BIS gave Clare McDonnell the right mix of industry relevant business and IT experience

Clare McDonnellClare McDonnell graduated in 2004 and today works as a Senior SAP Project Manager in EMC. 

Why did you do BIS?
For the mix of IT and business – I didn’t have the option to study business subjects in secondary school so was apprehensive about doing an all business course; and while I was interested in IT I didn’t want to do a purely technology focused course. Plus, the potential of doing an internship in the States sounded too good to be true!

What was the best thing you got out of the course?
A few things – BIS has the right mix of industry relevant business and IT modules. I had 4 years to explore both areas and at the end of the degree I had careers options for both. Course modules are updated and changed based on what the industry requires. Because BIS engages with companies, students have the skills and relevant industry knowledge to hit the ground running when entering the work force.

We became, and still are, a very close group through BIS specific lectures and tutorials, group projects, working on individual projects in our own BIS labs which became our home in our 3rd and final years. We had class parties, weekends away, the BIS society, our internship, and BIS ball which were envied by other courses. I am still very close with the friends I’ve made and to this day reach out when we move to other cities or companies. It’s a network for life.

Where did you go on work placement in 3rd year?
I did my 6 month internship in Schering Plough, a pharmaceutical company in New Jersey. Twelve of us lived in Hoboken, across the water from the Manhattan skyline. There I taught myself .Net and programmed in it. It gave me the chance to explore a new language without the pressure of assessments. I quickly found out that not only did I have the ability to code, but that I really enjoyed it. I went on to deliver my final year project in this new language for a business problem they were trying to solve. I learned C# in my BIS masters while tutoring it to 4th BIS students the same year with this new found programming confidence.

The internship offers great Final Year Project ideas and post-BIS job opportunities, as well as the adventure of living abroad and making the most of it for 6 months by traveling to where other classmates were doing their internships.

Where are you now?
I’m in EMC working as an Senior SAP Project Manager

How did you get this job?
There were many interesting jobs along the way that gave me a mix of experience, but not exactly the required experience for a job I applied for in EMC. Thankfully the hiring manager saw my potential and knew that I would be a good fit for EMC and recommended me for another role.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given relating to your career?
“Fake it til you make it”– everyone will face a challenge at some time in their career or several times in their career… go with it, take the plunge, start the work and see how you fare and keep doing that until you know what you are doing. Have confidence in your abilities and people will see that. Smile and the world will smile with you… and listen – you learn more from listening than talking!

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?
I took on a role two levels higher than my role at the time which required moving to Boston for two years, away from friends and family to deliver a companywide project at the end of the design phase. As a project team we worked nights and weekends for an extended period of time. I worked hard to overcome the learning curve of delivering a technology I had a business knowledge of in a different federation company; I listened and took in as much as possible detail as possible during meetings, built up trust within the team by demonstrating the ability to learn about the company, its products and processes, and taking tasks from team members whenever I could so they could concentrate on their work. I built up a network within the company who could then reach out to me for answers and vice versa, who I continue to work with today.

I moved back to Ireland with a promotion, learning how to deal with complex project issues, how to work quickly and effectively, but most importantly being able to prioritise by business value when facing a mountain of work.

Looking back now, is there anything that you would have done differently?
Don’t be afraid to work at figuring out something that you haven’t studied before – for me that was programming, always getting by until I threw myself into it.

Listen in lectures – surprisingly difficult to completely clear your mind and concentrate fully for an hour but when you do, you learn lots by just taking it in!

Study for continuous assessments, those marks all add up.

Organise yourself – it takes about an hour a day to quickly review and organise lecture notes but that work is done when it comes to prepping for exams. Everything after that should be revision.

And finally enjoy your college life – join a society, a new club, take a class you never thought you would – now is the time to try new things and meet new people!

If you had one piece of advice to offer someone considering doing BIS, what would it be?
I didn’t have any business subjects or program as a hobby, and I still went for BIS and enjoyed every minute of it. Every module starts off with the basics, and remember you are not alone, there is a class full of new friends, potential colleagues and a network for life! It’s an adventure waiting to happen so why wait, apply now!

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