What’s it like working for a small business or SME? UoM economics Alumnus Tom tells his story

tomIf you’re debating whether to work for a big corporate or a smaller organisation often called an SME (Small to Medium Size company) Tom has tried it out and has some advice.

So what do you do at the moment Tom?

My current role is Head of IT and Reporting at Click Travel.

Click Travel is a business travel management company based in Birmingham and highly technology oriented, with our own team of in house software engineers and travel experts.

So how did you find this job?

I found this job by chance through monster.com whilst I was job hunting. I started out as a trainee business travel consultant, fresh out of university after graduating. I didn’t specifically look for a job in the business travel industry or IT, it was purely incidental that this role offered a chance to put my skills to use such as customer service, problem solving and working with data which was something I was particularly keen on during university. In fact, I did a data heavy dissertation, requiring some statistical skills which came in handy as my interest in using IT to collect and analyse data grew.

I actually got bored very quickly in this role but this was quickly spotted by my manager who recognised that I had an interest in analytics and working with data. It was then that I was promoted to the company’s Data Analyst. I stayed in this role for 3 years, which was really enjoyable, everyday was different and I always had something to do. I did a lot of self-learning in analytics, namely mysql, tableau and advanced excel to help me grow into the role as I went along.

What are you working on at the moment?

I currently manage the IT team who look after all the business’ internal facing systems; this includes our CRM, data analytics tools and telephone contact centre software – we support 120+ users; some who are at home and some in our Birmingham office.

I am also on the senior leadership team, who work on strategic projects affecting the longer term profitability of the company, something I see as a great achievement for someone my age.

Further to this I am working on launching a new product as the Operations Manager. The product is positioned almost as a start up from within Click and through this I’ve had the opportunity to work with departments across the business, including marketing, sales and software engineering to help them build and design the new product in an emerging online market.

Working for an SME,  I have a variety of “job titles” and responsibilities, I’m not tied to just one area of monotonous work. This might seem confusing to someone who doesn’t know what I do but essentially my role differs from project to project.

What are the highs and lows?

My lowest point was leaving university without anything in place, I applied relentlessly for jobs and was frustrated with the length of time the process can take, with no guarantee of even a response from some of the most highly competitive schemes. This is where SMEs were different – most of them got back to me really quickly. I chose Click Travel out of a handful of SMEs who offered me interviews after I worked this out.

A year or so into my role as data analyst I spotted an opportunity to make a big change to the way in which we report our service levels in the reservations contact centre. I scoped out the change, quickly got approval and set to work learning how to do it – I managed to figure it out and the change I made means we are now ahead of our competition on reporting service levels. Being able to create my own work and deliver it on an important project like that was a high point in my career, it lead to me receiving industry recognition for my work – being identified as one the 30 Under 30 Future Leaders in Travel Trade Gazette magazine.

What training or experience are essential to get in?

It’s hard to say if there was a need for a degree in my job as it ended up being very much tailored to suit my skills, but I found that the knowledge that I gained at university prepared me for the world of work. On top of that, I did a lot of self-directed learning whilst on the job and having the dedication and determination to do that was also something that I picked up while at university (anyone who has ever done a dissertation will know what I mean!)

What about attitude, personality or interests?

I think that working in an SME, it’s vital to have a good work ethic. Everybody has a part to play in order to get the things going but at the same time, there’s the benefit of freedom compared to more corporate industries. There’s room to be creative and the company supports you in continually developing yourself whether that’s through an official training course or if you just need some spare time to experiment, as long as you can justify why you’re doing it and how it can benefit your work!

 What advice would you give someone considering a similar career?

I would say if you are ambitious and want your work to be exciting, definitely look to work for an SME, as that will give you the chance to grow alongside a growing business. It’s going to be hard to judge at first but there are lists, such as the Sunday Times Best 100 Small Companies, which will give you an idea of the standard that you can expect from a genuinely caring company.

There is the perception that bigger companies will give your CV a boost and provide a kickstart to your career, however my personal experience has shown that an SME can provide all of that and more – the promotions that I’ve received at Click Travel have put me well ahead of where I expected to be at this point in my career had I taken a place on a graduate scheme at a large corporation. I now have real responsibility here, making decisions that will affect the long term performance of the company, something that is very difficult to achieve in a larger organisation. The fact that I can keep learning and working with cross-functional teams, keeps my job varied; not only getting to know more people but also understanding what they do.

If anyone is interested at all, I would recommend taking a look at our current graduate scheme on offer. It’s called Click Start  – CareersLink vacancy ID  52369   there’s a variety of career paths within the scheme including, sales, finance, account management and business analysis.

Finally

If you are not sure what to do with your degree, are considering a change of direction or thinking about working for an SME – have a chat with us to see how you can take your first step.

 

All Careers advice Graduate Undergraduate Undergraduate-highlighted

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