Man with salt and pepper hair looking straight at camera and smiling against a blurred multicoloured background.
Marc Hanlon. Image: PwC

How to navigate moving between different roles during your career

4 Jun 2019

In today’s working world, you can expect to change roles multiple times and even move between whole sectors. How do you handle these changes gracefully?

Gone are the days of having a job for life. The modern worker is much more mobile. It’s likely that you will not only move between companies with some consistency, but move through entirely different industries during the course of your career.

How do you weather such changes? How do you ensure the skills you have gained can be sufficiently adapted?

Marc Hanlon, a technology consulting senior manager at PwC, discusses how he moved between roles during his career and what sparked his interest in technology from a young age.

What first stirred your interest in a career in technology consulting?

My interest in computers dates back to when I was young. My family got our first computer for Christmas when I was about nine and I was hooked immediately. I spent many of my school years programming, fixing, and upgrading computers, and generally trying to learn as much as I could about technology. Back then it wasn’t nearly as accessible as it is now, so I bought a lot of books and taught myself through trial and error.

When it came to college choices, I did think about doing a course with both business and technology in it but decided I would just focus on technology as that was where my interest lay. College was great for me as it was the first time I was really around people who shared an interest in technology.

What education and/or other jobs led you to the role you now have?

I did a degree in computer science and then a master’s in software engineering. When I finished college, I wanted to work in a company where technology was being used to solve business problems. I looked at a few different roles but technology consultancy fit my personality and I liked the variety of roles that it offered.

I joined PwC straight out of college in 2008 and spent five years doing different roles in Dublin, Belfast and London. I decided to take a break from consulting for a few years so I joined a bank. I worked a few years in the bank, moving around a few roles there as I wanted variety and to get broad experience. I knew when I left PwC that I would go back to consulting at some point, so when I was ready I reached out to my former colleagues and rejoined PwC.

What were the biggest surprises or challenges you encountered on your career path and how did you deal with them?

I was very nervous about changing roles the first time in case I didn’t have the right skills or wasn’t a good fit for the role. As I’ve moved through a few roles since, I’ve realised that a lot of technology roles are related and you can actually move easily between them if you have some transferable skills and are willing to learn and adapt.

Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?

I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of great influencers throughout my career who have each taught me different things.

One of my first managers at PwC was a great team leader. He taught me the importance of building a strong team culture, especially within a large organisation.

I had a manager in the bank who was exceptionally smart and I learned a huge amount about technology from him. He also gave me a lot of confidence in my own opinions and abilities and really pushed me to be myself.

I’ve found all of the partners at PwC very accessible and supportive throughout my career but the partner who hired me has always been a great mentor to me. He was the one who made me realise the importance of managing my career and making conscious decisions about the roles I was doing and the direction I was heading.

I think it’s really important to surround yourself with people who you can learn from and who push you to be the best you can be.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy the variety and the challenges. It’s very clichéd but every day is different in consulting, which suits me very well as I get bored doing the same thing so I like to move between projects and roles.

I enjoy problem-solving and usually our clients have brought us in to help solve some particular challenge that they’re facing, so I get great satisfaction out of helping them.

What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?

I’m very detail-oriented, which I think suits this type of work as clients appreciate the detail that we put into our work. I also think I do better under pressure, so having clients with high expectations and tight deadlines works well for me.

I’m naturally inquisitive and like to understand how things work. I think that’s a big part of being in a technology role as there is constant change, so having good a understanding of how it works really helps in seeing its potential and deploying the right technology.

How did PwC support you on your career path, if at all?

PwC invest a lot in their people and I didn’t really realise this until I left for a while. They have a very structured development plan for each grade, which makes sure everyone has the soft skills they need as they progress through the firm, such as coaching, managing teams, negotiation etc.

I was fortunate to get to go on courses with other PwC offices, which helped me develop my technical skills and build my network.

PwC were also very supportive of my career path even when I chose to leave. They were very understanding of my decision and I kept in touch with the firm throughout the years I didn’t work there. Whenever I changed role or had a challenge, I would reach out to my old colleagues to have a chat with them and they were always willing to speak with me.

What advice would you give to those considering a career in this area, or just starting out in one?

Don’t take your career for granted. You need to actively manage it and make your own decisions about where you want to be and what you want to be doing. Technology is growing rapidly right now so there is great opportunity to work on different things.

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