In a nutshell, what do you do?
The company provides BSS (Business Support Systems) and OSS (Operational Support Systems) solutions; I work on the BSS.
We tend to work on customizations around the company’s rating and billing product used in the Telco sector, however, we’ve recently diversified into working with utilities companies as well (anything that can be measured and billed).
Typically what we do is look at where the gaps are between what the company’s core product does and what the customer needs it to do. Then we produce custom-made bits of code around those areas to fill in the gaps; This can often be interfaces to external systems. Then we’re usually involved in assisting the customer with testing the overall solution, setting up their live system and supporting it.
Why did you decide to become a Senior Systems Analyst?
I saw a job in I.T. as somewhere you could carve out a long career where there would always be something new to learn as technology evolved.
What path did you take into it?
I worked in an administrative job for three years where I gradually started to make more use of computers. I found that I quite enjoyed playing around with spreadsheets and various other programs so decided to leave my job and go to university where I did a BSc in Computing.
What, in your opinion, is the best bit of being a Senior Systems Analyst?
I work with a bunch of very bright people that I (mostly) get on very well with. I’ve also had the opportunity to work on some interesting projects that have taken me to Hong Kong, Rome and Cape Town, among other places.
Every job has its downsides. What do you think are the worst bits?
Currently the job seems to involve much more travel than I ever intended. A certain amount of travel in the job can add variety but weekly travel and living out of hotel rooms can get very repetitive very quickly.
You also have to be very reactive to client needs/ issues, which can occasionally lead to periods of working very long hours under a large amount of pressure. The job can be stressful at times.
The job is salaried. There is an expectation you will work, at times, considerably longer than your contracted hours with no paid overtime. The hope is you will be rewarded during the annual salary review but this doesn’t always happen. Promotions can be rare in larger organisations.
Is it what you expected when you first started out – and what’s different?
The job is now very different. Places like India, China and Eastern Europe now have a huge resource pool of talented graduates that companies will snap up to fill developer roles at a lower cost. As a result, the job has shifted to require those of us that used to fill those roles to be more client facing so everything has shifted from the coding area (the middle bit of a project lifecycle) to the requirements gather and implementation areas (the start and end bits).
What do the public least understand – or mistake – about what you do?
That working in I.T. usually looks something like computing in the movies; A bunch of eggheads wearing glasses working in dark rooms writing complex algorithms at breakneck speed.
In truth it’s usually a lot more mundane than that. Lots of meetings to gather requirements, lots of writing documentation and if you’re doing database/server side work the programs aren’t always visually stimulating. If you want that you should probably work in the games industry.
What kind of people tend to do well?
The people that seem to do best in the job tend to be organised, methodical and good communicators, both verbally and written. Being numerate is certainly a good thing, but you do not need to be an expert mathematician to work in I.T.
Finally, any advice you’d offer to people looking to get into this line of work?
Try to keep up with changes in technology. Companies don’t always like to spend too much on training these days so you’ll need to do this in your own time, perhaps by picking small projects that interest you such as smartphone app or website development.
Knowing how to knock up a presentation or a good spreadsheet can be more beneficial than being an expert in any programming language when you have to talk face-to-face with a Customer.