The Post: IT Systems Manager & part-time lecturer in Creative & Digital Industries, Belfast Metropolitan College
The Post Holder: Kristian Kinnaird
The ability to bridge the gap between business and technology functions is an essential skill for Kristian Kinnaird’s role as an IT Systems Manager.
Give a brief outline of your career to date.
In 2006, I became an IT technician at Belfast Institute of Further & Higher Education (now known as Belfast Metropolitan College) for North and West Belfast as part of the Springvale Community Outreach Initiative. In 2007, I was promoted to Senior IT Support Officer, managing the day-to-day operations of a busy IT service desk.
Following the merger between Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education (BIFHE) and Castlereagh College, a further promotion presented itself and I found myself in the unchartered area of IT networks. It was here that I served my time working on all things digital and IP-based technology.
I progressed from Network Officer to IT communications Officer in subsequent years and ultimately to IT Systems Manager in March 2016.
In 2008, I applied for a second role within Belfast Met and became a part-time lecturer, teaching Microsoft certifications namely, MCSA (Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate) and CompTIA Network alongside Information & Security certifications.
What was your favourite subject at school?
School seems like every long time ago, but I had an affection for languages and studied both French and Spanish as far as A-Level and still try to practice them as often as possible.
Did you go on to Further/ Higher Education, if so, what did you study?
I moved to Further Education to study part-time where I gained a distinction in Computing at HND level. This enabled me to gain entry to the part-time degree course in Computing & information Systems at Ulster University where I graduated with a first-class BSc Honours. I have also undertaken many industry standard qualifications in IT Networking, Server and Cloud Technologies.
How did you get into your area of work?
Like a lot of IT professionals that lecture on a part-time basis, I built up a technical skill set and engaged with colleagues and peers from a wide and varied multi-disciplinary background. With a fine balance of academia and technical know-how, it felt natural to share my knowledge and skills with others who, just like me, are on a journey to up skill and progress in their careers. There is nothing more rewarding than engaging with learners and leveraging their potential.
Is this what you always wanted to do?
In brief, no. When I was younger, I always thought I would pursue a career in modern languages as a translator but as time went on, I discovered my true calling lay in technology. I really enjoy providing solutions to technical problems. Knowledge sharing through engaging and interacting with learners on my part-time courses just felt like another natural step along the way.
Were there any particular essential qualifications or experience needed for your two roles?
In my IT Systems Manager role, a third level qualification with appropriate experience was a requirement. As a part-time lecturer at Belfast Met, I needed to apply and be accepted on to the Register through a selection process.
What are the main personal skills your job requires?
Technology is great when it works but getting to that point can sometimes be time consuming and challenging, so in my role patience is an essential requirement. Communication is of paramount importance too, so the flow of information to the relevant people is essential.
People skills are very important. The ability to interact with a broad range of professionals and learners means that you need to be able to communicate in an appropriate way so that everyone can understand what you are trying to articulate. The ability to bridge the gap between the business and technology functions is an essential personal skill.
What does a typical day entail?
No two days are ever the same, but they all begin with a coffee – I can’t start the day without one. IT management meetings, liaising with my Belfast Met colleagues, participating in regional projects, attending conferences and training courses, providing a robust IT service to our learners, are all in a day’s work. One thing that is consistent, for my part-time lecturing role I always complete my theory and practical preparation work for the classes I deliver on Sunday and Monday evenings as I can’t afford the time to do so during a working day. I deliver my Microsoft class on a Tuesday and the IT Security class on a Wednesday between 6-9pm. It’s a very packed schedule but a most enjoyable one.
What are the best and most challenging aspects of the Job?
The best aspect of being a part-time lecturer is most definitely satisfaction. That comes in two forms, the first is that my job is really rewarding and the second is being part of the Belfast Met learner journey, seeing my students transition from keen enthusiasts to certified professionals.
The most challenging aspect of my role is best summarised by a John Lydgate quote made famous by Abraham Lincoln: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. Sometimes it is difficult to create a ‘one size fits all’ solution but that’s what keeps me motivated and driven.
Why is what you do important?
It provides our learners and colleagues with the technology and tools they require to carry out their studies and individual roles. My role as a part-time lecturer allows me to pass on these real-life experiences in the classroom, sharing the skills I have acquired to enable our learners to follow their chosen career path in IT. The combined roles promote a positive workplace experience and learner centric environment. I’m proud to be part of Belfast Met providing technological solutions in an educational environment that produce opportunities within our communities and individuals who are ready to lead our city to work.
What advice would you give anyone looking to follow a similar career path?
My advice to anyone would be to just do it! Working with cutting edge technology, and as a part-time Lecturer passing knowledge and skills on to keen and ambitious Belfast Met learners, is a wonderful position to be in. It can be hard work gaining the right skills and qualifications, but it is most rewarding when you see the solutions that you design and implement in operation.
If you weren’t doing this what would you like to do?
Honestly, I could not envisage a career outside IT. If I was forced to choose something else to fill my days, I might consider football punditry. I’m not sure how I would get my foot in the door, but 1 could have fun trying!
What is the one piece of advice you would give to yourself on your first day?
Keep calm and enjoy the challenges that lie ahead.
And finally, what’s the key to any successful job search?
Focus on what you want to do next and what is important to you in your next role. Be structured and remain disciplined in your approach, set yourself clear and achievable goals.