When you’re just starting out in a career, or even just thinking about embarking on a particular course of study, it can be hard to see how you’ll eventually reach a place of success.
Rhys Kerrigan, database team service delivery manager at Version 1, tells us about his transition from an Intel FAB facility to database administration, and how he has found success in his career.
What first stirred your interest in a career in tech?
Obviously, growing up in the ‘80s, technology as we now know it was still very new.
Fortunately, the secondary school I attended was very progressive in that area and were early adopters of technology. As part of a significant deal done between the Irish government and Steve Jobs, they managed to secure an Apple IIe for the school.
I got involved early in extra-curricular computer classes, and it gradually progressed to becoming part of the curriculum as an optional subject. In Transition Year, we were introduced to programming and it took off from there for me.
What led you to the role you now have?
After my Leaving Cert, I went on to do a course in electronics and information technology. From there, I was recruited by Intel to work in their computer systems plant, newly set up in Ireland. I trained for a while in the US to work in the FAB plant they were setting up in Leixlip, and also went back to college in the evenings to do a diploma in IT.
I left Intel in 1992, and went to work for a number of companies: Lotus Development as a systems administrator; and Mentec Limited as an implementation engineer, where I first started on the path of becoming a database administrator in Oracle and SQL Server.
I suppose I ‘grew up’ in Mentec and, in some ways, it was similar to Version 1 in that they were an Irish company with a rapidly changing working environment.
From there, I set up a database services company with two other DBAs, which ran for eight years until a merger with two other parties within the IT industry.
Following this, I worked for Full Tilt Poker as a DBA within the online gambling space. This company had some issues, and was famously shut down by the US authorities for illegal business trading reasons. Needless to say, I left there and joined Version 1 in April 2012.
Funnily enough, Full Tilt Poker was purchased by another gambling company and were staging a revival. I was contracted to work for them through Version 1, as they were looking for ex-employees with knowledge of the systems required to begin trading again.
When this project finished, I came back to Version 1 and progressed to the position of team lead in one of the DBA teams, where I am today. This position has evolved somewhat over the years into a service delivery manager role with responsibility for a team of DBAs from junior to senior levels, and associated managed services customers.
What were the biggest surprises or challenges you encountered on your career path?
There are so many to mention, especially when working in IT. It’s such a fast-paced environment that you need to be able to adapt to many situations.
I think the biggest challenge is developing a mindset to be able to deal with the many unknowns there can be. You need to be able to develop instincts to approach the many scenarios which present themselves.
Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?
Not so much one person, but I was lucky enough to work with lots of talented people early in my career, and it’s still an on-going learning experience.
I do remember, however, one particular manager early in my career, who said, “Try not to be overwhelmed. It’s not rocket science”. Fairly simple words, but I’ve always taken the view that, although progressing within IT can be a complex process sometimes, with the fundamentals and the aptitude comes the confidence that you can succeed in any area.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I like working with the different technologies. Although I rarely do any hands on technical work anymore, I need to have a good understanding of the changes and progression within them.
I also enjoy the people side of things, and mentoring within the team – especially with the junior members – guiding team members along their chosen path within the database capability.
My job also requires me to have a strong customer focus and I enjoy the interaction with our many customers across a wide range of industry.
What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?
I would describe myself as sociable, and this is obviously important in my dealings with team members and customers. You also have to work well under pressure and be confident in your abilities.
How did Version 1 support you on your career path?
Version 1 is very supportive in assisting their staff with career development.
The structure is well defined, and you are encouraged to develop your skills and experience within their CPD programme along your chosen career path.
This is aligned with a practice of capabilities which all staff belong to. Whether it be technical, sales or business skills, etc, there are knowledge bases, training tools and mentoring services available. In my case, I am currently taking part in a Community of Practice course, focused on the tools and training I require to be effective as a service delivery manager.
What advice would you give to those considering a career in tech, or just starting out in one?
Work hard on developing the fundamentals of IT, and try to sample the different areas before becoming proficient in one discipline. This will give you a good baseline to work off.
Technology changes so rapidly, it’s also good to keep well informed about the next big thing.
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