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How I got to where I am: from sound engineer to SharePoint

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Kieran Dunlop

I’m a SharePoint Analyst in PDS and I work with departments and teams across Parliament to develop and build SharePoint sites. It’s my job to understand their needs, how the teams work, and develop a SharePoint environment that's right for them.

I don’t have an IT background so you might be wondering how I got here. I’ve written this blog post to explain how someone with a music degree ends up working in IT.

Work experience turned into a job

As a music lover, it was a no-brainer for me when deciding what to study at university. Even though I’m from Scotland, I decided to study in Newcastle as I had fond memories of visiting there as a kid.

Part of my studies involved getting work experience so I ended up volunteering in a local theatre. When I graduated I was offered a job by the same theatre (Northern Stage) and was immediately sent off on a European tour. I worked as a sound engineer for several years and then moved to an events company to take up a role as a project manager.

It felt like a natural progression to move from the sound engineering side of things to project management as I was often the person who had to explain technical things to non-technical people. I did miss working in the music industry, though, so when a new music venue was built, Sage Gateshead, it made sense for me to apply for a job there.

I became the operations manager for “Sing Up”, England’s national singing programme for primary schools. Looking after all the systems and processes for such a significant initiative meant that I got a lot of experience across different business areas like finance, HR, IT, and marketing.

I was with Sing Up for almost 10 years and during that time, it went from a government sponsored programme with lots of partners working together to a self-funded organisation in its own right. Basically, it became a startup.

The IT department was me

This meant that my job changed drastically. I became head of operations and in addition to doing all the things I was doing previously, I needed to transition the programme into an independent company. This included consolidating, merging, and migrating all of the data from the various organisations that had been involved in the running of Sing Up during previous years. This is where the IT part of my career really started.

I had to set up systems that would allow us to migrate and store the data for the new organisation, set up an e-commerce facility, and implement an appropriate CRM system. I decided to do all of this in the cloud, using Office 365, SharePoint, and Salesforce. We didn’t have an IT department (basically I was the IT department….and HR, finance and legal) so I took on this responsibility and it’s what led me to apply for the job I have now.

By this point, I was working in Newcastle and London as we had offices in both places so when a colleague told me that Parliament was looking for a SharePoint Analyst, I was intrigued. I didn’t think I stood a chance of getting such a technical job as I wasn’t an expert in SharePoint or IT. Everything I knew was self-taught.

From sound engineering to IT

Luckily, I did get the job. I’ve been here a year and a half now and initially I felt like I’d been thrown in at the deep end as Parliament is so different to everywhere else that I’ve worked. The size and scale of the parliamentary estate can be confusing at first and when you're meeting with lots of different departments with very specific requirements, there were times where it could feel quite overwhelming.

However, I felt like my background in operations really helped because when I meet teams in Parliament who work in areas such as HR and finance, I have a reasonable understanding of what they do. Knowing the general principles of how they operate and the likely challenges they face has helped me build relationships and has hopefully led to them ending up with a SharePoint solution better tailored to their needs.

Moving from sound engineering to operations to IT means that I’m always learning new things and I know how to adapt to change. Studying music and then working in IT for Parliament doesn’t sound like a natural progression, but for me, it makes total sense when I look back at the experiences that have led me here.

Interested in working at PDS? Find out more about working here

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