“The problem solving skills maths gives you are invaluable for most IT related topics.”
Job title: Technical Sales Manager
Organisation: A global IT company
Qualifications: Comp Sci & Physics from Keele University
A Levels: Maths, Computer Science, Economics
Sum up in a paragraph what you do for a living.
My role is twofold. I work in a team designing software solutions for business problems that range from online hotel booking, to reliable banking apps on an iPhone, to simplifying insurance quotes. I also have a management role where I have to effectively use my team, provide clear feedback into product development on what we have heard customers need, support marketing of our products, work with the sales team to develop specific customer projects and also some work on forecasting and various other internal management metrics. Occasionally I get to do some coding for a short-lived internal project.
Why is good grasp of maths useful your job?
Almost everything I do involves numbers, from calculating the estimated business value of one of our proposals to simple pricing work or HR work around salaries and benefits. I wouldn’t say I use particularly complex mathematics in my current role though we have do have deep maths experts in both research and development and customer facing roles around business analytics and optimisation projects such as airline scheduling.
Does the logical way of thinking that maths teaches you help too?
Absolutely. The problem solving skills it gives you are invaluable for most IT related topics, even if it’s just to make a report spreadsheet work more efficiently or reliably.
What path did you take to get into the line of work you are in now?
I intended to be a software developer, but I fell into telephone Technical Support as a graduate for a small software company. From there I became a consultant on those products, then got into the technical side of sales, helping customers understand the benefits of our solutions before buying them. From there I joined a larger company, became a manager in a similar job area, and every couple of years I have moved around a few product areas. All have been varied enough to keep things interesting.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The constant requirement to learn in order to improve. We have to understand a lot about many different industries, both in the private and public sector, as well as knowing our own products which are constantly evolving. That means there’s variety – no two days are the same.
You are a computer science and physics graduate, are there also many maths graduates amongst your colleagues?
Yes. And more so in R&D. I have two close colleagues who have a first and a Ph.D in Maths. We do have a very diverse mix of business related degrees, maths, computer science, psychology and history for example.
What advice would you give to anyone with a mathematical background looking to move into your field?
Don’t waste any of the time available; become as deep an expert as you possibly can. But also get as broad a base as possible; augment and take full advantage of your maths with an understanding of economics, business, politics and (proper) IT. Learn to work in a team and value the contributions of others with different perspectives.