National Techies Day 2021 - Q & A with Matthew Pattison, Solution Architect at Welcom Digital
On National Techies Day we caught up with Welcom's solution architect, Matthew Pattison to answer questions about his career path and how to break into the tech industry.
Q. What made you pursue a career in technology?
A. I’ve been programming since I was seven or eight when my parents bought me a brand new Dragon 32 computer in the mid-’80s. However, this was just a hobby and I had no wish to make a job out of it. Through my teens, I wanted to complete and teach martial arts and I was pretty good, getting up to international level. Unfortunately, I had a serious car accident when I was 19 and I needed to get a desk job! So I went to university, got a degree in computing and turned my hobby into a career.
I’m not a natural fit for a desk job, because I’m way too energetic, but the technology side of it fits me perfectly. I get huge satisfaction from solving complex problems. All technical problems are inherently people problems, and both need to be considered when you’re thinking 2, 3 or 4 years into the future of the business.
To pursue a successful career in technology, you also need to continually learn new things. The pace of change in technology is increasing, and there’s always something new to learn. This takes time, and effort but is rewarding from personal and professional perspectives. I love what I do, so the learning is fun!
Q. What is a typical day like in the life of a Solution Architect?
A. A solution architect needs to spin lots of plates at the same time, the role is nothing if not interesting and varied! In a typical day, I’m working on multiple ongoing initiatives at three levels:
Strategically, I spend time with SME’s & stakeholders to determine the future shape of the business and the products. There are a number of preparation initiatives for exciting new capabilities and features that are going to be added to the product. I spend time with SME’s within the business to determine which new features will be added to the products and when they will be implemented. These are both new technologies and product features.
Operationally, I spend time with the implementation teams, ensuring the current initiatives are being implemented in line with the plans. I’m usually part of between 2 & 5 initiatives improving the business by carrying out proof of concepts or adding new technologies. I also spend time with the implementation teams adding new features to our products to ensure they are being created in line with the best technologies and solutions.
At a governance level, I spend time most days reviewing process and technical solutions with my peers to ensure all the solutions fit the architectural roadmap. This ensures that the features being added to the products are fit for purpose and can be easily expanded on in the future. The governance also involves looking through a lot of data and reports to make sure everything is ticking along nicely.
A good solution architect has to be knowledgeable at every level of the business. It’s not unusual to have a meeting about long term target operating models, then jump straight into a low-level conversation about technical solutions. At times it makes my head swim!
Q. What advice would you give to somebody looking to start a career in the tech industry?
A. I have the same piece of advice for any job that you choose. Love what you do. You spent 1/3 of your life at work, about 90,000 hours so choose something you enjoy. The tech industry is an easy place to gain a foothold, as the tools you need are cheap or free and the learning is also free online.
Take the time to immerse yourself in the technology and solve some real-world problems that will benefit you. Always forgetting things? Write yourself a TODO app for your phone. Creating something that benefits you or others around you will drive you to learn the technologies you need and you’ll know if it’s something you want to do. I’m currently trying to program a tiny computer to control a set of water pumps via solar panels. Why? It’s a great way to learn the new IoT technologies and it will water my plants! Even if you want to focus on the business side of technology, this is still the best place to start – a good workman will always understand the tools they work with.
Q. Where do you see the future of the tech industry going?
A. Businesses around the world have woken up the benefits the tech industry can provide, spending a combined approx. $700 billion a year to improve. This has spurred the tech industry on to provide a change in smaller, quicker more centralised features that will benefit businesses quicker. This means the super large applications from the turn of the century are being broken up and the industry is supporting that requirement.
Businesses won’t be looking for a ‘one-size-fits-all’ package, they’ll be looking for smaller tools that do one thing well and can integrate with the rest of their portfolio. This will be a challenge for the older players in the industry who have spent decades building large tools that have lots of capabilities.
However the industry is adaptable, and much effort is going into breaking up systems to provide for the new business requirements. It’s an exciting time to be in the industry!