Getting to know the real IT crowd: The secret world of tech support

Click to follow
The Independent Online

If a City career smacks to you of sharp suits and six-figure deals rather than Java or C#, then think again. Without the expertise of an army of IT experts ensuring that the wheels of high finance run cost-effectively, legally and without too many technological glitches, the Square Mile would be in chaos.

It has been estimated that for every 50 or so staff working on a computer, there is at least one person working in an IT support role.

In the City, where the possibility of electronic fraud is ever-present, and where a serious virus or shutdown can wipe out thousands of pounds of profit in an afternoon, the ratio, says Paul Elworthy, associate director for IT and banking at the recruitment firm Hudson, is far higher.

Yet you don't need to be either male or a technician to talk yourself into a £35,000 or £40,000 starting salary, he says.

"While a role in software development may require a computing degree, maths or science qualification or simply strong numeracy skills, the City's project management or business analysis roles rely more on commercial nous and the ability to communicate effectively with clients than they do on IT.

"It's true that the closer you are to an investment bank's trading systems the more you will be paid, but if you are lucky enough to combine real technological flair with an understanding of how the commercial world works, you will do very well indeed.

"We have placed many women in IT roles at all levels and it's great to see them," he adds.

Whether your job is in wireless networking, supply chain management, computer systems security or in client IT support, being technologically confident is a marketable skill throughout the business world. But in the City, regular human interaction is non-negotiable.

When it comes to dealing with non-technical or even Luddite colleagues and clients, patience and good communication skills are just as important as technical know-how.

'You need to understand what technology can do for a client'

21-year-old Jignesh Chapaneri joined Accenture three weeks after finishing his economics and politics degree at Birmingham University. He is currently working in the firm's supply chain practice – part of the management consulting arm – and is involved in report making, financial tracking and risk management. His long-term ambition is to reach partner level at the firm.

"Although the term 'supply chain' sounds like it belongs to manufacturing or a retailer, it's a major issue too for communications firms, telecoms and banking and one that is getting more prominent by the day.

People think you must be terribly IT-proficient to do this job, but I've found what you need far more is an understanding of what technology can do for your client – whether it is minimizing cost or perhaps reducing the number of processes involved in the supply chain – rather than being able to follow every single twist and turn of a software system.

One of my current projects involves HTMR/Java mapping which may sound very technical to a non-IT person, but which is far more basic than you'd think when you look at it in terms of a business context.

Although my degree was not technology based, the economics element helped me to develop an understanding of the costs, revenues and returns elements of supply chain management while the politics side – which I did for sheer interest's sake – developed my analytical skills and the ability to digest large amounts of information fairly rapidly and accurately.

Supply chain economics are growing in importance to our clients, but when it comes to developing a long-term career for myself, Accenture is a big place and there are all sorts of different opportunities for me."

Comments