News Analysis

IT sales is an attractive career for graduates from diverse backgrounds

Karl Flinders

The IT services industry is seen as a good long-term career opportunity for recent graduates as we begin to move out of a period of economic turmoil.

While youngsters are put off computer science degrees due to high graduate unemployment levels in that field, students from a variety of academic backgrounds are entering the IT services sector to begin careers in sales.

IT services firm Centiq set up a graduate training programme, with the aim of recruiting six graduates to become salespeople.

The company received hundreds of applications, interviewed 46 and put six on a 26-week training programme. The trainees, who were recruited in April, will not be set sales targets until April 2011. Computer Weekly caught up with some of them.

Kieran Fitzgerald, 22, who graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a photography degree, is now a graduate trainee at Centiq.

He says he never thought he would end up working in IT, but is now training to sell services into the public sector. He sees IT as a long-term career opportunity. "[IT sales] was something that I never considered until I understood it, but then I appreciated how critical IT is to businesses."

He said it is tough for graduates at the moment. "All my friends who graduated at the same time have really struggled. There are so many people out there that cannot do what they want to do."

Twenty-one year old Alex Back, studied business management at Leeds Metropolitan University. He says he has always had an interest in IT and actually turned down a couple of job offers to hold out for a role at an IT firm.

He says the importance of IT to businesses mean there is a career to be built in the sector. "I can future-proof my career because IT is becoming even more important to businesses."

Matt Hunt, 26, studied English at Loughborough University. After graduating in 2007 he did a management training programme at hospitality firm Mitchells & Butler.

He was attracted to IT sales because of the constantly changing nature of the industry, as well as the fact that the sales process is not one-dimensional. "IT is critical to businesses, and it is not just a product sale but it is about selling a solution. Every sale is different."

Glyn Heath, CEO at Centiq, says the company has dabbled with graduate training programmes in the past, but the latest scheme has been fully committed to.

He says the overall investment will be the best part of £200,000 when complete and all six trainees will be offered a full time job at the end of the training programme. "We are looking at doing it again next year," he adds.

Heath says IT buying has changed significantly since the recession. As a result, salespeople who have gained experience in the past might not be able to apply what they learned to the present IT sales environment. The trainees, however, are entering IT at a time when businesses no longer want to throw money at IT to solve problems, says Heath. As a result they are not tainted by past experiences of when it was easy to sell IT.

The trainees say that the businesspeople they are talking to are all consolidating, cutting costs and trying to do more for less when it comes to IT.

Bit while there are fewer IT jobs in the UK as a result of the increasing use of offshore developers, making computer science a less attractive academic choice, sales jobs in the sector are being sought out by graduates studying unrelated subjects.


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