Adam Jones is the CTO and MD of Technology at Redington
He talked to us about his career path, and the twists and turns that took him from A to Z.
Picture this… The year is 1998, you walk into a Chinese takeaway and a gangly, long haired teenager is standing there ready to take your order. Ten years later that same teenager has graduated from Exeter and completed a postgraduate certificate in Landscape Archaeology.
Fast forward a further ten years and that teenager is now the MD of ADA, Redington’s software business and the Chief Technology Officer for Redington, a leading investment consultancy which advises on more than half a billion pounds worth of assets.
That teenager was me.
When Exeter asked me to write about my experiences at University, the path I have taken, and how Exeter was part of that journey I had to think pretty hard. Like many other people (more perhaps than you would expect), the steps that long haired, gangly teenager took to become that Managing Director were not always in a straight line.
Throughout my time at Exeter I was working for EDF Energy. My role at that company varied a lot whilst I was there. It covered basic admin tasks, simple financial work and a some operations work. Above all though, the thing that I remember most was spending hours and hours putting little plastic electricity tokens into envelopes and posting them around the country.
“Look at your degree as a foundation, a way of putting together essential and fundamental skills that are going to serve you well throughout your working life.”
By the time I finished my degree, the role at EDF had become more focused on technology and I was running a small project to change some of the infrastructure that EDF used. I realised that I really enjoyed the technology aspect of the job, and it was something I found really interesting. The role required me to be able to think through and solve problems, problems that sometimes I didn’t actually understand in the first instance, but there was an intellectual aspect to the work that I wasn’t used to and it was something that really resonated with me.
I realised that I had to make a choice because I was working a full time job and also doing a part time Masters in Archaeology. Part of me wanted to do a PhD in Archaeology and turn that into a career, but the other part of me wanted to explore this technology career and roll with it. It’s worth noting that this wasn’t an easy decision to make and it took a lot of deliberation, largely because both of them felt like exciting and positive opportunities; something a lot of people will experience when they graduate, or at different points in their careers. As someone who had previously only focused on finding a job, good or bad it was quite a new experience for me.
“I assumed that hiring an Archaeology graduate into a technology role would be challenging for employers. What I actually found was that most employers looked past the subject that I studied, and instead focused on the skills that I had gained within my degree.”
Ultimately, I decided to pursue technology and soon realised that working for an energy company wasn’t the best way of doing that. I applied to every technology company that I could find in the South West. I was in no way picky when applying for these jobs, as I assumed that hiring an Archaeology graduate into a technology role would be challenging for employers. What I actually found was that most employers looked past the subject that I studied, and instead focused on the skills that I had gained within my degree. For example, my ability to research, my ability to communicate, my ability to work with data etc. They also really valued my work experience. Having a number of years of work under my belt was a great enabler to securing my first post University role.
I landed at a company called FNZ who are based in Bristol. They build investment platforms which power the fund and equity trading, that banks insurance companies and wealth managers use. I spent a couple of years at FNZ as a business analyst. The job role was to be an intermediary between the clients and the software development team. The main focus was to translate the requirements that the client has into documents that the software engineers could use to develop the platform.
The job of a business analyst is really interesting as it requires a lot of problem solving but it also requires you to understand different roles around you. For example, what does a client think about this particular piece of functionality? How can you articulate what the client needs to a software developer? How can you get a good enough understanding of the platform so that you aren’t creating unreasonable requests?
This mesh of understanding ultimately contributed to a broader and more reusable skill. Stakeholder management. I started to learn about Stakeholder Management during my time at EDF but also during my time at University, where group work would often be needed and where the ability to influence others and the ability to work together on an outcome becomes important.
After FNZ I went to work for a management consultancy called Altus. At Altus I worked for around 30 different companies across a range of different engagements. All of them were focused in the financial services sector and indeed typically on investments, pensions or general insurance. This again required my skills of stakeholder management but also increasingly required my ability to present information and interpret data to understand the “so what” that sat behind it. The skills I’d learned at University became a key part of this role, and the other thing that I realised was that domain expertise is an incredible enabler for good work and indeed a requirement which shouldn’t be under estimated.
“This accumulation of expertise is something that people pick up throughout their career but equally people often underestimate how transferable this is.”
Knowing how a bank works from the inside, based on experience and based on different projects that you may have worked on allows you to carry out further work at different banks more effectively. This accumulation of expertise is something that people pick up throughout their career but equally people often underestimate how transferable this is. For example knowing how a big bank works puts you in pretty good stead to know how almost any large business operates, they all have the same challenges around technology, operations, client engagement and management.
After Altus, I joined Redington to take up my current role. I have two main jobs. The first is to ensure that our core consultancy becomes increasingly digitised in how we run our business, and also how we deliver our services to clients. The second is to develop our ADA business which sells our core technology platform to other financial services institutions. On a day to day basis this sees me managing a team of more than 50 people across multiple countries. We now currently have more than 60 companies using our ADA software and it models more than half a billion pounds worth of assets. In order to do this role I have to rely on a combination of things I’ve already mentioned. In part it requires the expertise I’ve gathered from working with financial services businesses and understanding their technology and the challenges the industry faces. It also requires a range of softer skills such as stakeholder management, the ability to communicate, the ability to present, and to understand complex strategic initiatives.
So that summarises my job today and how the gangly, long haired teenager got there. This only really leaves me to provide some advice for others as they look forward to their careers.
“One of the big things employers look for in graduates, is the fact that they can learn and that they can demonstrate the application of that learning and securing a really solid grade is it great way of making sure that happens.”
Degrees don’t define your destination
If nothing else, please let me be an example to you that your course does not define who you are and the career that you will embark on. I am also a fine example to show you that once you have taken on a job, it doesn’t mean that you are in that mould or in that profession for life. Instead look at your degree as a foundation, a way of putting together essential and fundamental skills that are going to serve you well throughout your working life.
There is more to University than studying
It’s easy to singularly focus on your studies but so much of the experience that I took from University came from other activities; be it playing in a rock band, travelling and seeing new sights with different people, joining societies and meeting with like-minded people in a way that you just can’t do outside of University, these things are not merely social, they all add to the skill sets that you have.
But the studying does matter
While there is more to life than studying, it’s certainly worth putting in the hours. When I go for a job now does anyone care whether I got a first or a 2:1? No, probably not. Was having a first useful when I went for that first technology job? Almost certainly. One of the big things employers look for in graduates, is the fact that they can learn and that they can demonstrate the application of that learning and securing a really solid grade is it great way of making sure that happens.
Connect with Adam on LinkedIn