I've been IT director at Brodies for 13 years – but what if I told you I barely used technology until I was in my 20s? Career paths take unexpected turns, as was the case for me.
I thought I was an artsy person and imagined being a writer – a journalist was my initial thought. I achieved reasonable grades and went to university, where I studied German and Philosophy for my BA and then worked as a landscape gardener for a while – it had been my summer job since I was 16 but I only lasted one cold, wet Dublin winter before I decided to use my degree.
I looked for jobs using my German language skills and ended up at an IT company that was a subsidiary of IBM. I helped software distributors in German-speaking countries to identify the right products and then process the orders. Not very exciting, but I was in contact with folk in Austria, Germany and Switzerland all day, got to travel a bit - and it was fun.
It also got me more interested in technology, having hardly used it at all until that point – I got through the whole of university without using a computer, by hand-writing essays and having them typed up!
I did some IT courses on the side, and moved to London in 1998, where I started a job at the bottom rung on an IT helpdesk. I worked for Cap Gemini for a year, doing call centre support for PwC. Keen to obtain a proper qualification in something tech-related, I started a part-time MSc in Business Systems Analysis & Design.
The course was a mixture of business skills and technical, with modules on everything from machine code to designing user interfaces, to analysing user requirements. It was a lot of work, but it really shaped where I went with my career by opening my eyes – not just to the course content, but my fellow students who were from a wide range of backgrounds and working in different sectors and roles.
I then switched to another helpdesk role, this time at Baker McKenzie, my first law firm role. While on the Cap Gemini helpdesk I had taught myself rudimentary programming with the use of books, so in my new role I set up an intranet website for the Baker helpdesk to organise the knowledge within the team.
That brought me to the attention of the applications manager who told me if I learned more about using databases and updated my intranet with it, I could try out as a developer, which I did. I was programming for a couple of years before moving into a business systems analyst role, doing analysis and design, and project managing software projects.
As part of that role I became deeply involved in knowledge management, and ended up using the firm as a case study for my dissertation on how knowledge is managed at law firms.
After that I moved to international law firm Bird & Bird where I managed the applications team for four years, with a major focus on the international roll-out of a document management system, which involved travel to Paris, Milan, Frankfurt, Munich, Stockholm, Brussels and other offices.
By this time my family and I were considering a move out of London when I heard about the Brodies job. I joined in 2007, and here I still am, heading up a team of almost 30.
I was pretty lucky along the way and there were many false starts and twists and turns, but I think it's about grasping any opportunity that arises, to show what you can do.
Work hard, produce high quality work, try to understand and solve problems, put yourself forward and you'll soon get noticed.