Skills development: Build your CV with cutting-edge job

The opportunity to experience IT at any level in a large software company can help you to develop skills that will move your career on

Whether you are just starting out or developing your IT career, the software industry is one of the most promising places to look.

It can offer challenging and rewarding environments at the cutting edge. There are consultancy and customer-facing strategic roles, as well as the opportunity to support in-house IT, which is often some of the most advanced that an IT professional might find.

As might be expected, Microsoft, the world’s largest software company, is always on the lookout for new talent. Rebecca Dickenson, diversity programme manager in Microsoft’s UK HR team, said the strongest demand at the moment is for IT consultants working with Microsoft’s customers.

“There is always a continuing war for talent. In the past three quarters we have hired about 500 IT professionals in the UK.”

Microsoft product development manager Steve Metcalfe said, “What I am looking for is people who can go out and work with our customers. We are looking for people in all areas: IT systems development, networking, enterprise strategy and business value.

“In particular, we are interested in people who have customer experience. They need to be customer-savvy, politically savvy, able to plan, make decisions and solve problems. Microsoft consultants are there to lead teams. They have got to be good at political navigation and negotiating.”

These kinds of roles can be valuable to an IT professional seeking to build up their CV, said Anne Swain, chief executive of the Association of Technology Staffing Companies.

“It is a fantastic stepping stone because of the variety. It is a good place to get your career on the move. Recruiters like to see the range of customer-facing roles. You can develop the communication and people skills that the rest of the world loves so much,” she said.

These roles often involve frequent travel and long working hours, so people with families or seeking a less stressful work/life balance may not want to stay in the role long, said Swain.

Dickenson said Microsoft is looking for a range of individuals to bring to the company, and will hire people for their potential, as well as the work they have already done.

Metcalfe worked for IBM and Hewlett-Packard before joining Microsoft. Microsoft offered a competitive package. There are also banking, dry-cleaning and crèche facilities on site. “We try to create an environment that inspires people to do their best work,” he said.

Metcalfe said Microsoft had helped in areas outside work too. He is about to embark on a second-degree – in applied theology – with Microsoft’s blessing.

“My director really saw it was a great idea and said I could take the time out of my training allowance. He could see the value it would give to my job in an environment where people have a need for stability.”

According to Melissa Bailey, IBM sector technologies manager for north east Europe, the variety of roles is the main reason she has stayed with the firm for 10 years.

She manages the training and development of 140 pre-sales technologists, but has worked on major client projects in the finance sector. The company has also allowed her to take a year’s sabbatical to travel. 

Although the work has been extremely demanding, Bailey said IBM is also supportive of women who want to start families.

“It is not on my agenda at the moment, but you suddenly become aware of everybody else’s policy. You get maternity pay everywhere, but here you get a return to work up-lift and that can help to cover nursery costs.”

For employees with more than five years with the company there is a 25% monthly return bonus, payable for two years, an IBM spokeswoman said.

Now may be a good time to start looking for a move into working for a software company. The latest SSL/Computer Weekly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends showed a 13% increase in the number of jobs advertised on the web by software companies over the past year.

Pros and cons of IT career in a software company

Pros

  • A large variety of roles, including software development, consultancy and project management
  • Strong career development with a supportive employer
  • Good pay, although not the highest
  • Working alongside highly skilled staff
  • Customer-facing experience valuable when seeking work outside the sector

Cons

  • Long hours
  • Lots of travel and nights away
  • A demanding work environment

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