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Where are they now?

 

Where are they now?
Matthew Swain a Database Infrastructure Engineer, John Lewis

When I applied to 6th form college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had vague idea that I might wanted to do medicine, but I wasn’t sure. I’d always been interested in science though and it was my strongest subject at school, so I took biology, chemistry and physics, along with psychology (because it sounded interesting). After the first year I dropped psychology, my weakest subject, and decided to go ahead and apply to study medicine.

Four applications and one interview later and I didn’t get an offer. I was disappointed and didn’t have long to decide what to do next. I had no plans for a gap year and I wanted to go to university so I transferred my application at Nottingham to study Biochemistry and Genetics and luckily it was accepted. I still didn’t really have a plan but I thought a lab job sounded better than one in an office. University was a lot of fun. I had a great time socially and I really enjoyed studying genetics in particular (it’s fascinating!) but by the time I was finished, my desire to work in a lab had waned and I was back to not really knowing what I wanted to do, so I applied for a lot of jobs.

It took a little while, but I got a job as a “Healthcare Researcher” for a small company who collected, organised and analysed healthcare information. There were five people in the office, a few who worked remotely and a small office in Bulgaria. Six months on, I got the opportunity to start doing some data analysis using Excel and healthcare data, answering questions like “how many emergency admissions for diabetes were there per diabetic person in a given area”, etc. It was much more interesting and came with a small promotion, Healthcare Analyst!

One day, chatting to a software developer, I realised that knowing SQL (a simple programming language used with databases) would allow me to do more than I could with Excel. I’ve always been a computer geek so I bought myself a book, read it and took some ideas to my boss. It paid off and a few months later I was seconded to a software company to help with a project to develop a data analysis tool for pharmaceutical companies. I felt out of my depth but I loved it. I learned so much. Months later we visited a big client to launch it and there were 200+ users seeing it for the first time. I was really proud!

After two and a half years, I moved to Leeds to join the NHS as an Information Analyst. It felt like a worthwhile thing to do and was a promotion, doing similar analysis work. Sadly, I quickly learned that large organisations are very different to small ones, and not in a way I liked. I hadn’t appreciated how much freedom I’d had to do things my way and how much opportunity I’d had to learn from senior people before. That wasn’t the same in the NHS, so off to London I went to join a software company called Vista Entertainment.

Vista was based in New Zealand and sold ticketing systems to cinemas. The London office was about 20 people and supported customers in Europe and the Middle East. I joined as a Software Consultant which meant visiting cinemas to set up new systems, train the staff, etc. In my second week I went to a German cinema to learn from one of the guys on my team and the week after I went by myself to another. It was crazy, I felt out of my depth again, but I loved it.

I stayed there for about two and a half years, got promoted, and carried on learning about IT systems and software development. I bought more text books and I studied more in my spare time. Eventually I moved on for a more technical job, DevOps Engineer, at another small software company. That came with more responsibility as I was looking after system like theatre websites, which needed to stay online to make money. I carried on learning and after about a year moved on to my current job, Database Infrastructure Engineer at John Lewis.

I stayed there for about two and a half years, got promoted, and carried on learning about IT systems and software development. I bought more text books and I studied more in my spare time. Eventually I moved on for a more technical job, DevOps Engineer, at another small software company. That came with more responsibility as I was looking after system like theatre websites, which needed to stay online to make money. I carried on learning and after about a year moved on to my current job, Database Infrastructure Engineer at John Lewis.

I still don’t have any IT qualifications and I still don’t have a plan, but I’m happy!

Matthew Swain

Matthew Swain, Database Infrastructure Engineer at John Lewis.

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