Informed Solutions Senior Technical Consultant Robert Sinclair shares his experience of entering the world of digital transformation as a Geography graduate with little knowledge of the tech sector. Here, he talks about starting out on the Informed graduate programme and how he overcame a lack of confidence to progress his career in a supportive and nurturing environment.

In my current role as Senior Technical Consultant at Informed, I’ve recently been conducting some interviews to hire graduates to be part of our summer cohort. At the end of the interview there’s always time for the candidate to ask us any questions and one recent question made me stop unexpectedly. The question was: “What’s the best thing you’ve learnt at Informed?”

I’m not usually somebody who looks back at my work and takes pride in my achievements, but this question made me reflect on my career at Informed so far.

Leaving University

I graduated from Lancaster University five years ago as an overly shy Geography graduate with a vague idea as to what career path I wanted to take. I’ve always liked and wanted to solve problems and because technology is constantly evolving and playing an increasingly large part in our lives, I knew I wanted to do something in that sector. Having explored different options I came across Informed’s graduate programme and I was extremely impressed by direction and values of the business, it seemed like the perfect fit for me.

I might not have had a traditional digital or tech background, far from it, but I had learnt a number of transferable skills on my degree that Informed embraced. I demonstrated as part of the interview process that I was able to analyse data and tackle large problems with multiple variables and implications, and a that I had a strong desire to solve ‘real world’ problems and work collaboratively in a team to ensure the best outcomes. These characteristics have really set me in good stead.

My Informed Journey

My first major task at Informed was for Royal Mail and their ‘final mile optimisation’ project, where the objective was all about improving the ‘final mile’ of a delivery throughout the UK. Needless to say a project that involves working with data surrounding every road, path and address in the UK was pretty daunting. I wasn’t particularly confident at University and now I was working with unfamiliar tools and technology on a scale that was tough to comprehend. I don’t mind admitting that I was overwhelmed and scared by the prospect of the responsibility, I distinctly remember thinking that I’d made a mistake and that I’d picked the wrong career.

Informed, however, did not share those beliefs, they showed complete confidence in my abilities and the characteristics behind the reasons they hired me. The team around me was incredibly supportive, they allowed me to both learn and contribute at my own pace and really gave me the opportunity to grow. I was taught the best practices underpinning data transformation, spatial analysis and data management, and also how to manage my time efficiently, integrate into a fast-paced professional team and how to engage effectively with clients.

It wasn’t until the end of the project, which was being capped off by the generation of a file that was 250 million lines long and detailed the outputs of a spatial analysis query involving every single address in the UK and multiple other datasets, that I realised I was no longer scared. I felt for the first time in my career that I belonged, I had grown in confidence and I could see a clear development path in front of me.

I changed roles for my next project, moving into the User Centred Design space as an opportunity opened up and it was a chance for me to develop a new skillset. The project was for the Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) to design and implement the digital solution behind Clean Air Zones. Again, I was in a position where I had to learn and implement new skills on another project on a national scale. This time though, I had a bit of faith in myself that I could make a strong contribution and had experience of being in a similar situation.

The Clean Air Zone service started out as nothing other than a concept and an idea. Similarly, I started out on the project feeling like I had no idea what I was doing. Over the next few months the service started to grow: pens met paper, assumptions were formed and decisions were made, and I was given the opportunity to be there for it all and to help shape how the service grew. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was growing too. I was learning the ins and outs of User Centred Design, producing high-fidelity prototypes to tight specifications and communicating with stakeholders on an almost hourly basis. All had been alien concepts only months earlier.

As the service took shape, so did I. Before long I was an expert in how the service worked and why the service worked the way it did. Over the next three or so years the service began rolling out throughout the country. Designs that I made are being used by hundreds of thousands of people, which is a very cool feeling! More rewarding is that decisions that I helped contribute to are improving the quality of people’s lives, and has pushed this project extremely close to my heart.

The level of support I was offered to achieve that was nothing short of incredible and working alongside Delivery Manager Sara Di Domenico I found a brilliant and talented mentor. My peers gave me advice and encouragement, my seniors at Informed were patient and wise. I wouldn’t have been able to get through the last few years without them. I can confidently say that I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.

The Best Thing I’ve Learnt at Informed

All this reflection brings me back to the original question from the candidate interview: “What’s the best thing you’ve learnt at Informed?” I’ve learnt lots of things at Informed, I’ve learnt how to embed myself in a project and become the subject-matter expert, I’ve learnt the best practices of multiple disciplines, and I’ve learnt how to master my trade. I’ve also learnt that you shouldn’t be afraid to be wrong, as a Graduate you will make mistakes but at Informed you have to jump in and embrace it. None of those answer the original question though. The best thing I’ve learnt is not how to become confident, I’ve learnt that I am confident.

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