Gary McAllister, alumnus, MSc Strategic IT ManagementAlumnus Gary McAllister discusses how studying at LSBU boosted his computing skills and helped him build a career in healthcare technology
Gary is the Chief Technology Officer at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust (GSTT), where he is responsible for IT Strategy, Enterprise Architecture and Product Development. With a less than conventional career path, his remarkable success is the result of hard work, continuous professional development and, of course, a passion for healthcare and technology.
Gary found himself at LSBU in his mid-twenties in pursuit of his ‘dream job’. He was finding it hard to break into the financial services sector, and studying at LSBU meant he could bridge that gap. Having been offered a role as a stockbroker shortly after graduating, Gary was swiftly headhunted by GSTT to work on their IT strategy. He’s not looked back since.
“I think mobile-tech, cognitive and machine learning will impact healthcare dramatically,” he says. “Healthcare is still behind the times with regard to the adoption of technology, but this is due to accelerate.”
I envisage a day when the majority of healthcare diagnostics and follow-ups are carried out virtually.
It’s certainly not been a traditional pathway for Gary. When he left school at 16 he secured a job working as an IT service desk engineer at Croydon Hospital, and just 18 months later he entered the ‘.com boom": “Everything in the industry went wild for a few years between 2000 and 2002.”
This gave Gary the opportunity to work abroad and increase his earnings in a short period of time. Things were not about to calm down, however. In fact, before Gary had even turned twenty he was onto his fourth job. The “.com boom” had quickly become a “.com crash”. It was at this time that he went looking for something with more stability, and in 2002 Gary joined King’s College Hospital (KCH).
The power of education
While at KCH, Gary was able to focus on his academic and professional education. In 2010 he achieved a first class BSc in Computing at LSBU: “My dad continually nagged me following the turbulent years in the city that my education was important. 'Experience matters, but you can always fall back on your qualifications when the going gets tough,' he would say. It was tough doing a degree, working and looking after my first son at the same time. My wife, Laura, was so supportive and really looked after our family. I don’t know what I would do without her.”
Gary’s commitment to professional development has been a constant throughout his career. When he was offered the role of Lead Platform Architect at GSTT, Gary asked for support to undertake an MSc in Strategic IT Management, also at LSBU, which he completed in 2015.
Despite his seniority in the organisation, Gary tries to stay hands-on in his role. He often hosts “back to the floor” weeks, when he can write some code or configure servers. Gary sees this as an important way to stay up-to-date with technology and what is happening in the industry.
I stay motivated by knowing that when things are really tough, I am making a difference to the most important factor, the patient.
Forging a career
When it comes to career progression, Gary believes that while qualifications are a major asset, it's experience, determination and the willingness to learn that will get you ahead.
“The primary factor for success in all careers is having the ability to deliver on time, to budget and to a high quality,” he remarks. “Ultimately, if you don’t deliver you won’t be successful.”
His advice to others moving up the ladder is preparation: “Make sure you’ve done as much as you can before you start a new role. My favourite question to ask at an interview is, 'What book would you read about this business if you were starting in this role?' Going the extra mile will always get you noticed. Try and enjoy what you do and don’t be afraid to leave an organisation if you feel it isn’t providing you with the opportunities you need to progress.”
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