Garry Carpenter’s interview with Sync NI

  • The Sync NI team caught up with Garry Carpenter, Digital partner at PA Consulting to discuss his journey in the tech sector.

    You have spent almost 30 years working in the technology sector. If we go back to the beginning, what prompted you to take a master’s in computer science on completing your Modern History degree at Queens? 

    As I came to the end of my history degree, as much as I enjoyed the subject, I realised that being a Historian or a History teacher really wasn't something that I aspired to be. A good friend recommended the master’s course at Queen's and I'm obviously very glad I made the choice, given how computing has gone from where it was back in the 80s to where it is now

    After graduating you went on to work with a number of well-known Belfast-based companies then onto global projects delivering large complex solutions including a billing system for Australia’s national telecoms provider. What do you remember most about that time at the start of your career?

    I was very lucky at the start to work for a very small consultancy which gave me exposure to a variety of interesting client technology challenges. Within a couple of years, I took the plunge and started working independently which was a real journey of discovery that brought a lot of opportunity, autonomy, and associated pressures. I was more of an introvert when I was young, so I tried to push myself to not live in my comfort zone. Therefore, when an opportunity arose to move to a role in Australia, while that was incredibly daunting, I just thought it'd be a fantastic experience and a chance to see more of the world. Looking back, I learned a lot about myself as the travel really did broaden my horizons. The key takeaway for me was to be constantly curious, to not be afraid to ask for help, and to realise how beneficial it can be to elicit opinions and support from different perspectives.

    After two decades working in technology focused on analytics, cloud, and digital services, what would you say were the key innovations during this time that have defined how we approach technology today?

    I think it has to be cloud. The introduction of the public cloud and the expansion of API-driven services has created endless possibilities and the flexibility to scale new products at speed for both new start-ups and established organisations. It has created a wealth of new roles and opportunities and really shaped how the industry has evolved over the past twenty years to solve problems using technology at a continually increasing pace.

    One thing I'm really proud of is the role I played in leading a committed Belfast team to drive public cloud adoption in a massive global organisation back in 2012. It took a lot of entrepreneurial effort and energy to gain the support that it was the right answer for the business at the time, as the public cloud was still seen by many as a risky choice. It’s been an amazing journey to see things evolve so quickly since. Roll forward ten years and you can see the wide levels of adoption, the breadth of use cases in business, and how the technology is behind everything in our digital-focused lives today.

    Can technology solve every problem?

    Technology has the ability to help enhance how we solve problems in the hands of people with the right skills. The main challenges today are that there are so many different technology options available, and you need to have the ability and expertise to look at each challenge with a fresh perspective, identifying the right solution for that particular business problem. Technology can help to solve every problem, but it needs the right mindset and approach.

    What inspired you to join PA Consulting?

    If I'm really honest, before I joined, I was very aware of PA as an organisation, but my knowledge was limited. When I first started talking to the PA leadership team, I was quite blown away by the way they approached the discussions and once I started to dig deeper and look under the skin, I was taken by the purpose and culture within PA. The company has gone through a lot of change in the last two to three years and with that change, it's driven a fresh approach to how it views itself and how it communicates. It’s always been very well respected by its clients but as a business, it hasn’t traditionally shouted loudly about its achievements. Everything is driven by our purpose to drive societal impact and change, and I think that's a really powerful purpose for anyone joining an organisation. Since joining I’ve experienced a very collaborative culture where we recognise and share our successes, we trust and empower our people to take on responsibility and work in an entrepreneurial way and most of all, to work, share and learn together. I can safely say I've enjoyed the last year thoroughly. I think it's been a great move for me, and I love the people that I get to work with every day. 

    What areas of PA Consulting’s work are you most excited to get involved with?

    What I love about the organisation is the sense of purpose of what we're trying to do. There is a genuine drive to make an impact on society at large and there are many great examples of where PA is driving efforts to improve the environment and to make life easier for citizens in support of our client’s business objectives. We pride ourselves on our partnering approach and desire to deliver meaningful outcomes which I've seen resonate well with customers.

    PA Consulting has a well-established record for continuous improvement and personal development – how important is this for the business?

    I think it's incredibly important. We want all of our people to succeed, we want them to come in and be comfortable in who they are and to feel that they have the support network around them to achieve their goals and ambitions within the firm. More than that, we want our people to enjoy working here and have a bit of fun along the way. 

    I think most people enjoy working in an environment where everyone's out to succeed, being collaborative, and helping each other. That sort of environment is important for anyone new to an organisation, especially someone starting out in employment. 

    We've got structures in place to enable self-development, support, and mentorship at all levels and the ability to get involved in anything that drives your own personal ambitions. We want our people to share their knowledge and to be entrepreneurial and it's very much that freedom and empowerment in PA which I think is incredibly important.

    Are there opportunities within PA Consulting for people with non-stem backgrounds?

    Absolutely - having gone through the same journey myself. Technology has so many different types of jobs these days and I think you'll find if you can demonstrate how you can apply yourself you will have transferrable skills to bring into technology. We support clients across a whole range of industries and sectors who need support to solve complex business problems. To do this effectively we need diverse thinkers and that in itself opens up opportunities for people from all walks of life and backgrounds. 

    What advice would you give to students considering a career in NI’s technology sector?

    Technology is now a very big part of Northern Ireland. We are very much a tech hub that provides a breadth of opportunities for different skills in the local market. You can develop a long-lasting career locally whether it’s working on cutting-edge medical technology, building software to help people in need, or solving problems for big brands across the UK and globally. It really is a fantastic opportunity. Quite simply I would jump at it if I was a student today. 

    What are the most exciting technological developments you expect to see in the future?

    I would probably argue that there are two things, I think one is clearly around the continued automation of technology, moving away from manual processes to use much more codified solutions. It's not new, but the extent to which that will continue to proliferate will really drive opportunities to simplify, go faster, and remove redundant manual approaches, and will ultimately save money and provide better user experiences for customers. 

    I think the other area is around data sharing. Creating scenarios where organisations start to share data and work together for the greater good could be very powerful. As security continues to improve, previous resistance will hopefully lessen to drive better answers that will benefit customers and citizens alike


    About the author

    Aoife is a Sync NI writer with a previous background working in print, online and broadcast media. She has a keen interest in all things tech related. To connect with Aoife feel free to send her an email or connect on LinkedIn.

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