Name: James Tappenden
Degree and university: Loughborough University with a First Class Meng (Hons) degree in Computer Network & Internet Engineering.
Title: IT&N Graduate, Orange
What do you actually do? Since October 2006 I’ve worked for Orange within the IT & Networks function, which is responsible for designing, delivering, maintaining and improving the systems and infrastructure that drives the business – both for our internal and external customers. My role itself is wide-ranging and varied; over the past eighteen months I’ve worked in the Operational Security, Capacity Planning, Strategic Billing, and Service Management areas. I’ve undertaken a diverse range of tasks and projects within those roles, ranging from protecting our customers from fraudulent phishing attacks, through to delivering significant cost savings by putting forward a business case to remove a redundant monitoring solution.
Why did you decide to go into IT? I’ve always been interested in how things work and how technology can be used to make life simpler and more exciting. I wanted a degree and a job that would allow me to appreciate technology and what it does, but without getting too bogged down in detail, and allowing me to take on responsibility and make decisions.
How did you decide on your university and course? I took on board a lot of information from a huge number of different sources – newspaper league tables, university websites, open days, UCAS and through speaking to older friends and family who I felt could offer advice. There’s always a risk of taking on too much information, but I’d advise looking beyond the course at the university itself, the town or city it’s based in, and what other opportunities it can make available to you in the three or four years you’ll spend there!
Would you undertake more training to further your career? The graduate scheme at Orange has already provided me with an individually tailored scheme of additional development, including courses such as presentation skills, influence and persuasion, finance and project management. I’ve also been involved in two significant projects to aid my development – one helping the National Trust develop a new strategy for young people, and another developing and presenting a business case for a new virtual communications provider. In addition to this, Orange is sponsoring me to study a second degree. I’ve begun studying for an MBA (Master of Business Administration) with the Open University, which is really helping to enhance my wider business acumen and complements my existing technical and analytical skill set well. Finally, I’m also undertaking an ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) Service Management qualification to complement my current role and short-term career aspirations. If you thought learning stopped at University, think again!
What do you like most about what you do and are there any downsides? The variety is great and also my colleagues – there’s generally a really friendly and fun atmosphere in all the offices and that always makes the day fly by! I also really like being able to take on responsibility for significant pieces of work in the roles I’ve had, and the sense of satisfaction I get when I know I’ve done a great job. It’s hard work and sometimes that can mean long hours – in one role I had to communicate with a company in Korea which meant several early starts! Working in any kind of operational area with live systems is also unpredictable and can mean work arriving when you least expect (or want!) it.
What skills do you need to do what you do? It’s really important to be adaptable and not stick too rigidly to one idea. My goals and aspirations have changed wildly over the past couple of years and if I’d stuck to where I thought I was going to be when I left University I wouldn’t be as happy now. What you know is useful, but not as important as how you do things – I’d encourage anyone to think really carefully about how you go about solving a problem as much as you think about the solution itself.
What advice would you give students coming into this sector? Be willing to learn, adapt and to embrace change. It’s such a fast moving sector that you always need to keep an eye on the bigger picture and be willing to adapt, retrain and continuously take on new skills in order to remain up-to-date and an asset to your company.