Matthew Kriek is a PMO analyst within ICAP’s technology team. He graduated from Deakin University with a BSc in Psychology and joined ICAP as an HR assistant in 2014, before switching to technology in September 2015.
How did you end up in a technology job in the financial sector?
I’m a good example of the sort of internal mobility opportunities available at ICAP. I have a background in recruitment and joined ICAP’s HR team in September 2014 shortly after arriving in the UK from Australia. There were a lot of recruitment challenges in the PMO team and during some conversations with the managers I made it clear that I was interested in trends in technology and had a good understanding of project management. I’d built up a good relationship with that team and when a job became available I put myself forward. I’d advise any recent graduate not to assume that your experience defines exactly what opportunities are available to you – you need to put yourself forward for jobs you aspire to if you want to achieve anything.
Why should a technology graduate want to work in the financial sector over another industry?
The best thing is that you get to see the impact of your work across the company. Financial services organisations are underpinned by technology and that technology doesn’t just have to be robust for the day to day, it needs to withstand huge upticks in activity that occur after macroeconomic events. A good example is the Brexit vote – we saw huge increases in client activity and our systems held up well throughout, so you know that your work helped the firm. The other thing is that most financial services organisations are global businesses – this means you get work with a lot of different countries and there are also opportunities overseas.
Describe your job in a nutshell.
We’re focused on delivering a variable project management solution to change management projects across ICAP. This means that I’m focused on creating the right systems to ensure that all technology projects across the firm run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. We have to interact with the technology teams and also the business to understand what both of them need.
What’s your typical day like?
I get into the office around 8.30-9am and the first priority is dealing with any queries that have come in from the Asian operation overnight. After that we have our daily meeting, which is called a scrum, where everyone in the team stands up and outlines what they’re trying to achieve that day. I also have a core set of projects that require me to put some time aside during the day – that can be training people on the tools we’re creating, or working on some financial information we need to include in the project.
It sounds like a cliché, but every day is different – you have lots of different tasks and projects going on at the same time and priorities shift throughout the day. You may go into a day with a clear plan, but things can change. Generally, though, there’s a healthy life balance – it’s rare that you have to work beyond 6pm.
What makes you good at your job?
If you want to work in project management, the first thing you need is to be personable. You speak to anyone and everybody in the organisation and it’s all about cultivating healthy relationships to ensure the project runs smoothly.
PMOs will speak to people who have limited knowledge of technology or the systems we’re trying to use, junior members of staff or perhaps the chief technology officer. You see the full spectrum of colleagues – so you need to connect with people.
You need to be adaptable – situations change, demands on your time will alter depending on how the project is evolving. You need to accept that sometimes you’ll need to free up more time from one piece of work to ensure something else is delivered on time.
And you need to be able to prioritise – you’ve only got so much time in the day, so you’ve got to make some smart decisions that can maximise your output.
What's the best part of your job?
I like to talk to people, and the job allows me to interact with a diverse range of people in the firm.
And the worst?
Occasionally you have to do a task that feels like an infinite repeat – going line by line through a spreadsheet – but I just put my headphones on and plough through.
What advice would you give to a student hoping to emulate your career move?
Don’t assume that because you don’t have a technology background, you can’t get a technology job. The truth is that the most technology teams are made up of a diverse range of backgrounds. Without sounding too cheesy, I’d say know what you want to do and work out how to do it. Don’t limit yourself because of your background.