By Andy McKay, General Manager, Converged Communication Solutions
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“No wrong path.” When it comes to education and career choices, I couldn’t agree with this statement more. Let me explain why.
Like most students at secondary school, I daydreamed about having the best job in the world. Although I had no idea what that job would be, it was definitely going to earn me good money and be one I’d love. To achieve this, teachers and my parents frequently reminded me that I would have to work hard to get the exam results needed and I was up for that. What I didn’t count on though was the teacher strikes during the late 80’s which made learning very difficult and disrupted my routine. Don’t get me wrong at the time it was fun having days off and at times it felt like we were never at school.
The end of the strikes coincided with picking my subjects for 3rd Year and there had been an addition to the curriculum, computing. I thought to myself, let’s give that a try, it can’t be as dull as the other subjects. It was the best decision I made during my school years. Computing and technology just made sense to me, and I could see where technology would take us. This was the dream job!
The reality check
Whoops. I didn’t get the results I needed. Oh no, what to do now!? I had heard through a friend about ITeC Aberdeen. It was a Youth Training Scheme focussed on technology. The scheme was perfect as it allowed me to concentrate on one subject which actually held my attention, rather than numerous school subjects which had my younger self bored out of my mind. I left school at 16 and spent the next 2 years learning all things IT and further flaming my enthusiasm for tech. However, once leaving it became apparent that few companies had computers. Yes, they had word processors but not the tech I was looking to work with.
The path to General Manager
Now 18 and with no IT job on the horizon, it was time to get on the employment merry go round. I worked for 12 months as a factory worker for a soft drinks manufacturer eventually working in its office performing admin work. It’s this role that sparked my passion for business and how it worked.
During this time, I was also doing some voluntary work in the care sector which eventually led to becoming a full-time carer. It was a full on, very physical role and I quickly found that I got as much from caring for my patients as they did from my care. The happy go lucky personality and restless brain that had made me less than studious at school was a far greater fit in the nursing sector where I formed meaningful relationships with those I cared for through respect, patience and no small amount of fun. Over the next 9 years I worked my way up to Assistant House Manager. While in this role I created a spreadsheet to aid with administrative work and I was proud when it was adopted throughout the organisation. Recognising that my tech skillset could benefit business processes led to me being offered a secondment as IT Support.
The time in this position gave me the knowledge, confidence and experience to become an IT Manager, a role I went on to perform for several companies over many years. I then did a complete 180 and got my first General Manager role for a property company. IT was still my passion though and working hard, learning from others and not being afraid to take on new challenges allowed me to finally land my dream job. In 2015 I became GM for tech company Converged Communication Solutions, and I’ve never looked back.
“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Another statement I wholeheartedly agree with. I always kept my eyes on the prize even when I didn’t know exactly how that job would look or how much it would pay. Following my passion, taking chances and being open to role changes took me on detours that ultimately led to where I am today. And I firmly believe that the detours were pivotal in shaping my career for the better.
What I have learned
You may not leave education with the grades you want but don’t let that stop you aiming for that dream job. The path may be long and winding but there is a way to get there.
When you get onto the employment merry go round, no matter the role you end up in, my advice is to listen, learn, engage with your peers, and always give 100%. Trust me when I say that you will get noticed and that can lead anywhere!