Once a month we’ll be catching up with an industry expert to gain insight into what it’s like working in a particular industry.
This month we’ve turned our focus to IT and interviewed Ralph Willgoss, a Cloud Services Engineer for a video game developer located in the United Kingdom. Ralph commenced his career developing large corporate websites that featured Ecommerce and Content Management. Prior to shifting to the video game industry, he worked in financial services developing online banking and trading programs.
His qualifications include:
– Bachelor of Commerce, Computer Programming and Financial Analysis
– Java Developer – Java Developer Course
– Cloudera Certified Hadoop Developer, Hadoop Developer Certification
We chatted to Ralph about this current position, what it’s like to work in software development, and how he got his start in this broad but dynamic industry.
If you’re already in IT, do you have any words of wisdom for students thinking about transitioning into the industry?
Upskilled: What does your job involve?
Ralph: My current job involves writing and enhancing Cloud services and associated infrastructure for an online computer game.
In terms of a typical day, I develop software following a process known as Agile software development. First thing in the morning we have what’s called a stand-up – a meeting where we have a quick overview of what we did yesterday, what we’re going to do today, and if we’re blocked in anyway. Then across a typical day I might write new software features, meet with other teams to design new features, or fix issues that have been reported.
Upskilled: Where did you acquire the knowledge to undertake this role? Was it through tertiary education, or was it through work experience?
Ralph: The knowledge I have at the moment is all stuff I’ve learned on the job, all based on experience I’ve had while working. The study I undertook beforehand provided me with the foundations and concepts.
Upskilled: Could you provide us with a summary of your job history? We’re interested in understanding how you got to where you are today.
Ralph: My first job in IT was when I received a contract to update a company’s website back in the mid-nineties. That’s how I started. I got into that more deeply and started working for a digital agency where we built entire websites – big corporate website creation is probably a good way of describing it. Here I focused on building large scale Ecommerce and Content Managed websites.
Upskilled: IT is broad, it’s complex, and it’s always changing. How do you stay educated in your role? Do you undertake new courses through tertiary education, or do you keep abreast by reading journals, magazines and speaking with people?
Ralph: I do a lot of focused reading. There’s so much coming out everyday – new everything. I focus on the areas in which I work and want to work.
Then I moved into building online banking and trading systems. And now, here I am, in computer gaming.
Upskilled: So do you refer to any specific newsletters or websites?
Ralph: Due to the number of websites and new content released every day, I get sent a daily digest of what’s going on in my specific part of the software ecosystem. That helps me keep an eye out for topics I’m interested in learning more about. Second to that, I listen to podcasts in the area of software development in which I work.
Upskilled: What are the big growth areas for IT?
Ralph: That’s a tough question as there are so many growth areas in IT at the moment. Certainly, Big Data/Data Science and Machine Learning are definitely in a growth phase. Cloud Computing and Cyber Security are other areas growing rapidly too.
Upskilled: Do you find the industry to be cyclical?
Ralph: I’d say it moves with the business cycle, although there have been times when the industry, for example with the dot-com boom, had its own cycle. There could be many other smaller IT cycles within the business cycle.
Upskilled: What is it about software development that makes the job right for you?
Ralph: There’s a certain satisfaction in designing, creating and watching what you have built come to life. It also involves problem solving, a process I enjoy.
Upskilled: What sort of work-life balance have you been able to achieve?
Ralph: Over the years I’ve got used to the nature of project-based work, so everywhere I’ve worked has always provided a good work-life balance. There’s a give and a take. At the beginning of a project, time is very flexible. Towards the end, where things can change for any number of reasons, more work may be required and I know we’ll need to put in more effort to get it over the line.
Upskilled: Finally, what’s the secret to your success in IT?
Ralph: With IT it can be really hard to get your start. If you don’t have existing skills, it’s competitive. The trick is to get skills in an area and that will allow you to break in. That’s one formula. Whether that’s through networking or even teaching yourself. And then you have to make yourself known to employers.
Find out what your preferred employers need. This is where I come back to networking, it could even be cold calling and saying ‘I want to get into this area, what do I need to do?” Sometimes it might appear as a closed shop, but on the other side, it’s a case of trying to find people with the right skill set.
It’s not just software skills; it’s finding people with soft skills. They’re really important. You can be the smartest person in the room, but if you cannot communicate to those around you, your intelligence will not be appreciated or put to good use.
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