Robyn Tolley tells Hayley Johnston about his career as a software developer for healthcare providers. He talks about the job’s roles, strengths and weaknesses and how to get involved.

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Jobs24 factfile: software developer

Training

An IT-based qualification, usually at degree level, is fairly essential for this role. You may be able to secure a place on a training scheme if you have a degree or if you have extensive experience in the sector.

A working knowledge of the main programming languages and operating systems is essential as well as skills in creative problem solving, being able to follow technical plans and excellent communication and customer care skills.

Timescale

A foundation degree takes two years while a BSc or BEng will take three years.

Local training

• College of West Anglia 01553 761144/ www.cwa.ac.uk

Offers full-time courses from level 1 to degree level in computing, computer science as well as part-time courses for adults.

• Great Yarmouth College 01493 655261/ www.gyc.ac.uk

Offers full-time level 1-3 in information technology.

• UEA www.uea.ac.uk

Offers a wide range of degrees including computer science, computer systems some with the option of a year in industry and a year abroad.

• University Campus Suffolk 01473 338833/ www.ucs.ac.uk

Foundation Degree in Applied Computing.

• Apprenticeships www.apprenticeships.org.uk

For further information:

• E-Skills UK www.e-skills.com

The Sector Skills Council for business and information technology.

• The National Skills Academy for IT www.itskillsacademy.ac.uk

Created by employers to promote excellence in IT, learning and development. Through the academy you can gain professional recognition and it lists more than 1,000 online courses.

Salary range

Salaries can start in the region of £20,000 and rise to £40,000 with experience.

Belle Jones

The Advice Shop

Why is it a good profession to get into?

Healthcare IT is a varied and stimulating job to have. Healthcare providers are constantly looking at ways to optimise services and technology is a very effective method to cut cost and improve outcomes. I sort of ended up in the job by accident, I was in general IT for years and then specialised in healthcare IT about 15 years ago. My first general IT company had a healthcare division and I decided to join that because it was more interesting.

What are the positives and negatives of the job?

A great positive of what I do is that I work with some great people, which is always nice and good fun. I really like that I am never in the same place for too long. I travel the country and across Europe meeting new people and I engage in many new challenges. I have to say that what I like most where I work is when I win a deal. Of course there are negatives to any jobs, and my least favourite part would be when I write responses to tender documents - I would change that by getting someone else to do it! Another bad side is the bureaucracy that Europe has imposed on procurement.

What type of job is it and what does the work involve?

I work for Clear Course, which produces software for the NHS. This job involves working with NHS hospitals to further our understanding with their work, this we can suggest ways in which to improve the way they treat patients. On my average day I travel to a hospital somewhere in the UK or in Italy or France to speak to doctors, nurses and administration staff. I will talk on the phone to various colleagues and clients, and I will respond to specification documents.

My work is pretty flexible but I approximately work 50-60 hours per week. The reason for this is because I am a freelance consultant. Some of my busy times come around when we are responding for bids. Luckily there are quiet times in the summer months as the people at the NHS take their holidays at summer school times and in Italy they never work in August.

Is there much demand for trained people in this area?

Well, for starters we have vacancies at my company and have plans to expand, so yes indeed, there is local demand. Every hospital has an IT department that has many different roles available. This industry is a growing one, and as a result of the failure of a national contract, a lot of hospitals have to invest in IT to make up for years of under investment. This is where we come in. Healthcare spending is always increasing, so it would suggest that spending on technology in health care will also always be there.

What would employers look for in someone for this job?

A handful of important things to have are imagination, innovation, good literacy, sense of humour and maybe a language. You don’t necessarily have to have degrees; we are not fussed unless they are very relevant, as there are now degrees in healthcare informatics available. We just want smart people who can interact at every level. I don’t have any qualifications – just a lot of experience. I started at a junior level and have worked up over 15 years, and it was fairly easy for me to get the job, and should be for new graduates these days.

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