Fiona, early 20s
"You don’t need to be an expert programmer to work with ICT these days, but you do need to understand how it can improve the future. Basically, no matter what area you want to get into, ICT will play a part."
Where did your ICT career begin?
I have a Bachelor of Business (Business Information Systems) from RMIT. It’s a four-year degree, which includes a year’s full-time industry placement – my industry placement was with IBM. Fortunately they offered me a part-time position after my placement ended, and after I graduated, I joined them full-time through their graduate program.
Fiona, what do you do?
I’m a Project Administrator with IBM, in their graduate program. I oversee and manage ICT projects for our clients, ranging from upgrading software, advising on and sourcing software or hardware, setting up training rooms, to installing a whole new server – whatever our client needs.
What kind of projects do you work on?
I’ve worked on a variety of projects, but one that stands out involved moving extremely sensitive data across to a new system. I needed a full security check before I could even start on the project, and while we were physically moving hardware from one place to another, we had security people watching us very closely every step of the way!
Do you have much interaction with others?
I’m a people person, so enjoy all the interaction involved in my role – whether it’s meeting clients face-to-face to discuss their needs, or building strong relationships with my fellow project team members.
We have clients in a variety of industries, and we need to understand exactly where each client is coming from and what their priorities are (and what’s at stake if things go wrong!). For some of our larger clients, 10 minutes of system down time can cost them millions of dollars – these are the types of things we need to understand and factor into all the decisions we make.
And what skills do you use in your role?
In my role, being able to communicate well is just as important as other skills like project management or technical skills. As a manager once said to me, "IT skills can be taught, but people skills can’t."
Because IBM is a global company, I work with colleagues in China and India as well as locally. This makes clear communication even more important – if you can’t get your message across to people in the same room, you’re going to struggle to communicate with people on the other side of the world.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in ICT?
ICT has changed a lot – you don’t need to be an expert programmer to work with ICT these days, but you do need to understand how it can improve your future, and the future of those around you. One example is the massive impact technology can have on health services around the world. It can improve doctors’ access to information and help reduce child mortality. Basically, no matter what area you want to get into, ICT will play a part.
How do you unwind from work?
I’m not sure I would call it ‘unwinding’, but I keep pretty busy outside work. I’m the Victorian Chair of the Young IT Professionals Board of the Australian Computer Society. Young IT provides a voice for IT professionals and students aged 18 to 35 and, in particular, we run a lot of workshops and other social networking events for young IT professionals.
I’m also involved in the IT team for the Oaktree Foundation, which is an Australia-based aid and development organisation run entirely by young people aged under 26. As someone who has great faith in technology as a way to improve people’s lives, it’s a great match for my interests and skills.
Finally, where do you see ICT taking you into the future?
I really enjoy working with IBM. They are flexible and they focus on their people – I think more companies are embracing flexible work practices, which is something younger workers are looking for.
In such a big, multi-national company, there are always opportunities to take on new projects, learn new skills and travel, particularly to the US. Thinking longer term, I’d like to work in Europe or the UK, and I know I’m developing the skills needed to work around the globe.