So where did my career start… Well the answer to that was digging a 6 foot deep fish pond in a friend’s garden. Yes, after I graduated from Loughborough University back in 2008 studying Information Management and Computing, I was thrown right into the stagnant graduate market in the middle of the recession. So, I had no real option other than to do whatever I could lay my hands on and this ranged from gardening, labouring, decorating and yes fish pond building.

In between retiling roofs and lifting RSJ’s above my head, I sent off numerous job applications in the banking and IT industry, all with little success. However, little did I realise that my next labouring job would steer me to where I am today, as strange as that sounds.

A good friend of mine wanted an all singing, all dancing Koi pond. It was also my first real harsh lesson in not getting all the facts from the client upfront and poor project estimation. What I thought would be easy digging, I later found out that the plot was on an old tennis court and had 4 foot of hard-core underneath that I needed to dig out by hand! 8 skips later my broken wrist was rewarded by my friend mentioning that her company, Pershing, a clearing and settlement house of the Bank of New York, had an internship program running. To my delight, my application process was successful and I swapped my pick axe, wheel barrow and shovel for a suit and tie and headed into Canary Wharf conducting regression testing for one of their in house products called Nexus.

I must have looked like a tourist on Redbull on my first visit to the Wharf back in 2008.To say I was keen and wide eyed was a bit of an understatement. I’m sure I even found Boots an impressive sight underneath 1 Canada Square. Nevertheless, they must have thought I was alright as I was asked back on a temporary testing contract after my internship had finished. A bit of a relief as I thought I’d be back in the trenches again.

Enter Excelian.

As much as I appreciated my role on the test team, I put out a profile online as well as going for other interviews, to try and nail down a permanent contract. I was later contacted by Excelian who, after a number of interviews, offered me that elusive permanent contract as a Junior Analyst. I had finally made it and out of reach of Bob the Builder and all his chums. J

So my first day at Excelian was interesting….I was told after just a couple of hours that I was to have 6 days of intensive MLC training and then be sent straight out to the client (Murex) in Dublin for 6 months (later became 8 but we all know how these things work out). To be honest, it was a good job I was moved to Dublin, as back then we were all cramped up in 50 Featherstone Street all sharing 1 small room.

My role, along with my 5 man team, was to stabilise the newly developed Murex MLC 1.6 product. It was intensive work on a tight 6 month timescale where we followed their in-house release cycles. They actually dismantled their training room to accommodate us and turned it into a purpose built war room filling every wall with post-it notes. Every defect we found and rose, they put up a post-it note and I’m pretty sure I could have built a full sized replica of the Yellow Brick Road - there were that many.

We hit the 6 month time scale and managed to get the product to a state where it could be pitched to prospective clients. The team was then used as an ongoing managed testing service, where we would use the same manual regression tests during their QL5 release cycles. 2 months after, the team was moved back to London at Excelian’s new shiny office next door at 44 carrying on Murex’s MLC managed testing.

The test manager at the time was a fantastic manager who I learnt a great deal from. He subsequently left to go to other endeavours and I was given the opportunity of taking over running the team. Again, jumping into the unknown, I went for it and was immediately tasked with a full KPI restructure, to then be presented every two months at a Murex steering committee. This I found challenging but an experience I now look back on as invaluable, because this has helped me in other meetings and pre-sales pitches that I have been involved in.

After 4 years of MLC, testing and test management, I felt it was definitely my time to move onto other areas, and the wider world of MX had always been an interest of mine. It took over a year for me to make this change but it tied up nicely with Adam Vile taking over the Capital Markets practice and transitioning it to the Financial Services practice. His new strategy of a cross skilled workforce was exactly what I was wanting to do, as I could see a real benefit of making yourself more marketable by having a wider skill base. This rang home for me some time ago when I was asked to attend one of the staffing meetings. I had no real input at that time but I could clearly observe the way sales, staffing and divisional heads would map a new role to a possible consultant heavily based on their skill set. Senior people in the company, Adam included, explained that there are very few people who actually know Murex front to back at a good level, and those that do are highly regarded and very sought after.

I had a choice; do I stay comfortable and keep progressing to a high level gaining a deep rooted knowledge in one particular field or start again in a new area and widen my knowledge? Both have positives and negatives but I truly felt that by taking a hit and grafting from the beginning of a new area, I will gain so much more in the long term by having cross-skilled experience, another string to my bow.

So I chose to yet again, dive into the unknown and experience the world of back office processing by completing the Murex workflows ETP in March 2014. My current skills however, were not wasted as my time spent running the test team for a number of years put me on familiar ground when being offered the opportunity to become the Murex Paris Client Delivery Manager (CDM). I was very grateful to be given the opportunity to become CDM and took it very seriously, especially as the welfare of 26 consultants is constantly concerning you. At this point I thought I may have bitten off more than I could chew, as anyone who has either done a Murex ETP or worked for Murex Paris will tell you, to bolt on setting up the CDM role and implementing it all at the same time, I must admit I found it a hefty but fantastic challenge.

So where does this leave me now? Well I have now finished my ETP and currently working in the back office processing team where I have been building collateral confirmations, supporting ABN AMRO and now working on the Newedge implementation and soon with LCH. In such a short space of time here, at Murex Paris, I have learnt so much and continue to do so. I have experienced the real benefit of being at Murex and can see my knowledge and experience grow both in a technical product sense and a management/leadership sense. Already I have experienced first-hand how this cross-skilled approach works. After I was extended by my current team, I was asked for an interview for the CDS roles. I asked why they still wanted to see me when I had accepted another role and their response was that I had an unusual profile because I had experience of collateral management from both an MLC and MX BO point of view.

My aim for the future is to continue on with the multi skilled plan and move through the spectrum of back office through to front office. The intention is to develop my skill-set and be able to tackle a wide variety of projects to the point of being able to run, manage and lead them to a very high standard.
Phil Blake