Adecco Engineering & Technology’s “IT Career Transition” series examines how to transition into information technology after having already started a career in another field. We’ll be sharing real-life stories along the way about professionals who’ve already embarked upon their IT careers after having left an unrelated one. Read all the posts in this series to learn more about why and and how to transition into IT.
Q&A: Tips for creating an IT job training program
The skills gap for information technology workers, part of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) contingency, has been well documented. The great news is that there is plenty of conversation around encouraging youth to pursue these fields. Think Girls Who Code, Project Lead the Way and STEM Education Coalition, among others. The not so great news is that the United States is still going to have to wait a decade or two for this population to flow into the workforce.
Training solution to fill the IT skills gap
What should employers do until then to fill their IT roles? One answer is to train internal employees with the right mindset into technology positions. Career training for your employees, and filling your toughest-to-recruit IT roles? It’s a win-win. And it’s not as difficult, time consuming or costly as you may think. Take it from someone who’s done it numerous times already. Take it from Jackie Love, Director of Data Management Solutions and PMP.
Q: What do you look for when seeking internal candidates who may have aptitude to transition their career into IT?
Jackie: I seek people across the entire organization. Try not to have a set idea of only certain skill sets flowing nicely into IT. Anyone with the right mind, regardless of previous work experience, can do well if given the right training and opportunities.
Those who I’ve seen successfully transition to IT have been passionate, intelligent and inquisitive. I noticed that none of them merely did the work that was asked of them, but they all wanted to know why. They had a real desire to understand the larger picture and would sometimes challenge authority – in a respectful way – in order to better understand what they were doing. When I see this traits, and when they ask the right questions, I can tell they have the aptitude to crossover into IT.
Q: How do you go about testing their aptitude?
Jackie: Not through formal tests! When I identify someone I believe will be able to move into an IT career, I find a stretch project that teaches the person new skills and watch she or he approaches the problem. Often times these projects require a mentor who’s already in the field to get involved as well, so it’s critical that the mentee can work well and communicate with their mentor.
Take Sabrina, one of my first mentees. She was an analyst coordinator on the master data side, but she had an analytical mind and a methodical approach to her work. I gave her a Sharepoint project and saw that she had the patience to learn that, asking all the right questions. If she had patience with Sharepoint, she’d have patience with other platforms! After that initial “test,” I knew that if we invested more in Sabrina, she’d do great things for us and would have an incredible career.
Q: What are some benefits you’ve seen from sourcing non-IT employees from within and training/promoting them into technology-related roles?
Jackie: Firstly, we get our hard-to-fill IT positions filled. We also have employees who already understand the company culture and vision. These employees received guidance and training from our company to pursue a more lucrative and interesting career, so they are more bought into the company’s future and want to give back.
Q: What are some first steps in creating a program or culture to encourage this type of career fluidity?
Jackie: Identify people who’d make good mentors, and secure commitment from them to do so. Then create an agreed upon process for identifying and affirming candidates who’d be a good fit – perhaps successful completion of a stretch project confirms they should move forward into a more formal training program. This program could have several tracks that include paid certification training along the way. Bonus points if these career development paths are marked with potential promotions and career-pathing.
Q: How many people have you successfully transitioned into IT?
Jackie: At least four – three women and one man – are now successfully working in IT roles (and making great money). There are currently two young women – who don’t know it yet – on my radar. I can tell they have the aptitude.
Q: So that’s going to make it five women and just one man. Any reason?
Jackie: There actually has been a lot of talk in the media and the industry about getting more women and young girls into IT. It’s partially because women are so underrepresented in this industry, but also – I think – because women offer a balance to the field. In my experience, women tend to be better critical thinkers and problem solvers, mostly because they have the discipline to get the job done and follow processes, but without the rigidity. Their thought process is more flexible, and as a result, often more creative.
Q: How do you think women can be more encouraged to pursue IT?
Jackie: It’s still often a man’s world. But we need to tap into women’s talents and make them feel comfortable in it. The good news is that the next generation coming up – the Millennials and Gen Zs – don’t see any of it as male or female worlds, so there are about to be less barriers.
Q: Do you have any advice for people who’d like to transition into IT?
Jackie: Invest your time and a little bit of money in your life, in knowledge. I promise there is ROI. Interested in becoming a database analyst? Look at SQL and SSIS certifications. Take the preliminary course with online video – it’s just $200 and 15 hours. That’s not much to invest in your career and future.
If you’re interested in programming, take a course on college.net for $250. Or maybe you’d like to be a liaison between the business and IT? Project management would be best for you. Check out Six Sigma and determine if doing work process flows entertain you. Basically, find your passion and ensure your have aptitude in the space first; then move forward with training and seek opportunities to expand where you are.
Jackie Love has held positions in marketing, analytics, operations and information management. She specializes in liaising between information technology and the business. An experienced Leader, she’s known for her great mentorship, exceptional project management (PMP) skills, process improvement (Six Sigma), communication and problem solving skills. She is a board member of the Jacksonville Women’s Leadership Forum, Melting Barriers Charity, Ambassador, Network of Executive Women and Trustee for the Yaklich Educational Trust.