Robotic Process Automation Developer - Angela Thick

Robotic Process Automation Developer at CapGemini
BA Maths and Philosophy, 2017

What does your role involve?

I'm an RPA Developer. RPA stands for Robotic Process Automation. The name is pretty self-explanatory; it basically means automating processes through by using robots, particularly software robots.

RPA is generally the automation of rule based processes like moving data from a spreadsheet and using the data to fill a form, or many forms. Having said this, RPA is shifting towards cognitive RPA and can easily be integrated with AI which is where my role is likely heading.

My job involves learning a variety of platforms that are used for RPA. The main ones are UiPath and Blue Prism but I also need to have some knowledge in things like Java Script. The training involves learning how to use them but also seeing how much you can push the limits of the platforms and what you can achieve. I create demonstrations to show clients which leads to the main part of my job, which is going to clients to automate processes they wish to be automated to save them money and time.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

As cliché as it sounds, the best bit has been that I'm constantly learning. I have built up my skill set very quickly, my job has involved learning SQL, Java, Unix and then of course the RPA specific tools.

One of the nicest things about RPA is after you've built a robot and you're able to press one button and suddenly you've completed a task in seconds that would take hours for a human to do.

What’s most challenging?

I think the most challenging part is that people think that the robots I create will take away jobs. Although RPA definitely has a future linked with AI, I still don't think a robot can replace an entire human being.

At the moment, RPA is being used to automate work that no one really wants to do. It's about automating the jobs that people think "Ugh, I really cannot be bothered" because they're dull and monotonous. So a lot of processes in HR can be automated like data entry, but I'm not sure how much people enjoy data entry. Why? Because it's not fulfilling to copy and paste hundreds of times from one box to another. These jobs tend to also be time consuming and take people away from the parts of their jobs they enjoy like interacting with other human beings. RPA will definitely change what jobs look like in the future, as something that liberates people to be "more human" and "less robotic".

How did your time at Birmingham help prepare you for this role?

I studied Maths and Philosophy at Birmingham and loved it. It's funny, however, most people tend to assume that studying Maths was more beneficial to what I am doing at the moment, and although it helped, I definitely found Philosophy to be much more useful.

In Maths, I studied the volatility of Bitcoin. This really helped me to demonstrate an interest in technology which was vital to show I wanted to go into this industry, which is what employers want to see.

The modules I did in Philosophy were generally around the themes of Logic, Mind and Metaphysics. These areas are all invaluable to what I'm doing now. Logic gave me the ability to break down very complex ideas into simple ones. This is 99% of my job: working out how to achieve an overall goal by breaking it down into the smaller steps necessary to get there. It also gives you a head start in understanding a lot of notation in coding as a bonus. In my final year, I took the Minds Brains and Computers module and I'm pretty sure this secured my job. Without realising, this module had me reflect on the relationship between the mind and computers (and robots, essentially). Before my interview, I'd looked back at an essay I'd written on the Computational theory of the Mind and during the interview, was able to have an interesting discussion with my interviewer (who is now my line manager) about whether the human mind can be recreated as a robot.

What advice would you give to students interested in your industry or role?

To go into Technology, you need to be able to prove you're interested. Read news articles about technology regularly so you know what is happening. You'll be surprised how in-depth your knowledge will become by reading a different article each day. Bloomberg and the Financial Times have great technology news sections.

It sounds very daunting, but networking is the best way to understand what is happening in the industry. I knew I wanted to go into tech in my final year but I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do. I went to loads of open evenings of tech events. I was fortunate that at one, I'd won a mentor who was really encouraging and also helped me understand a lot more about the industry. Take notes of what people say. I went to a conference about women in tech and I'd met really encouraging people who were more than happy to help me. If you take initiative and swallow that fear of awkwardness and go to these kinds of events, people do notice and it demonstrates how much you want to be part of the industry. You might be able to even find a mentor which is even better.

Also, keep an open mind! Technology is changing and you need to be able to adapt with it. I didn't know I'd be going into robotics, but the opportunity presented itself to me and with some research, I took it. Initially, I was more interested in financial technology because I'd done much more research at that end but actually robotics has been incredibly interesting and I'm so glad I am here now.

Finally, I'd highly recommend you learn how to do some coding. Python is a good place to start if you're unsure and keep at it. I definitely found it so challenging at times but there are lots of resources out there to learn.


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