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10 minutes with... Steven Johnston

10 minutes with... Steven Johnston

Steven Johnston is a Chief Technical Architect with Novosco, and likes pretending that he’s still a ‘gamer’, he also enjoys travelling in search of authentic foods, particularly from South East Asia.

Question: So Stevie, what do you do at Novosco?

Steven Johnston: Currently fulfilling the role of Chief Technical Architect on the new Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) contract.  Basically what that means is I have ownership of the overall technical solution for the CUH contract that we recently won.  Prior to that I was involved in the bid process.

 Q: What path did you take to this role?

Steven Johnston: I worked my way up inside Novosco over the past eleven and a half years. I went through the technical ranks of Infrastructure Consultant, Senior Infrastructure Consultant, and then Solutions Architect so I've done my fair share of support, project and design work.  I started off focused very heavily on Microsoft infrastructure technologies like Active Directory and Exchange, was involved in migration type work then when virtualisation took off, I moved into datacentre technologies and that really expanded my skillset because I then needed to know about servers, storage, and networking.  I went quite deep into the storage side of things too and then went higher level, to overarching solutions now which encompass all these things and more.

Over the years  I gradually started moving over from doing purely professional services into doing pre-sales where I was specifying the solutions and working on tenders.  It’s been quite the journey.

Q: What got you into the IT industry in the first place? Was that always the ambition?

Steven Johnston: I didn't really know what I wanted to do until after I graduated university.  I studied Physics and was always told a solid subject would be good for me but wasn't exactly sure where it would lead me.  I grew up being really interested in computers though, was always around them throughout my youth and was constantly breaking things in the OS which lead me to learning how to fix it.  I also dabbled with scripting, coding and HTML in my teens.  When I got a taste for what the IT industry was all about in my first support role I just took very strongly to it.  It was a geeky interest for me making it less like a job and more a vocation so I knew I wanted to excel at it.

Q: What does an average work day in the life of Stevie J look like?

Steven Johnston: I don't think there is such a thing.  I spend my time nearly exclusively focused on CUH, and I travel a lot, I moved to Cheshire in England and I do try to work from home when I can because of the long hours travelling.  Wherever I am, I am normally involved in thinking about new solutions or ways to solve challenges which might have come up.  I spend a lot of time in meetings and conference calls discussing solutions and a lot of time investigating and writing them up.  In this industry there's always something new to read about and so every day is a school day.

Q: How have you noticed the sector changing over your decade(+) working in it?

Steven Johnston: From a high-level I have seen how IT systems have become even more interwoven into the fabric of each business.  To give an example of that, in Healthcare where I have spent most of my time over the years, the scale of digitisation is huge now, adoption is everywhere. In general, I think IT is becoming more respected at C level, less viewed as a cost and more seen as a way of providing competitive advantage, represented through better outcomes such as better patient care in hospitals or as profits in for-profit businesses.  I think the requirements of the average IT worker have changed as well, they are expected to have much more of a business understanding, no longer viewed as the IT Crowd-esque basement dwellers! Ha!

Q: What are some of the challenges you face in your role?

Steven Johnston: Having set customer expectations, ensuring a solution makes it from design through to implementation and meets those expectations.  Constant changes in technology mean constant learning and reading, when you approach solutions at a higher level you need to learn to let go and rely on the subject matter experts to feed into you, you cannot possibly learn or know it all, as much as you might want to.  One topical challenge is Intel CPU exploits, after a solution has been put together for a specific need, the overheads in addressing these security issues throw a spanner in the works.  All these things are really satisfying when you get them right though, seeing good customer feedback and delivering a solution with a great team make overcoming the challenges really rewarding.

Q: And what is it that you like about your career?

I like the constant change, it never gets boring, what this means is that there’s more value in being able to continually learn new things than there is in what you already know.  Don't get me wrong, what you know is really important but if you are the type of person who is able to constantly learn then you will do well in this industry.  I also like that I get exposure to large organisations and get the opportunity to really help them out and see projects from idea through to implementation.

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