Life in the Assembly IS Office

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Paddy McAllister, the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Application Development Manager within the Information Systems Office, talks about what it is like to work for the Assembly.

How long have you worked for the Assembly?

I have worked for the Northern Ireland Assembly for more than  10 years. I initially joined as a Lead Software Developer and was then promoted in 2018 to Application Development Manager.

I graduated from Queen’s University Belfast in 2003 with a BSc Honours degree in Computer Science, after having obtained an HND in Computer Studies with Distinction from Ulster University.

Before joining the Assembly in 2009, I worked in the public and private sectors in a number of roles including Graduate Developer, Software Developer, and Senior Software Developer.

In my current role, I manage the in-house software development team and have the lead responsibility for the technical design, development and implementation of a portfolio of bespoke IT applications specifically designed for the Assembly.

Why do you like working for the Assembly?

A meeting of Assembly ColleaguesJob satisfaction is really important for anyone joining the Assembly. I really like the fact that I am fully involved in all aspects of software development and that I work with a diverse range of end users, from Assembly staff to political parties and MLAs.

One of the main reasons I enjoy working for the Assembly is that it allows me to make a real contribution to how the Assembly creates innovative solutions, using the latest software development technologies. To know that my work makes a real difference to the political life of Northern Ireland is very rewarding.

Aside from that, the Assembly is great place to work in terms of my work-life balance, flexi-time and other benefits. Parliament Buildings is a nice place to work and there is always something interesting going on in the building.

So you develop software applications — what does that mean?

A member of the Secretariat at workIn general, developing software applications means creating a computer program specifically designed for a user’s requirements.  

In the Assembly, developing software applications means being responsible for the technical design, development and implementation of bespoke software that helps the Assembly staff and MLAs do their jobs.

Typically, there are no off-the-shelf systems available to meet the procedural needs of the Assembly; therefore, the in-house software development team is responsible for developing these bespoke systems.

Until recently, all our systems were developed to be used within the internal Parliament Buildings network, but that has and is changing with the emergence of mobile and cloud technology. Now there is a lot of demand to access systems from outside of the building and this means more complexity when we are designing solutions — particularly in respect of security, data access, resilience and availability.

I really enjoy dealing with these challenging issues.

How is working for Northern Ireland’s legislature different from working for a computer consultancy or a company?

The main difference in working for the Assembly’s internal software development team and a private software company is that I have a closer relationship to my users/customers. Not only is this important in gaining a real understanding of system requirements, it also lets me see how the end user is benefiting.

There is a real welcoming work culture within the Assembly as our users/customers work with us hand-in-hard to continuously improve the functions of the Assembly. The most enjoyable part of developing software is seeing the positive impact that you have created in improving how the Assembly works.

I feel a great sense of satisfaction in knowing that the software I develop is helping toward improving the democratic process by assisting MLAs to access accurate and up-to-date information.

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