Ben R.

Multi-team coach & facilitator in IT (SAFe RTE)
Happy to mentor
Happy to be contacted

About me

Ben R.
Economics and Related Studies
United Kingdom

My employment

Multi-team coach & facilitator in IT (SAFe RTE)
United Kingdom
Finance and consultancy
Large business (250+ employees)

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A day in the life of a Multi-team coach & facilitator in IT (SAFe RTE) in the United Kingdom

My key responsibilities are running events and creating management information relating to the planning and delivery of the work that we do as a group. These help us guide our teams to work together towards the right set of goals.

Briefly describe the organisation you work for

Schroders is a global investment manager; at its simplest level we invest our clients' money in long-term ways that meet their requirements and we earn commission for doing so.

What do you do?

As a Release Train Engineer it's my job to make sure that my 'Agile Release Train' of ~70 people within IT are delivering the right technical solutions for the business area that we work with (which is our Distribution department). It's technically a middle-manager kind of job, although nobody directly reports to me.

My key responsibilities are running events and creating management information relating to the planning and delivery of the work that we do as a group. These help us guide our teams to work together towards the right set of goals. I also coach teams and individuals in best practices in things that are useful to them in developing software.

Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?

I applied quite widely for jobs across accountancy, consultancy and IT graduate schemes, as all seemed to appeal for generally similar reasons. Overall, I was mostly looking for the opportunity to learn valuable skills and leverage them to rise up the ranks into management-style positions. My search was mainly focused around London, near where I grew up, due to increased availability and salary scales for the kinds of roles I was looking at. I mostly used York's own job listings site and the fact that it generally listed expected salary figures was a real bonus.

In the end, I felt very lucky to have been offered a role at Schroders after an on-site assessment where I had two interviews and a written competency test. These days the competency test is online and there's a short video interview stage before being invited on-site. I withdrew from other applications after I was accepted by Schroders, so I didn't go past an initial on-site interview with anybody else.

Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?

Given that I was targeting well-valued skills and roles, I'm not at all surprised to have remained in the financial sector.

Describe your most memorable day at work

For most memorable, it would be hard to look past the day when I was in an IT support function (Service Management) when we had a major systems outage and thousands of people were unable to work, due to an issue in one of our offsite datacentres. Dozens of us temporarily holed up in a meeting room, trying to diagnose and fix what was going on, tracking what was and wasn't available and trying to keep thousands of people up-to-date with how the situation was progressing.

Perhaps miraculously, we got everything resolved and I even left the office at exactly 5pm that day. I didn't get even woken up in the middle of the night with any follow-up issues, which is more than can be said for many other of my nights whilst I was on-call in Service Management!

What’s your work environment and culture like?

I generally commute to our central London office from the suburbs by bike or train and there are definitely some old-fashioned aspects of working in most of the finance sector, for which Schroders is no outlier. It's only in the last few years that it's become the norm for men to not wear a tie in the office, for example, and you simply don't see anyone in jeans. Most people's days are still generally tied around the concept of a 5-day week at least 9-to-5 in the office, though there are signs of increasing flexibility now and we responded to the Covid-19 situation admirably.

Schroders' work / life balance acknowledges that its resources are human beings - I feel there's far less of a sense of 'presenteeism' than you hear about from people at other top firms. My own sense of balance is improved immeasurably by the fact that I have agreed a flexible working pattern so that I work 4-day weeks 90% of the time, which was really easy to arrange and agree.

I am involved in our Gender Equality Network and socially I've done all sorts of activities with colleagues, from standard fare like drinks in trendy bars and games of football to perhaps more surprising work events like pasta making, art exhibitions, darts and broomball (which is basically like ice hockey without skates, with a ball instead of a puck and a broom instead of a hockey stick). People in the office are very proud of our in-house gym and food offerings as well.

Average tenure at Schroders is pretty long and when people leave, there's a pretty good chance that they'll come back some day!

What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?

I engaged with the York Award wholeheartedly; I had heard that one should aim to get a first academically, or to get a 2:1 and a really strong host of extra-curricular activities. The latter sounded like much more fun, so I launched myself into that. Of course, I don't encourage you to lower your aims to meet my own if you're targeting that first!

I took as many of the York Award formal courses as I could, I held down three part-time jobs (a couple of which were only a few hours every other week), volunteered with local schoolchildren in sport and went to the Edinburgh Fringe every summer with the comedy society. Speaking of which, go and see The Shambles, they're probably still great! I also helped set up a college football league for Thirds teams and started and ran what was a reasonably ragtag Alcuin Thirds football team - if you ever come against them now, please feel free to have a bad game that day!

Across these, I particularly practiced and demonstrated leadership abilities, juggling multiple commitments and developing a wide range of complementary skills and areas of knowledge, such as public speaking, planning and networking.

What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?

My personal advice would be to look to develop valuable skills, one of which should be the ability to quickly acquire further valuable skills. I have found great pleasure through getting very good at things and applying those skills to my work, even though the field of my work itself is not one of my passions in day-to-day life.

There are two things I'd tell my own just-about-to-graduate self:

Firstly, nobody else will take responsibility for managing your career or finding your next role. If you really want something (or at least think that you want it; in retrospect I think I'm glad that I failed at attempting to become a Project Manager), you will need to make explicit steps towards it on your own behalf. Find out how people get into doing that job that you think you want, find out who is hiring for those kinds of jobs, even if only internally within your own firm, and get into their network. That's the only way that they'll think of you if and when the right role comes up.

Secondly, you probably don't know enough about what jobs you will or won't enjoy until you try them in some way. When I was first offered an internal move to our software testing team, I felt that it was a step away from what I wanted to do and wasn't happy. But when I did end up following through with that move and really got into high-skill testing practices, I realised how deep a role it was and that it was a fantastic way to learn all about great software development practices. It's also an area where highly-skilled individuals are sadly too rare, and as a result they can be very highly valued.

What topics from students are you happy to answer questions on?

Questions about working in IT; particularly relating to QA / testing, Service Management, and what agile and scrum are beyond buzzwords.

Finance industry terms e.g. how Wealth Management differs from Investment Management, what 'Distribution' actually means in practice, how 'trader' and 'investment analyst' are entirely different roles, both within the investment space.

Gender equality at work, which relates to increased flexible working for men as well as to better representation of women in senior roles and many other complex issues.

Next steps...

If you like the look of Ben’s profile, the next steps are down to you! You can send Ben a message to find out more about their career journey. If you feel you would benefit from more in-depth conversations, ask Ben to be your mentor.

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