At a time where recruiters are looking to attract the brightest and best graduates, Nicola Pocklington, Senior Principal Consultant at Expleo Group, shares her own background and reminds employers to consider candidates who maybe didn’t make it to university:
At 18 having finished my Business and Finance BTEC, going into work was the right thing for me, not going to University. It was the early nineties, YTS was around but not well paid, plus a good proportion of people did not go onto high education.
I started working at one of the main companies based in the nearest town to where I grew up. Within a couple of years, I started getting asked to be the business representative for my team when Business Testers where needed for system upgrade projects – which I enjoyed. I think this was down to having a good knowledge of my team’s work but also, I was organised, motivated and enthusiastic.
Next came a move to a Business Support team – this worked with the Business areas, external service providers and IT Production support – this gave me more experience and exposure to different IT practices. A department restructure and a change in responsibilities happened (think Business Analyst, System Analyst, Prod support team) that gave me greater exposure to IT and Projects.
Up to this point I had been getting great work and business experience, improving my skills, but also my managers saw something in me that led to me getting these opportunities – however, I will say that I was also driven to improve and progress up the ranks of the teams I worked on.
Staying with the same company, I applied for a Test Analyst role, testing changes to the systems I had been supporting – I got the job. This was where things began to change for me, and I found the career path I wanted to pursue. This also really gave me the full exposure to Small Change, Projects, Programmes, company Transformations and mergers, plus working with contractors and Consultants.
The development framework for the Test Analyst role included on the job training, but also professional industry qualifications – this is where I first came across ISEB Software testing qualifications (in later years replaced by ISTQB). And I got my Foundation qualification under my belt.
Further Department reshuffles saw the Test Team move into different departments, but always moving closer and closer to IT.
With my skills / experience growing and moving up the ranks from Test Analyst to Test Lead / Manager, I also had the opportunity to take on Project Lead and Management roles, as well as Implementation management, alongside the testing. Along with this came the chance to study and gain more qualifications, ITIL (Service Delivery) and Prince 2 Foundation for example. We were also encouraged to expand our reading and sometimes provided with journals, articles, and books. I had recognised by this time that external job roles were specifying an applicant should have a degree, however I was of the opinion that a Professional qualification was also a valuable alternative (provided you could also do the job not just talk the theory!).
Having spent many years working at the same company, I had ran out of career path, so time to move on; this time gaining the official role of Senior Test Manager.
Making this move highlighted how well structured my previous employer’s methodologies in the various IT disciplines were, and people actually used them and evolved these. To this day I still think these were a good foundation to my career (and some things I did, although years ago as part of my BTEC course come in useful).
Once again the development framework promoted qualifications as part of your personal development – so with this company I completed the next two levels of the ISEB software qualifications – I had coveted the Practitioner level qualification for some time. I also became a certified Scrum Master as the Projects I worked on introduced this methodology into IT. My book collection was also growing, as was my collection of articles, and I’d also attended a couple of BCS SIGIST conferences by now, giving me a broader appreciation of the wider testing world.
Having come through another recession that affected the Financial and Banking industries, it was time to find a different industry and a more secure job; it was also a conscious decision to move into a different industry to broaden my Testing / IT exposure, plus continue trying to moving up the career ladder further.
After a couple of years and another professional qualification, this time in a different project methodology (APM), my role was made redundant. By now with the level of experience I had, having a degree had become inconsequential.
The new step in my career took me in a direction I never thought I’d follow, but it can be exciting to try different things – My new employer was a consultancy. I’d already had an introduction to them whilst at my previous employer. So again, work experience, my abilities and skills, backed with professional qualification secured my role. (My book collection is slowing, but my browser favourites had grown).
This brings us up to the current day – still gaining different experiences and discovering different roles I could choose to move into in future, whilst having internal or professional qualification available to me.
I really don’t feel it is not essential that I have a degree – there are other qualities and attributes that are important for a person to deliver in their chosen role and career. If you have an interest (some people a passion) rather than just a job, find an employer at the time you are happy working for, you can be successful.