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Demystifying Information Systems (IS)

Vicky Avison explains about her Graduate placement in IS

There’s quite a lot of confusion and misconception surrounding IS as a function and, to be honest, I didn’t really know what IS was, and what kind of roles were available, until I did a summer placement with Centrica in 2012. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t live in a basement and ask people if they’ve tried turning their laptops off and on again. There is so much more to IS than fixing laptops, and such a huge variety of roles on offer that you might be perfect for IS and not even realise it.

So what have I been up to? I’ve just come to the end of my first 8-month placement, which I spent in Digital Development in British Gas. This is the team responsible for the development of our website and mobile apps. I was involved in two main projects. For my first project, along with two other IS grads, I was tasked to develop an internal web application called SparkPlug to promote innovation within IS. The basic premise of the application is that, if an employee has an innovative idea to improve the business, they can put it on SparkPlug for everyone to see, and then others can like it, comment upon it and pledge their time towards helping to get it off the ground (kind of like Kickstarter, only with time rather than money). We were given a huge amount of responsibility, undertaking all of the design, development, testing and deployment ourselves. It’s now up and running, and being used, which is a fantastic feeling.

For my second project, I was an Android developer for the Mobile Energy app. Mobile Energy (ME) is a sub-brand of British Gas aimed at the younger, house-sharing market. On a day to day basis, I shared responsibility with the other Android developers to deliver new functionality and improvements as requested by the business. These tasks ranged from small visual changes and defect fixes to entirely new functionality. Examples of what I developed include a graph to display a customer’s monthly consumption, and a table for their meter read history.

From speaking to a variety of people at careers fairs, I know that there can be a worry that IS at Centrica is too technical, or for some, not technical enough. As you can see, I have a pretty technical role involving lots of programming, because that’s what I enjoy and chose to do. But this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of roles within IS. As a few examples, you could go into User Experience Design, Business Analysis, Solution Architecture, Risk Management, Security Management...the list goes on. The direction you take on the graduate scheme is entirely driven by you; your expertise and your interests. And if you do fancy a technical development role but are worried you don’t have enough technical knowledge/experience, stop worrying! I had some experience in programming in C at university, but knew nothing about Java/Android/Web development, so have had to learn it all since being here. There is ample opportunity to go on courses, take qualifications, and to take time during the day to sit and work through online tutorials. The most important quality needed for all these roles is a desire to learn.