Careers Q&A: Software Education's Martyn Jones

Jones talks business analysis, financial mainframes and the importance of curiosity in gaining headway in IT

Software Education managing director and co-founder, Martyn Jones

Software Education managing director and co-founder, Martyn Jones

Like many in the early days of IT, the industry didn’t provide the career of choice for Martyn Jones. However, as he puts it, Jones fell “serendipitously” into technology, and ultimately became a leading voice in education and training for software development in New Zealand. He co-founded the Australian New Zealand Testing Board (ANZTB) with Planit’s Chris Carter for the proliferation of standards qualifications locally, and has garnered a wealth of experience on a range of topics and issues relevant to the development communities of both countries.

Jones talked to Computerworld Australia about ancient mainframes and why business people form a better base for business analytics.

How did you get into IT?

I got into IT in the late 1960s by accident - I was studying an architecture degree and got a bit fed up. I saw a job working for Databank, which in those days was all the trading banks in New Zealand, their common data processing arm. I serendipitously fell into IT and just moved through the ranks there.

It was a wonderful time because back then at the end of the 60s and beginning of the 70s, New Zealand was the leader in computerised banking because of the happy accident that all the banks had combined and set up a common data processing point. That meant bank settlement overnight was occurring back int hose early days.

They were the lucky days where qualifications didn’t count as much as they do now. I went straight into operating IBM mainframes, and ended up in Databank’s main Auckland centre as their head operator in charge of a number of a mainframes and, from there, had a number of jobs like line management and got into my first foray into training as well.

What areas of IT were you particularly interested in throughout your career?

I definitely got interested in the technology. One of the things that’s perhaps a little different back then to now is you really had to understand what was happening at a machine level. You had to understand binary, you had to understand hexidecimal. If you were processing a cheque you had so many milliseconds to execute code between a mica code line being read and a mechanical device selecting a route for that cheque to be sorted to. It was less abstract, more technical and that interested me, and that’s how i got i guess into technical roles and training.

I think it was also an eye opener moving into management, I was assistant manager of a computer centre with 120 people and that’s where I had my baptism by fire in terms of the joys and otherwise of working with groups of people, and that I guess fired an interest for me in terms of the human aspects of computing.

Have you seen any stark differences between Australia and New Zealand in how software development is taught in each country?

I don’t think there’s a huge difference between the two. Software Education operates these days quite extensively in both countries - in fact we do more work in Australia these days than in New Zealand - and we don’t see a huge difference.

Although one thing that’s perhaps a little noticeable at the moment is that there’s a huge interest in Agile in Australia. There’s also an interest in Agile in New Zealand, but I don’t think the country has quite got to the point that Australia’s reached in terms of building momentum in terms of the agile approaches to software developer.

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