Head of Digital Security John Keegan recently gained Fellowship status with the Chartered Institute for IT, BCS, and he’s already benefiting from being a member of a professional body.

Finding a career in technology

My career plans weren’t properly defined when I left school at 17. I did well, and got a job in an office, doing simple administrative tasks, like writing memos and letters by hand to send to the typists.

When personal computers, running DOS, DisplayWrite 4 and Lotus 123, first appeared, I was interested. I knew I had some skills and wanted to learn more.

John Keegan, wearing a suit and glasses, smiling at the camera.

I took every opportunity I could to learn new skills, advancing from producing management information, numbers and charts, to coding, telecoms, into a position in the information technology (IT) department. I quickly earned a reputation as someone who knew how to use technology.

The road to professional development

I thought about doing a part-time degree but decided to take a different path into IT-professional qualifications and on-the-job training.

The world of digital products and services is fast paced, with new features and technology constantly evolving. I preferred real-world, hands-on experience as the best way to learn.

I was drawn to Novell Networks, SAS, IBM AIX, IBM OS/2, DOS, Windows, Windows NT, and spent hours reading and trying new things. For me, this was a great way to learn.

Becoming a chartered engineer

My first qualifications were with Microsoft, then Cisco, Citrix, IBM, Compaq and ISC2. Those milestones led to me becoming a Chartered Engineer (CEng) with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) in 2009.

That opened the door for me and was a foundation I could build on. Becoming a chartered engineer gave me the opportunity to work with many IT providers and customers, including BT, Eircom, Fujitsu, HMRC, Home Office and DWP.

Progression and professionalisation

When Rich Corbridge, DWP Digital’s Chief Digital and Information Officer (CDIO), started to build stronger alignment with the British Computer Society (BCS), and encouraged teams to become members, I decided to join.

I also decided to go straight for a BCS Fellowship. In the same way that becoming a chartered engineer with the IET was the springboard for my career, I could see how a BCS fellowship could help me progress. It would give me new experiences and allow me to share my knowledge across the profession.

I was awarded Fellowship status earlier this year and have been actively involved in the professional community ever since. I’m now a fully trained BCS Fellowship Assessor, and can assess new applications.

Shaping your career in the right way

My career in technology has led me towards professionalisation through industry-recognised bodies like IET and BCS. Your career is your own to shape, and you must do it in the way that works best for you, but these have been ways for me to develop and share my knowledge further than I would without them.

Working with the recognised body for our industry gives us an additional framework to professionalise and standardise our work, through industry certification and recognition. It also gives us access to a professional network to help us address and explore new challenges in digital and data.

I’m an advocate of professional associations in general, and in DWP we all benefit from funded membership of professional bodies. Whichever one you join, immerse yourself in it, find peers in other organisations and sectors, and you’ll find a rich, rewarding experience.

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