IT professionals can have great careers at suppliers

With thousands of IT staff out of work in the UK and recent graduates finding it tough, the IT services sector could be the best destination for ambitious IT professionals to have rewarding careers.

With thousands of IT staff out of work in the UK and recent graduates finding it tough to get their careers off the ground, the IT services sector - seen by many in-house IT workers as the "dark side" - could be the best destination for ambitious IT professionals to have rewarding careers.

While organisations are trying to rein in costs, outsourcing is on the up. With outsourcers requiring sector specific experience and looking for "digital natives" there will be opportunities for those with experience as well as recent graduates.

There are thousands of experienced IT professionals currently out of work following the interlinked banking crisis, recession and now public sector cuts. Then there are figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) showing that Computer Science graduates are the largest group of unemployed graduates in the UK. Even the most experienced workers have recently spent long periods out of work.

But there are opportunities in the IT supplies and professional services sectors, according to Lee Ayling, partner at KPMG and former UK managing director at sourcing consultant Equaterra, which KPMG recently acquired.

He says there are lots of opportunities in the current market for the right people to work for service providers and in professional services. "There is more being outsourced and service providers are trying to get the right people in to serve clients. Good candidates will have a mix of commercial and operational experience." He says that in Equaterra's case experience of clients is good. "We look for real client exposure in advisors because the advice they can give is real and not academic."

We are already seeing the major suppliers taking advantage of in-house public sector expertise.

For instance Capgemini has recently made two senior appointments to support its public sector push. In October Ruth Ormsby left her role as head of the NHS shared Business Service to join Capgemini as public sector BPO head. Then in December Roy Toner, a policeman of 30 years, was appointed to the newly created position of CIO of the Criminal Justice Sector at Capgemini UK Outsourcing Services. Toner was assistant chief constable, operations with the Police Service of Northern Ireland for seven years and before joining Capgemini was deputy chief constable with the National Police Improvement Agency.

In the face of public sector spending cuts now is a good time for suppliers to pick up expertise.

And despite its unattractive 'dark side' label the supplier side can offer a good career path as well as broad experiences.

Bob Scott, who got a mine manager certificate in 1987 and became a fully qualified mine engineer, has been the head of Capgemini's global testing business since last year. He joined the supply side when his role as part of a mathematical modelling team that was outsourced to Hoskyns in 1992 which was later acquired by Capgemini.

While working at Capgemini Scott completed a masters at the London School of economics which was supported and funded by Capgemini. By 1996 Scott was given the task of heading up business development for Capgemini in the UK. He relocated to Paris from 1997 to 2001 to take control of the new e commerce and internet business at Capgemini. He has since held several senior roles at Capgemini including head of UK public sector business as well as taking charge of market strategy for services related to the police. Scott's career shows the opportunities within a supplier.

The diverse customer base can also offer IT workers at suppliers interesting assignments. For example some IT staff at Logica are based in Camp Baston Afghanistan, with UK troops, to implement a new healthcare system, which they will now integrate.

Lawrence Kelly, permanent team manager at recruitment company GCS says the most activity in the IT recruitment sector he currently sees is in the supplies sector. He says suppliers are attractive to some professionals because of job diversity. "You are out and about more and work with many different customers."

Those with a long heritage in an in-house IT environment would have to expect a different mentality within suppliers.

Kelly says, "Because many IT professionals are so used to working in one sector or company they find the transition to supplier difficult."

And competition is also fierce at the moment with interest in the IT supply side on the up. Indian IT services company Wipro said it has had an upsurge in applicants for jobs in the UK.

Jeffrey Heenan Jalil, head of Europe at Wipro, who headed up procurement at an organisation before moving to a supplier, says it takes certain types of individual to work for suppliers.

"There is a different mentality and IT workers have the same skills but different motivation."

He says that there are few examples of CIOs that have moved successfully into the supplies side because it is a different skill to convince a client that a proposition is viable as apposed to the board.

In a world where internal IT departments are shrinking and suppliers are growing there seems little alternative for IT professionals than to build careers for suppliers. Although this would mean a difficult transition for IT workers used to being in-house, if outdated preconceptions such as seeing the supply side as the dark side are overcome, it can also be very rewarding.

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