September 2011 Archives

The importance of professional networking

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Gary Kildare, IBM VP for human resources previously wrote about changing careers. This week he blogs about professional networking

In getting that first job, or making a mid-career move, professionals need to think about how they can access the opportunities they need in order to become the leaders of tomorrow.

When 'Generation Y' started pouring into the workplace, they came bearing the tools of their time. Facebook. YouTube. Twitter. At first, these innovations seemed like another excuse for these digital natives to slack off. What many of us in the older generations didn't realise was that social networking wasn't actually wasting time. It has created a new way of working and is turning into a critical ingredient in career development.

Today, professional networking sites are a great resource for recruiters, so make sure your public CV is up to date and tailored to attract the interest of your potential next employer.

A recent IBM survey of HR leaders found that teams will increasingly form quickly, have a project or solution focus and be unconstrained by organisational or geographic boundaries. The ability to easily identify the right people with the skills to address current needs will be critical.

In the future, securing work will not always be about who you know, it will be about who knows you.

Top five tips to carve your career as a CTO

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Nir Zuk, founder and CTO at Palo Alto Networks, gives his advice on how to become a successful CTO

Making the step up from being part of the technical team to becoming a CTO of an organisation is perhaps the most daunting step any IT professional can make in their career. However, moving from the development team to the boardroom can be a smooth transition that can benefit the organisation's focus and productivity.

Moving from the role of principal engineer at Check Point Software Technologies to that of CTO at One Secure, a company which I co-founded, was one of the biggest challenges of my career. It was a steep learning curve and I made plenty of mistakes, but each of them taught me a lesson.

Learning to think like an executive, rather than like an engineer, is perhaps the biggest hurdle. Once you can do that without losing an engineer's perspective, there is no reason why you can't be a success.

If I could give my younger self some advice, these would be my top five tips. That's not to say if you follow them you won't make any mistakes of your own but at least you can be prepared.

1.    Understand the business - know your product, know your customer

It is essential that you take a holistic view of your company. Not only will you be responsible for the development of your products and services, you will also need to understand your customer's wants and needs and how they will be marketed to the end user.

In taking this approach, you will design products that cater exactly for your core audience and not waste resources developing features that are surplus to requirements.

2.    Think financially

Although it may be alien territory for you, always be aware of the cost implications of any development decisions. The technician in you may want to spend as much time and resources as possible solve a particular problem. However, as a CTO, before deploying any resources you must be aware of how much you can afford to spend on any development issue and if the overall cost will benefit the end result.

3.    Be prepared to take your first break

You may be coming from a technical background but remember this is a management position. Any CTO position will offer you the chance to develop the key skills required to straddle the divide between technicians and the rest of the organisation. You won't be the one doing the daily grunt work as before but your technical background will come into play, allowing you to see problems from a technician's point of view. This perspective will help you to get the best out of your team.

4.    Don't think of a lack of qualifications as a barrier to you progression

I do not have a degree and don't think a MBA or any other degree is not essential to become a CTO. The most critical skill set is to know how to drive an idea at conception to a fully polished final product and there are numerous ways this can be achieved.

A strong track record in development and a genuine desire and hunger to succeed can be far more compelling than several letters after your name.

5.    Relationships are key

CTOs require strong interpersonal skills and must also possess the ability to develop good working relationships with a range of stakeholders within the organisation. The role is one that essentially bridges the gap between two distinct groups - technology and business. If you can help create an understanding and respect between both sides, then you must be doing something right.

Please remember these are just some suggestions, not a rule book. Everyone has their own ways of approaching problems and getting a job done - these are just some that have worked for me.

The most important thing though I feel is to keep an open mind and to keep in mind that there are two sides to every coin.

Good luck!

"I can't do that" - Are you sure?

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Gary Kildare, IBM VP for Human Resources previously wrote about apprenticeships. This week he blogs about career changes.

At IBM, it is important to us that our workforce reflects the markets we serve. Leaders, who surround themselves with like-minded employees, can't compete in today's world of global business. This means we aim to recruit the best people regardless of age, gender, disability, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

It also means we take on experienced hires who may not have IT backgrounds.

For instance, one of our managing consultants has a background in teaching. He now works with our clients to embed advanced learning technologies and solutions into their business processes.

For a candidate who doesn't tick all the boxes, demonstrating transferable skills and expertise that will benefit the role they are applying for is important. Once hired, you can work to up-skill and re-skill to further your career.  

For people keen to move into the technical side of IT, you can go straight for official qualifications, but there are also many free resources available for you to gauge if a field is right for you. For instance, the IBM DeveloperWorks site offers free of charge tutorials, demonstrations and access to social networking with thousands of developers across the world.

Internships - one path into a career in IT

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Continuing on from her blog post about how to break into IT, Philippa Snare, technical sales and marketing director at Microsoft UK looks at the possibilities offered by internships.

Choosing a career is a significant decision to make and internships can help you make that choice. Internships are an effective way to gain experience and understanding within a new environment and industry. In my mind, it's essential for anyone wishing to pursue a career in IT to actually gain a practical taste of what work is actually like in the industry away from the classroom.
















Fortunately, a number of companies offer work experience for students giving experience of working in the IT sector. At Microsoft in the UK, for example, we offer 100 paid long-term internships every year. These internships put students into the heart of our business and offer them an authentic flavour of what life is like in the industry. Hewlett Packard also provides an intern scheme which introduces fresh and talented undergraduates into its UK workforce. The programme sees around 80 undergraduates work across HP's business in London, Bristol and Bracknell.

I spoke recently to Sergiy Okhotnytsky, who is undertaking an internship at Microsoft with the Bing team as part of his Computer Science degree at Kent University. Sergiy has already found his internship is giving him very different experience from university, he told me: 'The main difference is that I'm working on real products that are used by millions of people. We've launched a new feature yesterday and I can see it today - it's very rewarding and driving.'

Not only is Sergiy preparing himself for the world of work, but also preparing himself for the IT industry. He's not only developing his CV, but also developing the right skills to start a career in IT. Findings from the Higher Education Statistics Agency demonstrate the value of internships. It found that over a fifth of students graduating in 2009 found work six months later with an employer they previously had work experience with. This goes to show that students who've gained work experience, and whilst there have proven they are capable and hardworking, are more likely to attract the attention of employers and create more opportunities for themselves. People remember those who have made a difference, and internships give an amazing opportunity for you to make an impression, as you get the chance to break through any expectations very quickly.

The routes into IT

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Following on from his blog post last week on school ICT curriculum, Matthew Poyiadgi, European VP of CompTIA discusses why a degree in Computer Science is not the only route into IT.

The problem with IT's image is not just that the opportunities aren't well represented, but also that routes in are poorly understood. People assume they need an IT degree, then hear that lots of IT graduates (amongst other graduates) are struggling to find jobs.

I believe the focus on academia is misplaced for IT. IT degrees are good for some but are not the only way. For many organisations, hands on experience gained through IT trainers (eg QA, Just IT, Firebrand, Zenos) and backed by industry certifications count for much more.

CompTIA designs certifications with industry to identify the skills they need. Companies such as Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, etc, take much the same approach. Students we speak to who take certifications, such as CompTIA A+ followed by their vendor certification of choice, consistently land rewarding jobs.

When discussing IT careers - in IT lessons, careers advice sessions or the media - we should be clearer about how students can get in, and shift the focus away from IT degrees as the de facto route. This may work to our advantage - as education costs soar, a professional career with a recognised industry certification track may become very attractive.

Furthermore, we'd like to see this real-world focused approach throughout IT education, particularly GCSEs and beyond. We need to teach IT in a practical, exciting way which relates to how it is used in real life, as the aforementioned IT trainers do with great success. This will not only inspire more young people into IT and increase understanding of how to get there, it will also ensure they have the skills to get the jobs they want.

CompTIA has just completed a guide which hopes to help young people understand the many exciting options that a career in IT offers and can be viewed here >>

Breaking new ground

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Last week Gary Kildare, IBM VP for Human Resources, discussed how to recruit graduates . Today's guest post looks at  the benefits of apprenticeship programmes.

More and more companies are recognising that university isn't for everyone. Apprenticeship schemes are a way for employers to tap into talent which they may otherwise overlook. Increasingly apprenticeship positions are cropping up in the services industries - including IT.

Working closely with e-Skills and the National Apprenticeship Service, we opened the IBM Apprenticeship scheme last year. Our apprentices work while attaining a recognised qualification in ICT over two years. This has proven so successful that we are expanding the programme this year.

While most applicants had just finished their A-Levels, we had older applicants as well. One of the apprentices we took on is 30. He demonstrated the seven transferable skills we look for as well as a deep level of commitment which made him an excellent candidate for us.  

In our experience, apprentices are enthusiastic and embrace a culture of learning new skills and self-motivation. Bespoke training on the job means they do it 'right' from the start. An apprenticeship can be a great choice for people who want to dive straight into the world of work while at the same time gaining access to support, training and a career path.


ICT education must grow up

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Another guest blog from Matthew Poyiadgi, European VP of CompTIA. This time Matthew calls on schools to revamp the IT curriculum.

It's all very well talking about how IT is an exciting career, but unless we start telling people about it, we're not going to attract the people we need.

This all starts with education. Too many secondary schools have an IT curriculum which teaches Word and Excel and other subjects pupils already know about. This is boring.



We don't teach 14 year old English students how to read, we teach an understanding of literature and use it to cultivate analytical, evaluation and communication skills. Similarly, IT should give students an understanding of how technology works and the tools to use it in productive and creative ways. It should teach subjects which, for those who enjoy IT, can be developed into relevant career skills.

Once students are excited about IT, we need to ensure that when they look for advice - from careers advisors, parents or teachers - these people have the materials to explain what IT can offer. The IT industry can help by providing these materials. CompTIA, for example has just completed a guide for use by such people to explain careers in IT and how we can help. Those interested can download the guide here.

We also need people who will fly the flag in the media. Perhaps we could even find a champion who can do for IT what James Dyson did for engineering. An even better result would be for IT professionals to volunteer to visit their local schools or college and tell students why they love their career.

It's a big job, but as an industry we need to find ways to share our love of IT with young people.

CompTIA has just completed a guide which hopes to help young people understand the many exciting options that a career in IT offers and can be viewed here >>


How to select the right graduate for a job in IT

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Gary Kildare, IBM VP for Human Resources, blogs on how IBM recruits graduates.

What makes a young person stand out as a potential employee? IBM takes on between 350-500 students, graduates and apprentices each year. Over time, we've identified seven transferable skills which we ask young people to demonstrate in our recruitment process.

These are - in no particular order:

  • adaptability
  • creativity
  • leadership
  • communication skills
  • collaboration skills
  • passion for our business
  • a strong client focus

We find that people who demonstrate these skills during the recruitment process are more motivated and keen to take on board the training we provide.

We take on graduates and students with a variety of degree backgrounds. A recent IBM graduate studied the fall of the Roman empire and the origins of the British Secret Service for his degree. Not obvious choices for someone on their way to a career in IT. However, he is now a client systems manager and works closely with clients to understand their needs and identify the IT services and products which will support their strategy.

The world around us is constantly changing, becoming more interconnected and intelligent. Seeking out candidates with transferable skills help us make sure that our hires can adjust and thrive in the years to come.

IT Works: What the people in IT say

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Today's post is from Matthew Poyiadgi, European VP of CompTIA. Poyiadgi highlights two young people who have chosen careers in IT, speaking to them about what makes IT great.

I recently caught up with some people who got into IT through CompTIA certifications. Their careers speak volumes about the breadth of IT careers and the interesting jobs on offer.

One, Dujon Walsham, played a critical part in building up the IT infrastructure to capture programmes for ITV Player and now helps companies like eBay and British Airways adopt cloud computing systems. 

Another, Daniel O'Sullivan works for Venatrack, a company whose software tracks player movement in football matches and provides 3D digital playback for post-match analysis. On match day he supports clients using the software to make sure the system runs perfectly.

All of them were deeply enthusiastic about their careers. They work on many interesting projects using the latest technology and receive good salaries for their hard work.

One of the things that kept coming up was that, in addition to the technical side, IT can be one of the most sociable jobs around. Daniel put it well, saying "Everyone has a computer, so you have to deal with everyone from management to all the different departments, as well as with customers. It's a great way to see how an organisation is run and a great job for meeting people from all walks of life."

This is what IT is about. It's about getting involved with exciting projects, building computers and networks, creatively designing solutions (whether software or hardware) and working with people to solve problems and make their lives easier. This is rewarding career, and it is unfairly portrayed by the 'geek' image. It's time IT professionals started sharing their stories and showing the world what IT is really about.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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