Production support: the best career in tech you've never heard about

Production support: the best career in tech you've never heard about

18/08/2020

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Production Support (also called Application Support) is like healthcare for technology. It’s responsible for making sure systems and applications run smoothly by identifying problems and deploying smart solutions.
 
From high frequency trading to nuclear power stations, everything relies on technology. Every year, investment banks work with mthree to recruit graduates into their production support teams. They invest more and more in tech and need dedicated teams to make improvements and keep everything running efficiently and reliably. 
 
However, most graduates have never heard of Production Support as an area to start their careers. What types of career opportunities does it offer? And what does it take to succeed? Keep reading to find out.
 
Today’s banks are actually tech businesses
 
There are two types of banks, Investment and Retail. They offer very different services and they’re used by different clients. Retail banks are used by consumers, like you, to take out loans, get mortgages, and save for the future. Whereas Investment Banks offer capital market and advisory services to organizations. 
 
The rise of FinTech start-ups and a highly competitive market has spurred all banks to make huge investments in technology. In a 2019 Business Insider article, it was reported that J.P Morgan spent $11.9 billion on technology alone.
 
Retail Banking

Through the use of tech, FinTech disruptors like Monzo and Revolut have changed the game by delivering excellent personalized customer experiences through the use of the latest technology. With many of the new players existing online-only, digital banking is no longer just a way to check your balance or make payments, it’s how consumers manage their entire financial life. And customers are now expecting the same level of service from traditional banks. 
 
Investment Banking

Investment banking is a fast-paced industry where the speed of information delivery and data processing is crucial. People often think of investment banks as they’re portrayed in movies; people trading stocks in-person by shouting and hand signals (called open outcry). However, technology has moved trading almost completely online.
 
Technology teams are essential for investment banks to run smoothly. They’re responsible for the maintenance of trading systems, the applications that send data to traders as well as the technology that supports the wider business like HR and finance.
 
What’s it like working in production support?
 
Production support teams fix issues with a business’s systems and applications. The technical lifecycle of an application includes development, user acceptance testing, and production.  Production support teams mainly work in phases 2 and 3 and it is their responsibility to find issues and work with development teams to make improvements. 
 
Production Support Analysts quickly solve problems with the aim of reducing business impact of a technology issue. For banks, the focus is reducing financial and reputational impact, with the latter growing in importance in recent years.
 
Compared to a decade ago, businesses now use multiple banks for different services - if a bank has their reputation negatively affected clients can be quick to leave. This can result in long term revenue loss and could be more damaging than the original incident itself. 
 
Why choose a career in production support?
 
A production support career means constantly tackling new challenges with no two days being the same. Production Support Analysts are excellent problem-solvers and get their sense of achievement from preventing an incident causing major business impact.
 
The top four benefits:
 
- You're on a steep learning curve. The beauty of production support is you learn the technology and the business inside out.
- You meet lots of people. The nature of the job means you’re working with a diverse range of people across different departments all the time. 
- It opens up avenues. If you have good relationships with colleagues you’ll build a positive reputation for yourself throughout the company which can lead to job opportunities.
- It’s unpredictable. Production support is great for those that want every day at work to be different. 
 
What's it like working in production support?
 
Mohammed has worked in production support for over 30 years for businesses like GlaxoSmithKline and IBM. He now trains mthree’s Alumni to be the next generation of Production Support Analysts.
 
“It's a question of attitude really. You have to be open-minded and ready to learn on-the-go. When I used to get a call from a client about software I hadn’t used before, I’d always help them and view it as an opportunity to learn. 
 
Customer service is a crucial skill in production support; you need great communication skills and be comfortable talking to people. My advice for working in production support is to never assume! Don’t assume the customer knows what the real issue is and verify every aspect of the problem.”
 
Su led a production support team of 100 people at Deutsche Bank and has worked in the industry for 13 years. She currently leads the mthree training in North America.
 
“You never know what's going to happen. While production support teams have ongoing projects, you are completely dictated by what happens during the day. You’ll be answering user queries and dealing with production incidents as and when they happen. 
 
An incident could be a quick fix like a user forgetting their password or you could spend the day fixing an entire trading system that’s down. You're in the front line working with people so it helps to be a confident communicator.
 
In your first few weeks (or even months) expect a lot of information coming at you. You’ll learn about the business and the technology that you're supporting. 
 
Listen, learn and document everything. Ask questions so you can understand as much as possible. People can get conditioned to doing things a certain way; a good leader will want to make the most of your fresh perspective and will encourage you to challenge the status quo.” 
 

 
Georgia-Mae is an mthree Alumni and Production Support Analyst for a leading investment bank. 
 
“I provide technical support to applications that are used within the bank. Software Developers create the apps, we then look after them and make sure they work correctly. We’re IT Support, but we’re not fixing keyboards and screens, we’re fixing technical applications so we need to understand both the technology and the business”.
 
 
The future
 
Banks are changing the ways they build and maintain technology by moving towards DevOps methodologies. DevOps (Development + Operations) is where development and production support are merged into one team, with each person working across the whole lifecycle. This has brought some challenges for banks. Segregation of duties is seen as essential for reducing risk and fraud, because it means that no single person is responsible for each stage of the process. 
 
However, from an efficiency and cost analysis perspective, banks know they need to move towards DevOps. But the business case is hard to push. Changing how thousands of people work together and transforming their technology takes time and money. The teams in banks want to bring development and operations closer together, so banks are figuring out how to overcome the regulatory issues - it’s really a matter of who gets there first.
 
What does all this mean for you? 
 
Well, there’s no better area to begin your career. There’s a shortage of technology talent, which means you’ll be in high demand. 
 
Working in production support opens doors and sets you on a path to a long-term, successful, and rewarding career.