In conversation with Joe Monaghan, BA (Hons) Film and TV alumnus now working in IT

Photograph of Joe Monaghan

Joe Monaghan talks to Carolyn from the Careers and Employability Service about his career path since graduating from the University of Cumbria in 2015. Joe shares his reflections on starting out as a graduate and gives advice on how current graduates should approach career planning and job hunting.

So Joe, why a degree in Film an TV?

Watching films and sitting back with a comedy like Superbad or Team America was one of my favourite past times. I was keen to understand more about how the film industry works, so it seemed a great idea to study Film and TV. The BA Film and TV degree course at the University of Cumbria ticked every box!

The evolution of movie culture held a particular fascination. At the time, Marvel was dominating the cinema. This had decreased the amount of powerhouses you saw on screen like Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Dwayne Johnson, also known as the Rock, was now the powerhouse of Hollywood.

How did you get into IT and what are you doing now?

After graduating, I was searching opportunities and researching different sectors. Agencies were suggesting IT to me which seemed an interesting suggestion.  I had always had a strong passion for technology, having installed Dosbox on a Windows PC as well as my MacBook as a student to play the 90s games like Doom and Quake, so it seemed a good idea. I took a graduate opportunity with Just IT to learn about the basics of IT whilst also working in a pub. It was long hours but I was able to persevere in my spare time, studying over a coffee in Starbucks. As I was a mature student, I knew it wasn’t too late to find myself my dream career. I had strived to move forwards and not backwards. I wanted to build my employment record and transferable skills.

Since January 2017 I have been employed in the IT Sector and I am now working at Thames Water specialising in particular IT systems. This year I gained my ITIL certification (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) and now I’m moving into a new role later this month. I will be specialising in IT Telephony systems

What do you enjoy the most about working in IT?

What I like about IT is you can explore basic stuff in your own time which gives you opportunity. You can partition Windows 7 onto a MacBook or other device. You can be creative. You can turn your PC into a gaming PC, Audio and Video PC, or into a business PC, customising them using affordable hardware.

I enjoy being able to use different platforms. I enjoy using a PC to do work, play games and customise content. Science Fiction with its focus on technology is one of my most idolised genres and Doom one of my top favourite games, so I love the fact my career is building on my interests. Furthermore I enjoy keeping up with the evolution of technology.

What advice would you give to someone who is unsure about their career path?

When choosing your career, think about your abilities and interests and whether they can be transferred to a job role. Be prepared to do plenty of research and consider graduate schemes too, as these can help you identify your skills and enable you to understand how different parts of a business or organisation work. Consider taking further qualifications too. There are many professional and vocational qualifications that are worth considering which could give you a competitive edge and help strengthen your innate abilities. In the IT sector, qualifications such as ITIL Foundation or Cisco CCNA are highly regarded.

Do also network with family and friends who are working in the sector you are drawn to. This will build your network and help you identify your calling in life.

I have learnt that when you finish university, learning never stops. You learn every day and professional development, if you are motivated, continues too. For example, alongside my new job, I will be studying a certification specialising in IT Solutions.

Don’t let Covid 19 become a barrier to your objectives. During the summer, I took my ITIL qualification, while working remotely at home. I didn’t need to visit a test centre, I was able to do this in the comfort of my home.

What advice would you give to graduates about applying for jobs?

When applying, keep a spreadsheet detailing the basics such as names, dates, location, and company. This will help you keep track. Keep all the job details and a copy of your CV and letter so you know what you wrote.

When you are at a job interview, the interviewer will have a copy of your CV and will address with you the content. Think about what will particularly stand out for them. I found that employers were impressed that I had been an IT Rover during Welcome week in 2014. I also volunteered with the Students Union and this also added value to my job applications. Showing an employer your determination and work ethic makes a big difference too.

Initially I was unsure how to respond in interviews, but I got better with practice!