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Becoming Informed: Navigating the graduate world and finding a career in digital

Entering the graduate job market can be daunting. Keith Domnick is on the Informed Solutions graduate programme. Here he chats about securing a job during lockdown, his deliberations as to which career path to go down, how he navigated this uncertainty, and finding his passion in digital transformation after having graduated from the University of Manchester with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Navigating the graduate world and finding a career route in digital.

A couple of years ago, during the height of the pandemic in July 2020, I finished a Masters in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Manchester uncertain (like many are once completing a degree) as to where I wanted to begin my career. Although I had really enjoyed many elements of my course, I had become adamant that I didn’t want to follow the standard course into an engineering career. I did know though that I wanted to have a career that challenged me but also allowed me to continuously learn and make a positive impact on people’s everyday lives.

Initially I looked at a very broad range of sectors and organisations that could fulfil these requirements. After some time, I realised that the jobs or organisations that excited me and where there looked like good opportunities to solve problems and make a difference, had a digital and technology element to them. So, I began to pivot my search towards finding out the routes into a career in this sector.

Navigating the sector: skills gaps and organisation types

Now, I knew from my University experience that I certainly had strong academic skills and had developed technical skills in the area specific to my degree. But, I was concerned that I didn’t necessarily have any computer science or other appropriate technical skills that might be required to work in technology and digital. I did some further research, to find out how others had found their way into the sector and noticed that information technology consultancies offered a broad range of roles from user centred-design and user research, to project delivery and service management, and that employees had often joined them from a diverse set of backgrounds.

I found that there were lots of great firms and roles within consulting to choose from; from big to small, national to international. As I began to narrow down my search, I found myself drawn to Informed Solutions, a technical consulting company working on a wide variety of digital transformation projects with many clients, ranging from government bodies to private companies. And, its graduate programme presented itself as an opportunity to experience a wide range of roles that would  help me decide what more specific direction to take my career. Further to this, the ethos of the company, its commitments to the local community and values resonated with my own.

Getting up to speed

I joined Informed as a graduate in January 2021. It was such a strange time to start with pandemic restrictions still very much in place. But this did not stop me being thrust into the fast-moving world of digital and technology.  The support I received from colleagues throughout the onboarding was amazing. We were all in the same remote working boat, but the way the teams collaborated with each other made the distance irrelevant for that period.

During my first 12 months at Informed Solutions, I was well supported with engaging mentoring and coaching, countless opportunities to learn through masterclasses and invaluable experience across a wide range of roles. After comprehensive training across a range of technical areas and learning about the principles of ‘sprints’ and ‘agile methods’ in project management, I found myself working alongside colleagues, helping to solve real problems.

A range of experiences

Thus far, I have been involved in three different projects that have all pushed and challenged me in new and unique ways.

My first project involved me helping to develop the digital infrastructure for Clean Air Zones a national Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs initiative aiming to reduce air pollution in major cities. My initial support involved me conducting data analysis and detailed reporting to help improve the service alongside my team. Nine months later, I now have a crucial role as a reporting lead. I regularly interact with local authorities, provide clarity over data-driven insights and design reports for a range of user and stakeholder needs.

The second project I moved onto involved digitally transforming the operations of an organisation working to decommission and recycle technological equipment safely and sustainably. As a small team we completed a comprehensive business analysis and proposed detailed plans for a new technical solution to replace an outdated, paper-based inventory and financial management system. In complete contrast to my reporting work, this was focused on engaging with the client’s employees and determining how we could design and build a new system to meet their needs.

Finally, my third rotation centred around the building of a new national payment solution that distributes grants for Scottish farmers. I initially undertook work in user research and content design as part of this project, which involved speaking to farmers and members working for the Scottish government to create and test a solution tailored to their needs. Following some additional training, I then started working on development changes to the user interface of the project. This sparked my interest and inspired my desire to work as a front-end developer.

Setting your course

Despite not knowing what I wanted to do after leaving University, I can now safely say that I have found a career path that I trust will provide me with the ability to constantly learn and collaborate to solve real-world problems.

There is no doubt that with hard work and dedicated commitment to developing your specialist knowledge within the sector, you will be afforded with new opportunities, increased responsibility and an exciting challenge.

Informed Solutions has given me the support and development guidance alongside the freedom to explore a number of different disciplines within digital that has given me a true sense of ownership over my career path.

For anyone leaving University unsure of where they want to go next, I would like to offer the advice that you should not feel constrained into a set industry or career path. A key thing to look for in the first phases of your career is mentorship and support to help you find your area of interest.

I look forward to my final year as a graduate at Informed Solutions and taking advantage of the many more opportunities I will be offered!

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