Applications / Job market

A career in technology – whatever your degree

Warwick saw the last large careers fair of the Autumn Term, the Engineering and Technology Fair take place on 14th November. Now, you may be thinking as an arts, social science or even non-engineering student that this would have little to offer in the way of career options. I set out to test this premise, to ask a few employers about roles we may not think of as being linked to particular firms and also about developments in their field that could lead to the job roles of the future. Below are the results of my off-the-cuff research.

1. The importance of environment

Olivia Clarke from Toyota Manufacturing UK’s HR department talked about the Manufacturing, Planning, Facilities and Environment Team at Toyota. “We have a large manufacturing facility and a commitment to zero CO2 by 2050. So the Environment Team are focused on making our plant eco-friendly – for example, managing the considerable water drainage from the site, ensuring effective waste management, emission control…..These roles are growing in importance at Toyota and across the sector”. Olivia also mentioned that, Toyota “take on graduates from all sorts of disciplines, of course from engineering, but also business and psychology to support office functions.” The take home message here is like many manufacturing firms, Toyota has many roles for non-scientists.

2. Embedded Consultancy

There are various definitions of consultancy as a career area, one I heard recently is “charging people for expert advice”. A number of firms I spoke to had consultant roles that involved spending extended periods of time with a client organisation, almost being embedded. Matt Thorogood, Consultant at Newton Europe spoke about ‘pre-assessment, on-site assessment and on-site implementatio’ that can involve significant on-site teaching and training of client firm staff to make changes or adapt to a new process – he is on site with his current client until March 2018.

Freddie Fagg (Project Analyst) talked about the approach of ‘Quick Release’ where analysts spend time working with teams in such firms as Ford and JLR to facilitate change management, new methods and structures. They are also now expanding into international markets. The message here is that people skills – delving deep to understand how people see a problem in their business, gaining trust, working with different teams in different organisational cultures are as important as technical skills. While automation may assist in this process, human communication skills (working with people from different national and corporate cultures) are still paramount. And by the way, Quick Release has History and other non-science students working with its automotive clients.

3. The interface between FinTech and Financial Advice

You may have heard about disruptive technology – ideas that fundamentally alter the way people do things, buy things or even think things. The firm WealthWizards is the only financial technology firm in the country that also has regulated financial advice permission. Graham Lee, Head of Architecture at WealthWizards told me, “Our on-line advice resources are designed to help people take control of pensions and retirement planning, regardless of their ability to pay sometimes high fees charged for advice.” So where many may think of working for banks and wealth management firms, this sort of company aiming to bring a professional service to a wider clientele may be a good bet for the future.

4. Data and Algorithms

Of course I could not talk to people about jobs of the future without words such as ‘data’ and ‘algorithms’ creeping into the conversation. Paul Wilson, Head of Engineering at Murphy, a broad spectrum engineering firm, mentioned that much of the infrastructure engineering work in the UK is about maintaining and upgrading existing rail, transport, utilities plant rather than building new structures. “Along with this goes the need for people who can analyse data to understand how things can be maintained in a smart way. There is a lot of data not being used so we need more people who are confident using technology to make sense of this data and put it to good use.”

Fiona Roche, Head of Trader Education at Susquehanna International, a quantitative trading firm, talked about the changes she has seen in her field over her career. “We use high frequency trading strategies in our company – algorithms underpin these strategies. During my time in the firm, ‘high frequency’ has been measured in seconds, then milliseconds, microseconds and now nanoseconds. Despite this evolution we are still fundamentally looking for people who are logical, rational decision makers, excellent problem solvers and who understand the difference between risk and uncertainty. You can develop these skills by studying a range of subjects and activities. So our trading roles are open to a broad range of individuals.”

In Summary:

I set out to uncover some roles and opportunities that students may not have thought of when attending the Engineering and Technology Fair. I think I learned that these companies have some exciting opportunities where people skills, problem solving, values such as the environment, health and well-being at work and of course the ability to make sense of data are valued as much as your technical knowledge. So remember engineering and technology companies are made up of many different functions and have a need for science, social science and arts students alike.

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