Name: Fiona Cousley
Degree and university: University of Cambridge, Natural Sciences (mainly Physics)
Job title: Senior Programmer, John Lewis
What do you actually do? At the moment I’m working on a new Distribution Centre project, where my role is to design a new system for making sure enough stock gets to the right places. This involves having meetings and discussions with other members of my team, as well as the main task of writing technical program specifications for other people to work from.
Before that, I supported an existing invoice system. I solved any problems that might occur, made updates to the system, and was the point of contact for the users of the system.
Were you always interested in IT as a career? I wasn’t sure what career I wanted when I was at university and only decided after I had left, travelled for a bit, and temped for a while. I knew I was interested in jobs that involved problem solving, and I knew that John Lewis was a great company to work for, so when I saw the John Lewis IT scheme advertised, it clicked into place that this might be for me.
What do you like most about your job and are there any downsides? The people I work with really make my job; it’s great to work on a big project interacting with a range of people from both the business side and the IT side. It’s a really friendly place to work, and definitely not the geeky, male-dominated environment people might imagine when they think of IT, but I confess I enjoy letting out my inner geek from time to time!
Sometimes I’ve had to be on overnight support and have occasionally been called out in the middle of the night. But getting paid for it, and the satisfaction of solving the problem, more than made up for it.
What strengths do you need to succeed? Good communication skills and being able to think logically are pretty essential in this job and IT in general. Willingness to learn new things and to challenge other people’s assumptions helps too.
What advice would you give graduates wishing to enter this sector? Don’t be put off if you haven’t studied IT, John Lewis takes people who have studied any discipline and there are so many different jobs in IT you’re bound to find something that suits you.