Police officer reaps the benefits of switch to IT

Changing career is always a daunting step to take, but when police officer David Norris decided he wanted to enter the world of...

Changing career is always a daunting step to take, but when police officer David Norris decided he wanted to enter the world of IT his bold move paid off, and he is now an IT project manager, writes Nathalie Towner.

As a child Norris had always dreamt of becoming a policeman but as he got older he became drawn to the world of IT. "After my first degree in management and social sciences, I joined the police force in the Isle of Skye in 1997. It was at this time I became aware that IT was really taking off and becoming more and more interesting," he explains.

Once his interest had been kindled Norris applied to do an MSc in business IT systems at Strathclyde Business School and took a year's unpaid leave from the police force. He knew the qualification would be key to creating IT opportunities.

"I was keen to get on and move into an IT management position but I was working in a small police force. Even though there are IT opportunities within the police, it is really hard to move from being uniformed police to an IT role," he says.

After his year off, Norris decided to keep his options open and return to the police force but he soon realised that he was in a dead end as far as pursuing a career in IT was concerned.

So, after nearly five years as a policeman, Norris decided he would start over on a completely different career path. "I was very selective about who I wanted to work for, I knew the company had to be big enough for me to grow," he says.

Although many ITers starting out in the industry complain they cannot get a job because of lack of experience, Norris found that his post-graduate qualification meant he did not have too many problems on the job hunt. "I was familiar with all the big IT companies in the area and applied to EDS as they work on big government projects and I wanted the challenge of implementing these solutions," he says.

EDS recruited him onto their graduate development scheme to become a software developer. "I rejected two other positions because I thought they would be too technical, but I felt that working for EDS would offer me a wider range of opportunities," he explains.

Norris enjoyed the people aspect of being in the police and interacting with the local community, so moving to an office-based role was going to take some getting used to. "It was a really big move for me, taking on a desk job, as I was used to being out and about talking to people," he says. "In a technical role, I found much of my time was spent looking for a solution, it was a very different approach to work."

However, Norris' past life as a policeman was not without its advantages because it taught him how to work well as part of a team and helped him develop strong communication skills. This would influence his career choices within IT.

"Ultimately I was keen to get into project management, I did a module on this as part of my MSc and I wanted to do this job so I could get to see the bigger picture and work more closely with people," he says.

Norris was able to move into project management after 15 months in software development. He now works for EDS as a deputy project manager for the Employment Service on its Jobcentre Plus programme.

Not content with the career change, Norris has persuaded EDS to sponsor him for an MBA with the Open University Business School. He hopes to complete it in 2004. "Over the next two years I hope to get as much project management experience as possible," he explains. "I have no regrets in terms of my career change, my quality of life has improved immensely."

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