Emily Hogarty Business Analyst at EY shares how a career in tech can be for anyone!
From previously studying Biochemistry and Bioinformatics, Emily had every intention of becoming a Cancer Researcher. Her love for data science and analytics led her to join a Tech Consulting Graduate programme at EY where she works today as a Business Analyst.
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You recently spoke at the Women Techmakers event in Belfast about your accidental journey to Intelligent Automation – can you tell us how got into the local tech scene?
As someone relatively new to the tech space, I spoke about my background and shared some learning resources I used when I started working as a Technology Consultant. It was nice to think I made tech seem more accessible and hopefully alleviate others’ imposter syndrome. I never intended on working in Intelligent Automation, which you could probably guess from my talk title: ‘My Accidental Journey to Intelligent Automation’. I studied Biochemistry for four years in Trinity College Dublin, followed by a one-year masters in Bioinformatics at Queen’s University Belfast.
I had intended on becoming a Cancer Researcher, which is what brought me to Queen’s to study Bioinformatics. I looked for PhD opportunities but the more I interviewed for different PhDs, the more I realised the associated lifestyle wasn’t for me although I found Cancer Research incredibly interesting. While studying Bioinformatics, I learned the basics of data science, so I started looking at data analyst roles and that’s when I discovered the Tech Consulting Graduate programme at EY. During my studies, I became quite interested in AI, ML and the general concept of making a computer do work. This must have come across in my interview as I was successful and placed in the Intelligent Automation team!
Did you always know you wanted to work in the IT?
Absolutely not! Until studying Bioinformatics I was a self-diagnosed technophobe! My dad is a Software Developer and I remember seeing the black screen with the green text and thinking he had the worst job in the world. A lot of it was probably down to ignorance – I didn’t have a very robust IT education (beyond making a PowerPoint presentation on my favourite celebrity), and in college I only used my laptop to take notes. COVID-19 hit when I was in 3rd year and in-person lectures never resumed. The only opportunity we had to come in and see other people was during our final year research projects because we had to be in the lab to do work, but those that did computer-based projects had to stay at home.
Between that and watching ‘The IT Crowd’, I thought a life in IT would consist of being socially isolated in a basement. That is until the moment I started studying Bioinformatics and I imagined myself working with my hands in a lab and started to resent the idea of sitting at a computer all day. When I started doing my research project and I was able to do incredibly powerful experiments on my laptop, I truly realised the power of IT. I could produce an entire research article’s worth of work in 3 months, which could take someone else 2-3 years. After that, I fell in love with computational work, but it took a long time to get there!
Do you need a technology background or any specific degree/qualifications to work in your role?
Not at all! As a consultant, soft skills like communication and problem-solving are a lot more important than technical skills. In a way, I think not having a strong IT background helps me relate to my clients better as they also typically don’t have a strong IT background. I can easily bridge the knowledge gap, which is a very important part of being a consultant.
What is a typical day like in your role as a Business Analyst?
My role at EY as a Business Analyst means my job is to understand clients’ needs and form a communication bridge between Intelligent Automation developers and the client. This means I spend a lot of time on calls. Every morning there are stand-up calls within the team, where we share our progress and raise issues. Within the team, I am responsible for managing the backlog of potential processes to automate. We conduct workshops with our clients and teach them about Intelligent Automation, they then propose tasks they do as part of their role that they think are suitable for automation. My job is to then conduct assessments with these clients to get an understanding of their process to determine the feasibility of automation. Depending on the outcome, the process can be automated in a future sprint - I could spend anywhere between 30 minutes to 4 hours a day doing this.
Outside of client work I also help on internal projects which vary and include things like building a reporting dashboard on Power BI; reporting statistics to other teams within Technology Consulting; building a Power Automate flow to manipulate data for downstream reporting. I want to clarify that I am not squeezing all these things into one day! Typically for internal projects, I have a small workload that is delivered every week depending on the requirements. If all my client work is complete, I’ll add a step to the Power Automate flow or create a new visual in the Power BI dashboard. I also use my spare time to volunteer for university career events – I really enjoy talking to students.
What was it like first starting off in your role with very little technical experience compared to where you today?
If I’m completely honest, I had very little knowledge of Intelligent Automation when I first began. When coming into the graduate program, everyone is starting from the bottom. Even if you have a Computer Science degree from the best University in the world, you probably won’t know how to deliver value to your client, unless you have previous experience, which most graduates don’t.
When I first joined EY, I spent my initial few weeks completing my learning modules – at EY, we have a specific learning platform consisting of short learning modules on a variety of topics including technology and business which I found extremely useful. I completed the Intelligent Automation EY Learning Badge and learned about how Automation works, how to deliver Automation to clients and what the role of a Business Analyst is. When I joined my first client project, I had another Business Analyst on my team who I shadowed and learned a lot from. Like any new job, it took me a while to get to grips with the buzzwords and lingo and found that asking lots of questions helped! I still have a lot to learn, but now that I have a better understanding of my role, I can better recognise my own blind spots. If there is something I don’t have experience doing, I can ask my manager to shadow another member of the team while they’re doing it.
I think it’s important when you join a new job/team and while you’re settling in, to keep yourself busy. I completed lots of different training and got hands-on with some internal projects. My onboarding period allowed me to complete training in: Artificial Intelligence, Data Visualisation, and Intelligent Automation. I also obtained developer certifications in Blue Prism and Power Automate, which are both automation platforms. Through learning, I have built my own unique skill set which is important for my development. Although it’s important to have the skills you need, it’s also great to have skills other people don’t have so you can deliver solutions and add value to your team and ultimately the business.
What’s some advice you would give to young girls considering working in the tech space?
Working in technology can seem intimidating from the outside. I wish someone had told me that technology is a lot more accessible (and enjoyable) than it is made out to be. Especially now, there are so many low-code/no-code solutions - you can be a developer without needing to code! There are also less technical roles within technology like project management, or my role as a Business Analyst that requires an understanding of automation tools, but there is no need to do development work. I think it’s very important for people like myself without strong IT backgrounds to share their stories and let others know you can come into tech no matter what your background is; all you need is a willingness to learn.
There are plenty of competent technology consultants with completely different backgrounds. There is something for everyone in technology and you can build the career you want. Using myself as an example, I enjoy development work such as building automation flows, so I look for opportunities to do this through internal projects which gives me the perfect chance to learn and develop my skills.
If you could go back and tell your younger self something, what would it be?
If I could go back and tell my younger self something (although I probably wouldn’t listen), it would be to trust the process. When I was younger, I had a concrete idea in my head of what I wanted my career to be, which meant every rejection felt like the end of the world - I wasn’t flexible at all. When I was in school, I wanted to be a Doctor, and two years in a row I got rejected from medicine and eventually gave up on the idea. I remember how horrible it was because I had imagined a certain life for myself, and I had to completely reinvent this imaginary life. I obviously didn’t learn, because then I decided I wanted to be a Cancer Researcher and did the exact same thing. This tunnel vision approach can be damaging - for several years I thought my only option was to do a PhD and become a Cancer Researcher. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I thought it was my purpose. I would come into the lab on weekends and bank holidays, I would corrupt my computer downloading software to analyse lab results and I completely burnt myself out to please my supervisors in hopes that they would offer me a PhD. I never stopped to think about whether I was enjoying what I was doing!
Fast forward four years and I’m in a career I never envisaged for myself, but now I love what I do and I trust that as long as I keep working hard and do what I enjoy, that is the most important thing.
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