Stephen Church has two IT roles: in his own company, and as a sysadmin (systems administrator) at the Irish Daily Star newspaper. We talked to him about what it’s like working in his particular area of IT, his career to date, and what he studied at school and college.
How would he define those IT roles? “I suppose if businesses were to be bricks I would be cement. I fill any role as needed, anything from rebuilding a server RAID array to fixing an overflow pipe on an air conditioner, to bug-fixing a software package.
“My responsibility is to make sure business runs as smoothly as possible for everyone else while making my skills available as much as possible.”
A typical day
At his own company, Irish Micro Electronic Services, he would generally be answering emails and phone calls in the morning or while driving around on calls for his customers. Then around 3pm he starts his other job, in a development and support role at the Irish Daily Star.
It can involve looking over the status of the newspaper’s many servers and connections, checking for updates or new hardware or software solutions, and solving technical problems.
“The best thing about my job has to be that moment where you come across a problem that nobody else can fix, that perhaps a few engineers have encountered or it’s an unknown problem not documented anywhere, when you fix that problem and know that it’s over, all that hard work and those hours put in have resulted in success.”
A big challenge is the sheer pace of change in IT. “If you don’t take time to keep up to date on what’s happening, you’ll lose out very quickly,” he says.
You need an excellent working knowledge of a variety of systems and how they perform in the real world. Besides being good at problem solving and being able to keep going until the problem is solved, the skills you need for this kind of job include an upbeat attitude, and the ability to communicate effectively with clients who might not be technically minded.
His educational background
Stephen has been entrepreneurial from a young age. He registered his first company when he was only 14, “making small money repairing computers and unlocking mobile phones locally”.
At school he took part in the BT Young Scientist competition in 2006 and 2007 as well as DCU’s CTYI Programme (the Centre for Talented Youth Ireland). Then for his Leaving Cert he took engineering, physics and construction studies, and he taught himself technical graphics.
“These definitely helped me along my career path and let me gain a greater understanding of how our world works and materials and electronics as a whole,” he says. “All these subjects properly geared me for both engineering in college (a BE in Electronics Engineering at NUI Maynooth) and a career in IT. If I had to do it all again, I’d pick exactly the same subjects.”
He says the Leaving Cert is a good foundation to get onto the career ladder. “After that I found that some college experience and a lot of my self-motivated learning has helped me gain experience and move up the career ladder.
What kind of advice would he give to someone thinking about working in this area?
“You definitely have to be an independent thinker. Excellent communication skills and an ability to learn quickly on the job are also a must.” He would recommend trying to get work experience such as a part-time job in a computer repair shop or IT help desk.
“It will give you experience and you can build up your troubleshooting and communication skills to set you up for your career.”
Visit Stephen’s LinkedIn page