Employee Spotlight | Furqan Iqbal
Name | Furqan Iqbal
Role | Senior Director Information Systems
Joined | 2021
Academic background | Masters degree in Computation from UMIST
What was your career journey to bit.bio - how did you end up here?
I originally trained as an accountant, completing my undergraduate degree from Manchester University and working for a short while as a Forensic Accountant at a small practice in Manchester city centre. I had a natural flair for analysis but felt I needed more, so took on a Masters degree in Computation from UMIST and moved into Information Technology before the turn of the century.
The millennium bug was the hot topic when I graduated, and we all waited for the anticipated ‘end of the world’ as the calendar dates ticked over into the year 2000. The ‘end of the world’ was the start of my new career, and I joined the then ‘darling of wall street’, Siebel Systems - an American CRM company which took me around the world as a consultant. It was an exciting time for me as I would receive my assignments with a few days’ notice and then it was a blur of airports, taxis, hotels and clients.
After a few years of travelling and configuring Siebel, I joined a large management consultancy (Accenture) and continued my IT career managing larger Siebel implementations and had my first taste of selling software and service. The cultural change from individuality to conformity was an interesting dynamic for me and I transitioned from programming into business analysis and management. After a few years of working with a large number of clients and now armed with a more rounded set of IT skills, I went into business for myself as a contractor.
For the next 16 years, I enjoyed selecting my own contracts which included working for Microsoft in their Marketing department, implementing systems across a variety of banks, working on e-commerce systems with Retail clients, working for the Government in the rollout of Universal Credit and mapping all the processes involved in creating a Veterinary hospital in Scotland. But something was missing. I was fortunate to work with clients where I became part of the furniture but only as far my next contract renewal. My search for being part of a ‘family’ whilst still working in IT brought me to bit.bio. I joined as an IT and Process manager and have had the unique privilege of working with extremely talented colleagues who have welcomed me into an industry that I never expected to find myself in. My varied experience of all things IT have been put to great use at bit.bio and I take pleasure in managing the IT infrastructure with a fantastic team and feeling like I am able to add value on a daily basis.
What would you consider good skills and qualifications for your job? And how do you use them on a day-to-day basis?
Overall appreciation for Information Technology and Services is a must but the attitude and ability to continue learning is essential. Listing all the required skills and qualifications would be a challenge but, having an aptitude for planning, stakeholder management, analysis, team management, project management, negotiation, communication and meeting facilitation comes in useful on a daily basis. We have been working on an increasingly large number of IT product and service procurement projects and my affinity to get a ‘good deal’ has always put my negotiation skills to the test as well as leaning on planning skills to pull together a project plan. IT is a support function, and we deal with people before we deal with technology, so stakeholder management is always put to good use to ensure IT products and services are adopted.
Furqan with his IS Team having fun at an adventure park.
What’s it like to work at bit.bio in your team?
We are a close-knit team who each offer specialist skillsets and come together at a daily stand-up call to talk through what activities were completed from the previous day, what we plan to cover in the coming day and talk through any blockers we have encountered. We are agile in our approach and adopt the use of a KANBAN board to keep abreast of any new work requests that have been received. But we are not all about work and do find the time for team building events which have included outdoor pursuits as well as enjoying the culinary delights that Cambridge has to offer. As we largely work from remote locations around the UK, we try and take a little time out of our day to convene around a digital coffee table to catch up and as such, have an appreciation for each other’s lives outside of work which helps us bond better as a team.
Furqan with his IS Team exploring a new restaurant.
What’s the culture like at bit.bio?
There is a real sense of purpose, innovation and togetherness which is always confirmed when I’m in the office on a Tuesday but there is always a decent splattering of friendliness as well. The passion for learning and improving is ingrained in how we work and materialises in different forums such a series of lunch and learn sessions with frequent guest speakers sharing their insight. Working alongside driven individuals who are constantly pushing the boundaries within science is an inspiring place to be.
Furqan in the bit.bio office space.
What achievement are you most proud of and what are your future goals?
Identifying, planning and executing a plan to bring about a more robust Sample Management System using Benchling has been the highlight of my time at bit.bio. Although Benchling was already in use at the company, the IS team conducted a thorough procurement exercise and then proceeded to deliver extended Benchling modules which collectively would become the sample management system. There was a considerable amount of project planning, stakeholder management, communication planning and everything else that goes with it to get colleagues onboard for the journey. It was my first opportunity to apply a SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) within the company which involved assembling a delivery team, change champions, users and administrators which consisted of cross collaboration between internal teams as well as bringing on board the implementation specialists from Benchling. It was a hard slog, but we came through with a more robust system which had input from all user groups.
Building on this foundation is the next step with eyes firmly on an automation project that aims to link lab hardware with the sample management system to acquire and transfer data with minimal human intervention as we proceed into the next stage of lab automation.
As the company expands, so too must the IS team to ensure we are supporting the growing demands of the organisation. We have some interesting opportunities coming up across the IT space and I look forward to finding talented individuals to join the team.
Furqan and his team spending time outdoors.
What do you do in your spare time?
I am married and a full-time dad of 3 children who take up most of my spare time with ‘help with homework requests’ – (I have asked them to raise a support ticket), shopping trips, requests to eat out, chauffeuring them to karate, swimming etc. as well as the never-ending task of planning the next family holiday. I have attempted to wrestle back some ‘me’ time though and have recently discovered the joy of running (perhaps driven to it by the demands from my kids) and have my eyes on getting ready for a half marathon.