Carline James – BSc (Hons) Computing graduate

Current employer: Allianz Insurance Plc.

Current job title: Lead Business Analyst, Claims IT

Current location: Guildford

“Plymouth has a great emphasis on employability and that’s what really attracted me to the University and the course. Everything I did as part of my studies has been transferable to the workplace… The set-up on campus is also great with regards to the facilities: there are plenty of opportunities to meet new people and get involved in the social side through societies.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

I joined Allianz Insurance as part of the 2011 IT graduate intake. This gave me chance to experience roles as a project manager and business analyst. I moved into my permanent role in our retail department in 2012, where I worked as a business analyst on a number of large strategic projects for our motor product – including our online customer journey and aggregator channels. More recently, I have moved to our claims (IT) division as lead business analyst on a large programme of work delivering benefits to our claims customers.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

I always knew that I wanted to work in the technology sector as I see it as a real enabler in today’s society. No two days are the same at Allianz, and that is what I love. Being a business analyst, my work gives me the chance to work with a variety of people in our organisation, including our offshore teams in India. I am currently trying to understand the balance between fulfilling my technical role whilst also progressing as a leader within our organisation, which requires a slightly different skillset.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

Knowing when it’s the right time to move between job opportunities. I have really enjoyed each of the positions I have taken internally and, as a result, have potentially stayed comfortably in some positions before looking for my next opportunity. I did question if I was ready to move to claims, but it’s turned out to be a great decision for my personal development and I am now being stretched and pushed on a daily basis which is keeping me busy and providing a great challenge!

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

In 2012 I travelled to India for two weeks to work on our technical professional development framework with our Indian colleagues. I got to meet three hundred of our staff and present the framework, accredited by the BCS, which recognises individual’s professional capabilities and experience, to them, running workshops and drop-in sessions to answer questions. I also had the chance to explore the backwaters of Kerala on a houseboat trip and indulged in the local delicacies down at the beach on my days off.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?

Something that has taken me a bit of time to get used to is giving constructive feedback in a timely manner. It’s so powerful in the workplace, but all too often people are working at very high levels when sharing feedback to colleagues: so being specific and providing feedback in the moment is an area in which I have been working on. Doing this sooner in my career would have benefitted me and my colleagues.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Don’t be afraid to try a role outside of your typical remit. One of my favourite pieces of advice that I’ve been given at work is this: a role is only a role and you should try and pick up skills whenever and wherever you can during your career. Being a business analyst has a nice mix of technical excellence and people skills that provide different challenges each day; at the same time, though, I get involved in project management, recruitment, and coaching outside of IT.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

Plymouth has a great emphasis on employability and that’s what really attracted me to the University and the course. Everything I did as part of my studies has been transferable to the workplace. Also, having a set of lecturers who support different learning styles means that you are able to try different things with your colleagues on the course. The set-up on campus is also great with regards to the facilities: there are plenty of opportunities to meet new people and get involved in the social side through societies.

Did you undertake a placement during your degree and if so, how did this benefit you?

I took my industrial placement year with Allianz Insurance, so it was great to come back here after completing my degree. The placement helped me to understand what I wanted to do after graduation, put some of my degree into practice, and get some commercial experience. During my final year I found that I was more settled into working nine to five, and this helped with regards to studying and assignments. When applying for jobs it was great to be able to reference real experience, which made those first few interviews a lot easier.  

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

I think the satisfaction of completing my final year project. After four years of hard work, being able to submit that final piece of work made me incredibly proud. I was not the most technical of people on the course, so my piece on a fraud detection for an insurer was a real achievement!

Do you stay in touch with other Plymouth University alumni or lecturers?

I’m in touch with a number of my fellow alumni: quite a few people have moved up to London so are nearby. I’ve sent a few updates to lecturers on LinkedIn and I’m always interested to hear how the Enactus Society (formerly SIFE) is getting on: a great example of social enterprise founded by the Plymouth students.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?

Definitely, there is a great support network, interesting courses available, and a beautiful campus to spend your time on. What could be better? I miss it!

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

Don’t underestimate the power of placement opportunities, internships, and volunteering. The bar for graduate schemes is constantly being raised and these things are becoming key to securing roles.