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Alumni Stories: Grace Picking

Added: 3rd May 2022 by FDM Group

Before becoming a Senior Project Manager at Microsoft, Grace Picking joined the FDM Graduate Programme to train in Project Management and worked with one of our banking clients, where she would eventually secure a permanent position. Read her inspiring journey and learn what it's like to be an FDM Consultant.

What was your background before you joined FDM?

Physics with Astrophysics BSc Hons University of York & work experience in the live events and hospitality industry.

What stream did you train in?

I trained in Project Management Office, which, at the time, included a foundation in Unix, SQL, VBA and professional skills. As part of the PMO stream I completed Prince2 foundation and BCS Foundation Certificate in Business Analysis in addition to training in public speaking, financial tracking and Agile.

Tell us about your experience during your placement on client site.

I started on site as a Project Support Officer on a large IT transformation programme. My main objective was to manage the finances for the programme, including the end of month processes. This programme had an overall budget of just under £3M for 2013 and it was very exciting to help manage such a large portfolio! I also managed several other items for the programme including the collation of weekly reports for the Project Management Team and full coordination for Technology Steering.

As this programme came to a close, I was offered the opportunity to move into Release Management to strengthen my technical knowledge and stakeholder management skills. My role within Release Management required me to support all pillars of the Implementation tower and other IT or business colleagues to ensure the successful implementation of a project or group of small change projects.

In addition, I played the lead role in larger scale IT changes and managed these independently to agreed budgets and timescales in accordance with the business requirements. This involved the management of service transition, testing requirements and early identification of project elements that impact areas of implementation and taking appropriate action.

What accomplishments are you most proud of from your time with FDM?

Aside from all the technical and professional skills, I think my proudest accomplishment was actually realising that I want to work in tech, which is something I had never considered before getting the support and expertise through FDM and the client. In April 2015 I was awarded FDM European Consultant of the Month on recommendation from my peers and senior leaders on client site.

When I left FDM I took on a full-time role with the client as a Senior Analyst in the Release Management Team. I continued as implementation lead for the Workspace Transformation Programme which included updating the company’s end of life hardware and software from Windows XP to Windows 8.1. In addition, I implemented large infrastructure upgrades such as Active Directory and the migration of several heritage systems onto one modern solution.

What is your current role?

As a ‘Get to Production’ Senior Program Manager at Microsoft, I am part of the Identity and Network Access Management engineering group working to deliver products and experiences that customers use and love. In my role I strive to ensure customer success, turning data into insight that drives product investment, driving team culture and promoting a growth mindset whilst rallying the team and our customers around a point of view.

I work closely with a selection of large and complex customers to help maximise the value of their investments in Azure AD. These deep engagements help our customers significantly decrease the ‘time to deployment’ of new features of Azure AD while increasing the ease of deployment.

How would you compare what you were originally interested in career-wise with where you are now?

Although I still use core project management skills, my interests have completely changed, and I never thought I would end up at Microsoft working with our largest customers to actually build products! FDM has given me exposure to all the opportunities available for working in technology in a way that I thought wasn’t possible. Before FDM, I thought working in tech involved having my head stuck in code or living in a room of servers… I mean, I have done a bit of each, but that was by choice!

What is something that you have learnt later in your career that you wish someone had told you when you first started?

You can’t know it all, failure is your friend, and every day is a new learning opportunity.

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