It only seems like yesterday that I was in my teens considering what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. Back then if you were a female with more than four O-levels your main option was to join a bank, but having spent a week in a bank on work experience I already knew it wasn't for me! 20 years later I am UK Head of IT Architecture at one of the world's largest insurance companies and loving every challenging moment of it.
So what happened between work experience in a bank and making it to my current role at Zurich.
I decided not to leave school at 16 but to go on to college and university. I knew I wanted to work in IT but I didn't want to be a programmer, I wanted to understand how IT could help businesses achieve their goals. I decided to do a degree in Business Studies. Throughout the course I selected systems modules whenever possible, which gave me a really good understanding of the business side of systems deployment. I know that many of today's IT degrees include business modules and had they been included back when I was choosing my degree I would almost certainly taken that route.
My first job after university was with IBM where I was responsible for supporting consultants out on the road around system improvement programmes. I enjoyed it from day one and knew that I'd chosen the right career path.
After IBM I joined Zurich on the IT graduate recruitment programme and I've been with Zurich ever since. The working environment is challenging but also very open with most people receptive to new and innovative ideas.
My career to date has provided me with opportunities to work across the entire value chain and as I've progressed from business analysis through to project management, commercial account management, business architecture and now Head of IT Strategy and Architecture, I've developed both technically and as a leader. I really enjoy being at the heart of change in a business, being able to assess and deliver IT solutions to address business challenges. Above all I've learnt a huge amount about how a large insurer operates, so much so that I would challenge any other career path to provide the breadth of opportunities and challenges that I've had to deliver on. To give you some insight, the roles I've performed at Zurich have involved:
- Understanding how the marketing, underwriting, claims, finance, and HR functions operate;
- Facilitating workshops with people from across the business to understand business strategy and the resulting business requirements;
- Working with IT suppliers to assess whether or not different IT solutions can meet the needs of the business;
- Assessing the costs and time frames of delivering major programmes;
- Educating key senior stakeholders on the benefits IT can bring to the business and how IT can change the way we work;
- Working with diverse groups of people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds to get things done.
As I've already mentioned, I knew my decision to pursue a career in IT was the right one from the moment I joined IBM and I feel exactly the same today. I've been through some difficult experiences as I think you would in any chosen field and organisation, but if you are someone who enjoys simplifying complexity, working with diverse groups of people and identifying opportunities to improve the way an organisation works, a career in IT will provide you with a huge amount of enjoyment and job satisfaction.
My advice for anyone thinking of a career in IT; go for it! It's well paid, it provides huge variety; no two days are the same. It's got to be one of the most diverse professions to join, with a wide range of technical and business facing roles providing different career paths to all who join. If you have strong communication skills, can solve business problems, can articulate people's concerns, enjoy planning events, working with diverse people from across the globe and have some artistic flair then there are plenty of roles in the profession that could appeal to you.
Lisa is an IT and operational expert with significant experience in IT / business architecture and account management, offshoring, outsourcing, programme management and business analysis.
She enjoys researching and developing IT and Business strategies, working with executives at all levels, developing strategic themes, exploring operational transformation and IT business model options, and turning agreed recommendations into achievable plans.