Synopsis: The I.T. Girl
Orla Hanlon is new to London and CouperDaye, a global investment bank. When she takes on a high-profile project and buys her first home, with love on the side, she thinks she has everything under control as usual… until a bug in her code causes chaos on the trading floor. Suddenly finding herself a scapegoat in a political game, Orla must fight to save her career, love and her new life in London. How far would you go to clear your name?
My favourite character in The I.T. Girl is Boris Briggs. He was the easiest to write, his dialogue just flowed, and I almost feel like I could write a sequel making him the main character. His name was inspired by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, as the story just forming in my head around the time of the mayoral elections, though that’s where the similarity ends. Boris Briggs, a James Bond fan, so prone to introducing himself with his surname followed by his full name, is one of those managers whose ineptitude causes more harm than if he were deliberately malevolent. With a good sense of humour he fancies himself as a buddy manager, someone who can be in charge and still be liked. But he's also driven by ambition and insecurity and somehow senses the only way he'll survive is by keeping in favour with the right people. "Know the rules of the game, Orla” he often chides the main character who gets on the wrong side of management when a bug in her code causes chaos on the trading floor. But when the time comes for Boris to protect his team in unfair circumstances, instead of standing their ground, he is easily bullied by upper management and in turn bullies his team. People have told me how well they recognise the character - I worry about their working environments! I've never been able to decide how much I like Boris, or how much I blame him for what happens in the story. There's something endearing about his need to be accepted and under normal circumstances, when things are going well in a company, Boris would be a good person to have down the pub and even to have as a manager. But in a dysfunctional environment when a team need a manager who will stand up for them, his weakness and lack of loyalty makes him a dangerous person. He was a fun vessel for such a story line.
Extract from Chapter 1:
Fireworks peppered the white sky, celebrating the launch of our company's new manifesto and I rose with the crowd to cheer. Mime artists left behind their impressions to dance with the air while the head of Technology, larger than life on a wavering projector screen, jumped off stage to high-five the New York audience. Smaller projector screens on either side showed Sydney and Tokyo celebrating the same way, though they had the advantage of a night-time backdrop to the global event.
CouperDaye was known for its attention to detail and I was impressed with the supply of rugs on the January day, gratefully wrapping mine around my legs when I sat back down. Boris was still out of his seat whooping and cheering. Spotlights splashed colour on his face making his plump features seem clown-like. I nudged Sam, sitting in between us who responded with a downward glance. His shoulders were slumped and one foot kicked carelessly below the chair in front of him. I knew he’d rather be anywhere else than be exposed to the cult-management, as he called it. But with a crisp white shirt and dark tie he looked more like a bored managing director than a disillusioned programmer.
Boris came back down with a thump. ‘How do you like them apples?’ he leaned across Sam.
‘Boris get the – ’
Boris sat back before Sam could finish the sentence and still braying, patted his hair, preening a gelled clump into a twist.
It was 2 p.m. in London and only 9 a.m. in New York, but after the high-fives, Jerome Ross popped open a bottle of champagne.
‘No thanks,’ I said to the waitress who appeared beside me at the same time with a tray of tall-stemmed glasses.
‘You can stay for one, Orla,’ Boris sang.
‘I have to go back. You can have mine,’ I said to Sam who finally moved to let me pass.
I walked down the aisle trying to ignore the curious looks. I wanted to explain: I have to go back for my deadline. But I avoided eye contact and instead, tried to spot Cameron. He was in a row near the back with the other graduates. They looked like students on a bus; boisterous with traumatised hair. Our eyes met as I passed and I gave him a wink. He replied with a thumbs-up. It was his deadline too.
I made it past Security under the flower archway and on to the street. Our company slogans lined the park but they attracted little attention. The public were used to our logo and used to our name.
The project was on my mind as I rode the tube back to work. I came up into a square surrounded by buildings so symmetrical that it always made me think I was a figure in the architect’s model. From one manicured block to the next, I went over my check list. Entering the world of CouperDaye, a slick lobby with smooth, reflective surfaces and low lighting, I walked over a below-floor rock garden, no longer staring down at the meandering path of flowers, as I had done in my first few weeks. Out of the lifts on the twentieth floor I passed a line of meeting rooms and turned into the east wing. Other financial towers stood in the 360 view, illuminated with the same florescent light that mildly strained my eyes, as I settled at my desk in a row of cubicles. The afternoon went by in weekend silence. Everyone would be going home to change into their fancy-dress costume and then back to the party. I had brought my outfit into work. A chequered shirt, cowboy jeans and a straw hat – the easiest look I could put together. I completed my checks and then kicked off the software upload, which showed its progress with a bar inching its way across the screen. For a moment, closed in by the artificial walls and the hum of machinery, busy and still, I became aware of how at home I felt. I was where I was supposed to be and I loved my job. A beep told me the upload was complete. Come Monday morning our trading floor would receive new market data, courtesy of my code. I sat back, relieved. Of course something could still go wrong, you could never be a hundred per cent sure – but it was out of my hands now. Time to let my hair down.