John Wilson

Senior Manager at Clydesdale Bank

Degree Course: Computer Science with Operational Research
Year of Graduation 1978
Paisley College of Technology

Tell us about your time at the University

I chose the University primarily because it was the institution that IBM chose to establish sponsorships with, and I was successful in securing a sponsorship.  That said, I was also impressed at the time at how modern and forward-looking the college was in comparison to Strathclyde or Glasgow Universities, both of whom had made me unconditional offers, as well as Edinburgh and Dundee.  I had many good times and experiences at the college and upon leaving, I walked straight into a job with IBM due to the fact that I had been working in IBM during any down-time from the college, ie; over summer breaks, Easter and Christmas.  I had been responsible for writing key modules for a ground-breaking project in IBM at the time, based on the Fortran language that I had learned at PCT, so it definitely gave me the best possible start to what turned out to be a long and fulfilling career.

Tell us about your experiences since leaving the University

I worked in IBM for over 34 happy years, starting as a programmer, but moving on to be a systems analyst and then into software consultancy, before taking up my first management appointment in 1989. I had several overseas assignments with IBM,  first in Texas for 2 years and later a 3 year assignment based in New York and North Carolina. My management career covered many disciplines, including among others Manufacturing, Engineering, Software Strategy, Customer Fulfilment, Procurement and latterly a Senior Management role as the European Business Controls Manager for IBM’s Strategic Outsource organisation. This job meant a lot of international travel, not just in Europe but in South Africa, Israel and India.   In 2010, IBM UK started to change it’s pension scheme, to the point that if I had stayed then I would have lost a large part of the  entitlement that I had earned.  I decided to leave to protect this, but this came at the point that I was offered a Senior management position in the National Australia Group,  now the Clydesdale Bank, in Glasgow, and I have worked there happily to the present day.

If you could offer one piece of advice or top tip to current students what would it be?

Wear sunscreen  (sorry …. Joke).  My real advice would be to look for any opportunity in the course of their academic career to get a feel for industry and commerce.  The “soft” skills you develop are just as valuable at times as the academic and technical ones.  Also, seek out an experienced mentor.  Everyone needs to make their own decisions and mistakes in life, but it’s always good to hear about someone else’s to help compare and contrast your own approach.

I also think it’s important to know that everyone walks into a new job feeling unsure and with great trepidation, but always remember that we all feel the same and that NOBODY does a job the same way as the previous person.  We’ve all got different talents and attributes to bring to a role, so learn what you can from the last person, but bring your own skills to bear, and MAKE the job yours.

Be authentic. Don’t try and be somebody that you’re not. Everyone has a different personality, and that can’t be changed, but you CAN develop and deploy different behaviours to be used differently in different situations.

What is that drives you on in your professional life?

I still get a real sense of purpose and reward from working, and would like to continue until I no longer enjoy it.  I like to think that I can build and lead successful teams, and this is what gives me the greatest satisfaction and what drives me on.