Advice to new grads from a software engineer
As my first year as an Analyst at PA comes to an end, looking back on a year of different experiences, projects, and colleagues has been a fun experience. Coming from a mix of technical and soft skills, I felt an element of imposter syndrome when I started my first technical role at PA. I wasn’t sure I would be able to perform at a standard high enough to be truly considered a software developer.
Looking back, I’ve been able to reminisce about how I’ve been lucky to work with great teams and do things I really like (software development) and things that challenged me. I feel that I am now poised to give helpful advice.
My main message: “Be ready to try something you weren’t expecting” and here’s why:
Be ready to try something you weren’t expecting
A lot of the senior stakeholders I have spoken to found that some of their best career pivots were a surprise, when they took an avenue that initially didn’t align to their strengths or interests. Many had jobs in entirely different fields before becoming consultants. I can even relate myself, having diverted from architecture to software development in a way that seems almost lucky now, attending a technical course none of my colleagues wanted to attend, I found my interest was piqued.
By having an open attitude to a project, you may spark an interest in an area you had never expected. By having an open attitude you may have conversations with colleagues who direct you down a path you had never considered. Worst case scenario, you’ll have narrowed down something you don’t like and will be able to avoid that in the future.
Come ready to learn
When I joined PA, as part of our analyst training we completed a course called the “Networking Masterclass”. This coupled with many coffee chats with senior PA consultants quickly taught me that we should focus on developing our skills, enthusiasm, and a willingness to learn as a key part of being an analyst.
It would be hard for me to believe that there is any analyst that hasn’t been thrown into an assignment that was outside of their initial area of interest. However, people can tell if you want to be somewhere and if you’re invested or not. The analysts I knew that were in those positions and went on to procure new work, were those who put their best foot forward regardless.
Realistically, we will all have projects we don’t prefer; however, your performance will decide whether your old teammates reach out to you in the future with potentially more interesting roles. It’s key to always do your best as your reputation will always precede you.
Build a Support Network
For many, the transition from university-life to work-life can be difficult. Going from dictating your own life almost entirely, to being given more structured working hours, a faster-paced working environment, and potentially more responsibility isn’t easy.
However, having people around you that have your back will help make the transition a lot easier. PA gives you a head start at constructing a supportive ecosystem by providing buddies and supportive line managers. I wholeheartedly recommend leaning on your buddies, who typically have gone through being an analyst at PA, to ask any questions and help build your network. Then you can surround yourself with people who will offer help with project work, get you involved in the PA Communities (WiT, RISE and the Women’s Network for example) and who can become lifelong friends.
Prioritise Work-Life balance
Work-life balance isn’t just a buzzword. Taking that lunchtime walk or that coffee break can help you relax and make you even more productive. Taking a step back from work can open your eyes to mistakes that you miss when you’re in the middle of it all. Another tip to balance life and work is to take on one extracurricular activity and give it your absolute best. It can be extremely tempting to get involved in all of the communities here at PA, however if you start with one you can see how much you are able to take on without over-promising.
Ask for help but try to troubleshoot first
When we want to do a job right it can be easy to jump to ask for help at the first sign of a problem, however, taking a reasonable amount of time to try and find a solution can benefit everyone. In my experience, trying to troubleshoot issues yourself will lead to better long-term understanding as you’ll be able to recognise the issue quicker the next time you come across it. It also means senior team members get more time to complete their tasks and shows that you’re a proactive team member.
When you do ask for help, remember that analysts are expected to ask questions and learn. After attending meetings with more senior members of staff who asked questions unabashedly, I learned that we should always be asking questions. The people that I thought knew everything and who I thought would expect me to know everything were quick to admit that they didn’t and were often flattered that I chose to come to them for help. Especially as there’s often a grace period when joining a new project or company when no one expects you to know anything. Take advantage of it! PA is one of the most supportive environments I’ve ever worked in, there will always be someone you can find to help.