November 2013 Archives

Why I chose an IT apprenticeship over A Levels

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This is a guest blog from Jordan Herbert, Barclays Apprentice

Jordan.jpgOpening my GCSEs and seeing that all those years of hard work had paid off felt amazing. It also meant that I now had options about what I did next. All of my friends were planning to go to college and then university, but I wasn't sure that was for me.

I already knew that I wanted to work in IT as it was my passion and I knew from school that I was good at it. I was also really keen to start my career and earn some money. IT is a really fast-changing industry and so you need to be able to learn about current systems and adapt to changes. This can be difficult if you're learning away from an environment where it's applied every day.

I'd heard a bit about apprenticeships while I was still in school. They seemed like the perfect route for me because I could still learn and get some more qualifications while also earning a wage and starting a career. After some research I found a scheme at Barclays that sounded really exciting but, when I told my friends they weren't so sure because they didn't know anyone who had done an apprenticeship before.

It was a difficult decision, but I wanted to take a chance. I didn't think I'd even get an interview as it's such a competitive environment. I did, and after a few stages of interviews I was offered a position. It was like getting my GCSE results all over again, I was so excited.

Working in IT is completely different to sitting in a classroom. I'd never sent a professional email before I started and now I manage a whole inbox. I get the chance to work on great projects such as the monthly Service Improvement Trend Report. It highlights trends relating to incidents and services over the last month so we can track and make necessary changes. It's a great responsibility as I can include my own ideas and use my initiative.  I'm also now the sole point of contact within the business for the Corporate App store.

My biggest achievement has been managing the frequent conference calls between our global team. They include senior managers from Lithonia, India, Singapore and New York and they used to be a big challenge; my job is to conduct the meeting, make sure the line works, and ensure that everyone understands each other. Juggling work while still studying has been difficult at times, but my line manager and team have been really supportive. It's been really worthwhile, though, to know that I'm getting qualifications as well as invaluable experience of the job.

I was worried about going down a different path from my friends. I genuinely don't feel I'm missing out; in fact it's the opposite. Now, when I am given a piece of work to do I feel as though it has meaning and there's a whole team relying on me and my work. I feel as though I have been given a head start into my career and even better that I'm not in any debt because of it. I also thought I'd given up my chance of a graduation by not going to uni.

I passed my exams last year and as well as being offered a permanent Barclays role, I attended a gradation with all the other Barclays Apprentices from around the business. It was a really proud moment for me, and I can't wait to get started on the next stage of my career.

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Will our digital children be tomorrow's IT power house?

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This is a guest blog from Marco Comastri, EMEA president at CA Technologies.


FASTER internet speeds and improved access mean our children today are being born into a truly digital society.


According to Mashable, 38 per cent of children under two years old use mobile media. With our children growing up with improved internet access, as a result of the European Commission's Digital Agenda, the question is will our new digital citizens be able to translate these skills into the workplace?


Consuming media is one thing but understanding the technology and knowing how to implement it within a business environment is very different.


Translating knowledge of digital technologies into useful technology skills and the thinking required in the workplace is a key priority for businesses and Europe as whole; transferrable and useful skills for the future go some way in addressing the current levels of unemployment. Demand for employees with IT skills is growing by approximately 3% each year yet the number of graduates from computing sciences fell by 10% between 2006 and 2010. If this trend continues, there could be up to 900,000 unfilled IT roles in the EU by 2015. If we focus on developing the skills now, not only will we better prepare the workforce but we will also make small steps towards conquering unemployment.


Developing the skills to benefit individual businesses is crucial. IT, and technology in general, is a key industry and overall contributor to the future of how we live and work. It needs to be guiding the learning and development of young people in Europe.


The biggest challenge for Europe, however, is the impact this has on its positioning against other tech savvy regions such as Asia. The current gap is a potential threat to European competitiveness, not only to the IT sector itself, but to the economy as a whole.


As we continue to commit to creating this technology elite across Europe, it will be interesting to see not only how the European Commission continues to step up to the challenge unveiled in their latest report but also how other organisations - and the industry - embrace the skills gap and turn the digital youths into skilled individuals ready for the workplace. Through working together, we can create an economy that can compete effectively against other regions

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Why is technical recruitment such a task?

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This is a guest blog by Katrina Collier, a leading authority on the use of Social Media for Recruitment & Job Search.


The Internet and social media have revolutionised recruitment; agents lost control of their little black books as professionals began appearing online. Companies are now in a position to source directly, and to cost-effectively promote their job opportunities and employer brand.


Yet, with so many ways to recruit, why does technical recruitment remain one of the toughest tasks for companies?


Because, even though there is plenty of evidence of a shortage of technical professionals, many companies still focus on the skills they need instead of doing what is required to attract great talent.


Recently I heard Dimitar Stanimiroff, sales director at Stack Overflow, speak and he shared the top 10 reasons that a developer will be attracted to a job opportunity.


And it's not about the money.


According to Stack Overflow's research what matters is:


10:  The physical workspace. In Dimitar's slides you'll see Stack Overflow's offices with their amazing coffee machine, perfect workstations, stand-up desks, etc.


9:  The location. With only 1 British developer for every 4 job vacancies, is your location ideal or do you/could you permit remote working?


8:  Creative work. Developers are attracted to new code. Dimitar cited companies who give time off for sideline projects, could you do the same?


7: Sense of belonging. Dimitar gave the example of Facebook, where developers come together for hackathons, which gives developers a sense of belonging when their ideas become part of the product.


6: Great tools and hardware are crucial for attracting and retaining talent.


5. Excitement about your company products. Do you have a fan base? Are your employees excited about what you do?


4:  Independence.


3: Good management. 98% of those surveyed said that this was important, as is a flat, bureaucracy-free, company structure.  


2: High-calibre team. 89% of those surveyed look for a smart & hardworking team. In the slides you'll see Stack Overflow's company pages where they're showing off their team, work and reputation because, "smart people attract smart people."


1. Growth. 38% of those surveyed look for a company where there is the potential to learn a new language.


Using this insight, here are 3 ways you could improve your technical recruitment today.


1. Change the wording of your job descriptions and advertisements.


·         Think like an applicant and ask yourself, "Am I addressing the 10 points above?"

·         Avoid terms like ninja and rock star - Dimitar says it causes the Dunning-Kruger effect!

·         Elaborate on the work they'll be doing and avoid simply detailing a list of required skills.

·         Add your job to your website, include imagery, and make it easy to share or apply.


2. Embrace social media


·         Promote your Employer Brand with company pages on sites like LinkedIn, Stack Overflow and Glassdoor.

·         Add your services to your LinkedIn pages and grab some recommendations and try out the new Showcase pages.  

·         Set up your Google+ company page and get involved in their communities.

·         Create engaging content with blog posts, Google+ Hangouts-On-Air and YouTube to show off your smart team.

·         Give insight into your firm through images and video, and share them on your social channels.

·         Encourage your employees and your fans to share your job opportunities.


3. Choose your agents wisely or they could represent you like this:


Linkedin screenshot.jpg


·         Look for specialists not generalists; do they truly understand what they're looking for?

·         Ask your techies whom they know and recommend; you want the go-to recruiter for that skill set not just anyone.

·         Get them in! If they know you, your team & your projects they will represent you well so don't hold them at arm's length.


Do you agree? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.



About the author:


Thumbnail image for Katrina.Collier.Social.Recruitment.Trainng.jpgKatrina Collier is a Speaker, Trainer & Writer on the use of Social Media for Recruitment; showing companies how to recruit directly on many social sites, including LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and a range of niche sites. She has over a decade's experience recruiting IT Professionals both agent side and in-house. She regularly speaks at industry events and she writes for Jobsite, Work4 and Firefish Software.

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Is Your IT CV Working? If not find out why, and what you can do about it

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This is a guest blog from Paul Hichens, leading UK authority on CV writing, and author of the book The One Page CV.


man in wellies.jpgAs head writer of top CV company, I have helped a great many clients from all sectors up the career ladder. Whilst it is always dangerous to generalise, one observation over the years is that IT professionals usually need more help with their CV than a lot of counterparts in other sectors.

There is a bit of an anomaly here in that many IT professionals are intelligent, well-educated and can find their way around MS Word with their eyes closed. Even so, the fact remains that a great many IT professionals struggle to create a job winning CV, and that many IT sector workers miss out on jobs that they could have otherwise landed if only they had a better CV.

So why is this?

I think there are a number of reasons, but the main ones are these;

Firstly, (and after examining thousands of IT CVs over the years), I think it is quite clear that a lot of techies just aren't natural writers; and whilst they may be a whizz with wizards, a maestro with microchips and a dab hand at databases, not every IT professional is the most gifted when it comes to selling himself/herself on paper. This isn't so surprising really because the ability to write creatively, powerfully and persuasively is an elusive talent that is rare amongst genuine creative types, let alone scientific sorts.

Secondly, (and again after examining thousands of IT CVs over the years), I don't think that many IT professionals really understand what a really effective CV is. Most IT CVs that I receive are written primarily from the candidate's perspective, not the employer's. This isn't so uncommon, and people in other sectors make the same mistake too. Even so, the fact remains that your CV is a sales document, and if you don't give enough consideration to your customer (in this case the employer), then you won't make a sale (or in this case land your ideal job).

Thirdly, many IT professionals have a tendency to overdo it on the technical front when it comes to creating their CV. Since this article is for an IT sector website I will elaborate in suitable IT terms;

Imagine you are a programmer and are charged with taking over a pre-existing IT system. You look at the code and it is 1000 lines long, with no commenting of procedures, no recognisable nomenclature and a hotchpotch of complicated 'If...else' clauses, none of which are aligned, and some of which are commented out here and there.

What would be your first impressions of such code?
Probably not that good.

Now imagine you had to take over a system which did exactly the same thing, but it's coding was just 30 lines with proper nomenclature, appropriate commenting and very efficient concise coding using e.g. plug-ins/objects.

Would that be more enticing to read by any chance?

Funnily enough, many IT professionals don't consider such things when they write their CV, which is one reason why many IT CVs are long (the longest I have seen is 30 pages), unfocused and too complicated. And that's just for starters, a lot of IT professionals also struggle with CV presentation, formatting, flow, balance and much more.

If you feel you will fall into this category then the first thing to remember is that you are not alone, many thousands of IT professionals are in exactly the same boat as you. The good news is that you can do something about it, and the main reason why I wrote my CV book was to help people in your situation. The trick is actually doing something positive and proactive about it, because if you don't, your competitors will. So act first!



Author biography:
Paul Hichens is a leading UK authority on CV writing, and is author of the groundbreaking book The One Page CV, published by top career sector publishers, Pearson Education. Paul also has a master's degree in IT, as well as considerable experience writing IT CVs and quality web content for individual and business clients internationally.


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