Interview: Kim Warren, IT Consultant at DMW Group
DESCRIBE YOUR JOB…..
I work as an IT consultant. Generally, businesses or organisations get IT consultants in to help them to plan or audit their IT strategy, or to implement major time-limited IT transformation programmes. It’s commonly confused with IT support, but we’re not the people you go to if your computer won’t turn on!
HOW DID YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?
I was interested in science in school, and went onto study zoology at university. When I graduated I wanted to do a PhD and go into research, but after several rejections I went and worked in a bookshop for a while, then got a job working for a video game company where I taught myself to program. I eventually decided to go back into science, worked as a university lab assistant for a while, and then went back to study a Masters in bioinformatics. Off the back of that I finally got a PhD offer, and spent four years researching genetics and evolution in bats. Over the course of this I realised that I definitely did not want a career in academia, but that I had somehow picked up a bunch of useful skills in the process – both directly technical skills and skills to do with the ability to research and learn new things rapidly. A family friend suggested that I might find consultancy interesting and pointed me in the direction of DMW, and this has been working out well for me so far!
TALK US THROUGH A RECENT WORK DAY…..
I am currently working as part of a team rolling out a new data science platform at a company for analysts and traders to use to monitor and predict markets. My role is a platform business analyst. I have two big dogs at home, so I get up early to walk them, then get the train into London to get to the office between 8 and 8.30. This is earlier than most of the team, but it means that I don’t need to stay as late. The first thing that I do is check the task board to see what is currently assigned to me, then I check the reports that have been automatically generated by the platform that morning to ensure everything is set up correctly (and fix things if not). We have a team meeting at 10am where up to ten of us review what we did the day before and what we are planning to do that day. Then I work through my tasks, which normally involve writing platform and user documentation such as FAQs and wikis, managing functional aspects of the platform and writing or running functionality tests. Sometimes there will be other meetings, particularly if we are introducing something new to the platform, where a small group of us will plan out how this is going to work and how we will test that it is working as expected. I normally leave between 5.15 and 5.30pm so that I am not back to my dogs too late. I don’t do any client work in the evenings, but I sometimes work on internal projects that I enjoy and have chosen to get involved with and that are often a bit more technical in nature.
AND TELL US ABOUT YOUR OUTREACH WORK SUPPORTING TRANSGENDER PEOPLE IN THE WORKPLACE – WHAT DO YOU DO AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Last year, I came out as transgender – I’m non-binary and was planning to start to transition in a way that would be visible, so it was important to me to come out at work. I found out that a transgender working group had just been formed at my client, and so I became involved with that. The initial goal of this was to raise awareness of what it actually meant to be transgender, along with some of the science behind it; we organised regular seminars, including one at DMW, and I helped write a series of articles. Since then we’ve worked to develop transition guidelines and to organise a series of multi-company events to talk about different aspects of being transgender, answer questions that people might have, and to raise money for a charity that helps support transgender young people and their families. I’m also about to start doing outreach to schools to help raise awareness of differences in kids, and to act as a role model to show LGBT+ young people that there are ways to go forwards and be successful. There’s a lot in the media at the moment which is attacking transgender people, and I think it’s crucial right now to do this kind of work, both to counter some of the misconceptions by educating people and by just being a real, living person that they can interact with, and to show transgender people that they can be themselves, be accepted and have a career.
WHAT DIGITAL SKILLS DO YOU USE ON A DAILY BASIS?
On a daily basis I use some coding skills – be that in Python, in a Microsoft language (such as DAX or M, used within PowerBI), using bash to access or interact with some of the programme resources, or HTML when working on wikis. I use a lot of Microsoft tools, such as Excel and Visio, in order to document elements of the programme or of the platform to share with other members of the team, with stakeholders or with users. Taking a half step away from direct digital skills, a lot of what I am doing at the moment involves being able to document things clearly, so that other people can understand and reproduce what you have done, or can follow instructions that you have provided in order to be able to use the data science platform themselves.
WHAT DIGITAL SKILLS OR ATTRIBUTES WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE EDUCATORS TO SUPPORT YOUNG PEOPLE TO DEVELOP?
I think that learning how to code is vitally important – it doesn’t really matter what language you learn or how well you learn to do it; learning to code in any language even to a basic level teaches you a new way of thinking and approaching problems, and makes it much easier to develop other digital skills further down the line. I also think that educators should help young people to develop their skills to research something with the tools that we now have our fingertips – there is an art to being able to use google to quickly and accurately get to relevant information, and I think that young people are often abandoned to work that out themselves (or not, as the case may be).
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A YOUNG PERSON LOOKING TO ENTER THE DIGITAL SECTOR?
Be curious, and be broad – knowing enough about a wide range of skills and topics to be able to understand what is going on in a situation and deepen that knowledge when needed is going to open a lot more doors for you than having a really detailed knowledge of a single specific thing. But if there is something that you are particularly interested in, don’t be afraid to pursue it further, and learn to communicate that passion to other people! Communication and people skills are vital in a large amount of the digital sector and shouldn’t be overlooked.