work with clients to build roadmaps and strategies that have a focus on employee engagement and adoption. My role encourages clients to lead projects with an end-user focus rather than a technology lead project. Whilst the solutions and technology are the enablers to more modern ways of working, the employees and end-users are ultimately what will influence how well the investment will land into an organisation.
Despite not being a student, the learning aspect never halted when I became an employee. I enjoy learning something new every day, whether it be from my colleagues, posts on LinkedIn, industry standard books and often clients themselves. I have been able to adapt my learning styles from University and use them in my role as a Business Analyst. The shift from being a student to being a full-time employee was a huge shock to the system but gave me real appreciation for routine and structure, having goals to reach, feeling part of a team and the autonomy to advise and influence strategies and decisions that clients make. Being part of an organisation gives you access to a network of SME’s, mentors and managers who are all there to support you in achieving the same goal of being the best you can be in your role to provide the best possible support to your clients. If you’re a graduate reading this and you feel as though you can relate to the stress and pressure of adjusting into employment life then just know that you will find your feet and settle in time. For those of you who employ graduates, hopefully this blog will help give you a different perspective on students and the value that they can bring into an organisation when given the right support.