Postgraduate profile: Paul Toner

‘Choosing this conversion course allowed me to take many skills from undergraduate level and apply them to my postgraduate study.’
Software development illustration

PRIMARY DEGREE: BSc (Hons) Architecture, Queen’s University, Belfast

POSTGRAD DEGREE: MSc in Software Development, Queen’s University, Belfast

GRADUATE EMPOYMENT: System Monitor in the Credit Department at Citi

It was during my final year of architecture that I began to think about a postgraduate course in the IT sector. I lived with a student from another institution and I would often question him about the content of his IT course. Job opportunities in the construction sector were obviously limited, so I thought I would apply for the MSc in Software Development. After researching the various jobs on offer locally, I could see that most of the architecture roles available on recruitment sites were for systems and software architects not for those working in construction.

Managing the conversion

Throughout my architecture degree I was always required to work at a fast pace - constantly balancing the demanding design and engineering elements. As a result, I found the pace at which I was required to learn new building systems and software technologies during my MSc to be brisk but manageable.

For me, teamwork was a particularly important element of my undergraduate degree. This emphasis on teamwork helped me to understand that being able to work as part of a team is critical to the success of any building project. I now find myself applying this knowledge to software development. I have also been able to transfer other soft skills such as communication on both a professional and non-professional level. Choosing this conversion course has allowed me to take many skills from undergraduate level and apply them to my postgraduate study, while also learning new skills.

Conversion top tips

The MSc course is a demanding and challenging one and therefore you need to be ready to engage both inside and outside of the classroom set up. The course has provided me with many opportunities as I have been given access to new softwares and technologies outside of the course content.

Gaining Expertise

For me, the way in which the course was taught was extremely accessible. The projects that I was given were both challenging and interesting and they provided me with the opportunity to learn about many budding technologies.

I have really enjoyed engaging with other graduates from a non-IT background and my team and I worked well together throughout the year. I have found that was able to make connections that I could never have imagined making had I simply stuck to the architecture route.

Graduate Employment

When I began to think about graduate employment, my first step was to attend a number of careers fairs at Queen’s university. It was there that I came across Citi’s stand and I was able to chat with some of the IT and HR staff who gave me a positive and interesting insight into the company. Additionally, we were addressed by the Director of IT at Citi as part of the industry training module of our course. I was lucky enough to engage with both their staff at the careers fair and their managerial staff as part of the MSc and this helped me to construct my vision of the company, leading me to apply for a role with them.

I started at Citi in July after a trip to their offices in Shanghai as a joint venture between Queen’s and Citi in Belfast. This was to show us how the office in Belfast links up with the teams in China. On arriving home, I started in the Credit department, working on my MSc dissertation project. So far, I have been developing a system in a team to improve system monitoring and I will begin my training in August. This training will last for 12 weeks, and following on from it I will be placed in a relevant department. This will mark the beginning of my career with Citi.

Paul was interviewed for gradireland/postgradireland Directory 2013/14.