learning on the job, retraining, woman on computer

How to write a CV for jobs in tech

learning on the job, retraining, woman on computer

By Rhona Kennedy

I’m a Technology Recruiter with over six years’ experience – I look at dozens of CVs each day (I dread to think how many CVs I’ve cast by beady eyes over in my career!) and I talk to the people doing the hiring every day about what they need/like/hate to see in a CV.

I know that CV-writing is a) daunting and b) very important to get right because there’s a lot riding on it.

After years of pestering my clients for what they see when they look at a CV, here are some of my top take-home tips.

Start with the good stuff

There’s an oft-quoted statistic that the person reviewing your CV spends only 7-10 seconds looking at it before making up their mind.  With this in mind, a “skills matrix” or easy to read summary of the technology and tools you’re comfortable with is a good place to start. Avoid dumping on loads of tools you’ve only touched or read about or haven’t used since University – stick to things you’re actually capable of working with.

Your CV is a marketing document. Its purpose is to sell you enough to secure an interview. It may not come easily to you to big yourself up – but you need to do it. Asking friends/colleagues for help with words/phrases that describe you might help with the cringe factor.

Also make sure your vital information is front and centre and easy for the reviewer to access.

How long is too long?

Be concise. Choose your words wisely. Write in a succinct manner – and then take more out. Like, Coco Chanel said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”

However, if your CV is longer than two pages, don’t stress – especially if you’re a seasoned professional with many years of wisdom/experience. As long as it’s all relevant stuff, then it deserves to be there. If you’re really struggling to condense your CV, bullet points might help. Bullet points are also easier for the human eye to digest than large walls of text. Helpful when you consider the point about 7-10 seconds, above.

Get your CV past the robots!

Assuming you’re applying for a job in 2019 and not relying on snail mail, the first person to read your CV will, most likely, be a robot, or at least a piece of parsing software. It is increasingly common for technology companies and Recruiters alike to use an Applicant Tracking System or ATS. Here are some tips to get your CV past the robots:

  • Don’t have critical information (contact details, name, location/postcode) in headers/footers – the software often doesn’t “read” these. In fact, skip headers/footers altogether.
  • Keep formatting simple – avoid unnecessary tables/images which will inevitably get reformatted in a less-than-pretty way.
  • Word documents are generally handled better than PDFs.

Some CV basics

Some of this advice might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how often these points can be neglected!

  • Please proofread your CV – if spelling and grammar are not your forte, rope in a pal (or a friendly Recruiter!) to look it over.
  • KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Keep your formatting simple; stay away from headers/footers, text boxes/columns and fancy graphics/images.
  • Choose an appropriate font (and size and colour) and keep it consistent throughout. Remember the “don’t use Comic Sans – we are a Fortune 500 company, not a lemonade stand” meme? Yeah… don’t be that guy.
  • Don’t get too smart – your CV is a video game? Cool… but how do I contact you? How do I share with my client?
  • Location (including postcode) is essential – it’s how Recruiters and prospective employers find you.
  • Weird one: be sure to use a portrait orientation, not landscape.
  • In the UK, it is not a requirement to have your photo on your CV, and many managers I’ve spoke to really dislike this practice.
  • Unless your hobbies are really interesting, I’d skip it – we’ve all read Harry Potter and we all say we go to the gym…
  • Spell check again, just to be sure!
  • Finally, if you’re ever in doubt, let us help you! We look at dozens (hundreds?) of CVs every day and we’re here to help! Rope in a “professional CV reviewer” or Recruiter, as we’re more commonly known. Or have a friend who works in your field review your CV.

About the author

Rhona Kennedy is a Principal Consultant at IT Recruiter Consultancy Cathcart Associates; for the last six years she has been recruiting Software Developers across Scotland for some of the country’s most innovative and exciting organisations. Rhona also volunteers with Girl Geek Scotland and is a passionate advocate for women in STEM and loves working with and supporting female Developers at all stages of their careers. In her day job, she leads a team of Recruiters and is responsible for motivating the team, setting targets and is heavily involved in the hiring and training of new recruits.


female data scientist, woman leading team

What is an agile workforce and why should your tech firm care?

female data scientist, woman leading teamArticle provided by Rae Evans, marketing executive for managed and professional services cloud tech consultancy, Solutionize Global

Agile development methodology is evolving swiftly – and it’s proving to be more difficult for some enterprises than others, as every organisation does its utmost to remain relevant and competitive.

There’s often not a week that passes by without a company adopting a ‘fresh and agile’ approach, tweak, or innovation. But why is it becoming more pertinent to transform an organisation this way, especially within the tech sector?

Perhaps the answer lies at the very heart of innovation. For companies exploring a digital-first process, it must be understood that they not only have to possess the capability to respond to any change in an agile way – but ensure it’s done rapidly too.

That’s because disruption in the tech sector is often significant and constant. Therefore, savvy enterprises – with the correct infrastructure in place to deal with transformation swiftly – are in a much stronger position to deliver compelling value propositions.

It’s something many businesses are currently focusing on too, in order to stay ahead of the curve. According to a recent KPMG study – which surveyed professionals across Europe, Asia and US – 81 per cent of organisations have delivered at least one agile transformation project within the last three years. The study also found 63 per cent of leaders see agility as a strategic priority for both the entire firm and the IT infrastructure it has in place.

With an agile workforce comes a greater, more enriched, responsive experience that’s efficient, embraces change positively and adapts to capitalise upon emerging trends. Overall, it’s about being agile rather than doing agile.

But how can tech leaders help their employees embody such a cultural mindset? And what does an ‘agile team’ look like?

Having the ability to adopt a flexible approach

Top tech teams work flexibly, invest in learning, drive evolution – instead of responding to it – and are consistently motivated by change. They typically know when their firms should undergo transformation, and take proactive steps long before the project or strategy has even been launched.

Maintaining a competitive edge

Shifting market trends and changing project requirements often create a moving target that can drain resources and hinder project success. Therefore, it’s up to an agile workforce to understand how revolutionary a business model can be – and its importance when providing a commercial advantage.

With any strategy, the end goal is always achieving the optimum customer experience – and enterprises showcasing nimble and adaptable traits can evolve their plans to maintain a killer instinct.

Rolling out swift decisions

Technology provides businesses with the ability to analyse data so they can make key commercially driven judgements and think on their feet – and both are critical if they are to become an agile organisation.

Forward-thinking firms should also already have adopted a flatter hierarchy which encourages teams to be self-managing and provide them with the necessary tools so that they don’t have to go through countless phases of approvals, in order to enforce a decision.

Possessing the willingness to upskill

There has never been a greater time for tech organisations to motivate their existing workforces – thanks to the extensive development opportunities now available online.

With teams expected to deliver value at speed, every colleague has a pivotal role to play in making every project a success. That often means growing and learning together from one iteration to the next, motivating everyone to all pull in the same direction.

Following Randstad’s recent Workplace study – which found 68 per cent of employers believe the majority of their organisations will have an agile work arrangement by 2025 – this shift means business leaders are rethinking their office needs and roles. Therefore, a modern-day culture has become an incredibly important asset when attracting, and retaining, top talent.

Embracing a diverse environment

No revolutionary company even begin to be agility-focused without having a workforce that boasts a variety of technical and soft skills, perspectives and backgrounds. Quite simply, diversity provides a fresh and dynamic approach to digital disruption.

Having such a range of skills is not only crucial for a digitally savvy atmosphere to survive and thrive in a challenging marketplace, but it should enable organisations to bring something different to the table – so it maintains a competitive, disruptive edge.

Agile adoption will prove to be an easier concept for some organisations over others, but it’s no longer enough to rely on harnessing the best technology. Enterprises must delve deeper and foster a culture that encourages innovation and creative output – whilst attracting the right people who can deliver strategic, commercially driven and transformational goals.


Women on Laptop, Digital Marketing

4 tips for women seeking senior level roles in the digital marketing industry

Women at Laptop, Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is playing an increasingly significant part in many businesses' marketing strategies, heightening the demand for agencies and opening up more job opportunities.

But, as it’s a male-dominated industry, women need to know how they can compete. Here, Bridie Gallagher, Managing Director at Glass Digital, shares her top tips for women looking to reach senior level positions in the digital marketing industry.

We live in a world where it’s possible to do almost anything online and, for businesses who want to make the most of their marketing budgets, this also means taking to online platforms to promote their brands, set targets, and get results.

While this raises the demand for agencies that can help brands with their marketing campaigns, digital marketing is still a male-dominated industry, with women accounting for less than a third of the digital marketing workforce (Thrive Global). And, with females securing just 37.2% of UK managerial positions in total (Catalyst) it's worth knowing how you can break into more senior roles in this sector. Here, I'll be sharing my top tips for women who are looking for top level opportunities in digital marketing.

Create your vision

As women, we can be a little too critical of ourselves but, when you want to reach your goals, you need to believe you can do what you're trying to achieve. And, one good way of doing this is to create a vision in your mind about where you want to be.

While you mightn't know how you'll get there, it can pay to observe other women in senior level digital marketing roles, and take note of the skills they have and what makes them successful. For example, perhaps they are in charge of one department but have a good understanding of the work that all the other teams do, and are able to come up with well-rounded plans as a result.

If you're unsure of your own strengths and weaknesses, try asking colleagues and managers about what kind of leader they think you are. This will help you to identify the gaps between where you are now and where you want to be, so you can begin planning how you'll reach the top.

Take more risks

Women typically like to play it on the safe side, but doing this can actually restrict your career progress and stop you from going for fantastic promotions or new roles. In fact, it's suggested that only 43% of women are willing to take big risks that would boost their career (KPMG). So, it's important that more women start breaking down the boundaries that we set for ourselves and taking on more opportunities to give us the best chances of success.

For me, this meant moving on from my career in client relations within the financial services sector and welcoming the new opportunity to set up a digital marketing company in Newcastle. The success of the company was never guaranteed, so taking the plunge was nerve-wracking, but I'd never have gotten to where I am now without taking on the new challenge. Trusting your instincts and believing in yourself is incredibly important in business, and more women need to have the confidence to do both of these.

Increase your visibility

To get noticed, you need to be noticeable. And, that means doing everything you can to highlight your accomplishments to your current or future employers. I personally think the best way to do this is by having a portfolio of your work, as it'll clearly show employers how you've been able to affect client campaigns.

You'll also benefit from taking advantage of networking opportunities, especially if you can establish contact with other women in roles you aspire to be in. This way they may see your potential and be able to recommend you for senior positions, or give you tips to get into these roles.

I've met a lot of talented people throughout my years in business and each has taught me something invaluable about my career and myself as a businesswoman, so don't be afraid to seek advice from others in the industry and make as many connections as you can.

Accept the help you need

Trying to find the right work/life balance is never easy, especially if you’re a working mother. But, what both roles at work and home have taught me is that you'll never be able to have it all. However, you can still look for other ways to make your career goals a reality, even if you have other obligations.

I'm lucky to have a great family support system who can help me with school pick-ups and drop-offs for my daughter when I'm tied up at work. However, sometimes I have to make both my job and home life work together. For example, if I need to be in the office early, I'll bring my daughter here before school, and vice versa if I need to stay a bit later. That way we get to spend time together and I can still get the stuff done that I need to do.

Although it's natural for mothers to feel guilty if they can't be everywhere for their child, it's important that if an extra pair of hands are there to help us juggle our commitments, we use them when things start to pile up.

Confidence can go a long way for women looking to secure senior roles in digital marketing, so make sure you're following my top four tips to get you on track for a great future in the industry.

Bridie Gallagher headshotAbout the author

Bridie Gallagher is Managing Director of digital marketing agency, Glass Digital, and mother to a 10-year-old: two roles she has had to learn how to juggle as the company has grown. Bridie believes women can achieve anything they put their minds to, and her story is testament to that.


Social-Media-Masterclass

Using Social Media to Advance Your Career

Social-Media-MasterclassArticle by Veronica King, Founder of EDS Coaching & Consulting.co.uk

We are currently at a place whether we are starting, developing or advancing our career it is greatly affected by the increased use of social media.

The extensive use of social media by recruitment agencies and employers have become the order of the day and as a result most people have their profiles available on platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and other platforms.

Individuals can now identify a job via one simple search of their chosen Agency site. In addition, there are numerous Apps coming into the marketplace, that facilitate job search more quickly than ever before, providing prospective candidates with information at speed. This facility to provide Job-on-the-Go is an ever increasing one.

Competition for both available jobs and recruitment agencies are stiff and as a result prospective employees and those seeking to advance their career, whether via promotion or job change, have to be in a position to interpret what is on offer – how it suits their desires and interest, and which Agency is suitable for them, that is, that meet their specific needs.

Because jobs and careers seekers today have an extremely wide choice in terms of platforms, they can drill down into the areas, the organisations and influential individuals in those organisations of their choice.

In addition, they can also segment their career choice via social medial. Another great benefit to job and career seekers.

They can go to any site, or, site listings to discover what suits them best. You will often discover a numerical listing. For example, LinkedIn is the No. 1 spot for job seekers and those currently employed, or, looking to advance their careers. There are others such as, Twitter with Blog or LinkedIn URL, Jobster, Facebook, Craiglist, MyWorkster with Indeed Recruitment agency, and VisualCV and this is not an exhaustive list.

So how can you use social media to advance your career?

Let’s take the number one social media platform for jobs and careers. LinkedIn is a wealth of information for career development firstly because of its search engine. This can be used to research the types of organisations you want to join. It will also provide the details of the people within those organisations you may want to target for your career choice. It will also provide you with the locations of organisations world-wide. It will tell you how many employees those organisations employ and their positions. You can also search those organisations for the role you are seeking and get a description of those roles, first-hand.

You can set up your profile, listing all your skills, experience, qualifications, your talents, and your achievements in some detail, on LinkedIn.

All of this gives you a head start in your search and provide you with vital information on how you can proceed to making enquiries. Here you can submit a separate Curriculum Vitae (CV) or you can make your profile available to prospective organisations.

You can also set up a jobs alert facility. The downside here that it is not always precisely what you are looking for, but it can nevertheless be valuable in creating awareness of what is the jobs market and in your chosen field or expertise.

A great advantage in using social media for career advancement is that you can use your social connections or social networking to help your profile or CV to move up the career stack. Linked is known for facilitating ‘influencers’. These could be people in your social circle, people who are ‘in the know’, or, people you know who know those people. This can be a useful way to boost your career.

A useful facility on LinkedIn is the ability to ask for recommendations or testimonials from people you have worked with, or organisations you’ve worked for in the past.

All the above helps to you to build a strong profile from which prospective employers can glean information about you that are relevant to their searches.

It is important then that you ensure you are also relevant and that your information is current.

The most important thing to remember is that by applying these actions you are on your way to building a strong brand of ‘You’ so that you can achieve your career success. Your approach to this is pivotal. The purpose of the exercise is to attract the best recruiting manager to you, in an informed way. The saying ...’your network is your net worth’ rings true in building your successful career in the same way it applies to building a successful business.

Grow your social network, fully engage with them, and utilise their expertise and their wealth of experience. This will pay dividend. MashableUK, a multi- disciplinary site in social media, reports that 80% of jobs are not advertised, they are often found through network of connections.

Using social media to advance your career, like anything else, takes work so this requires so patience and persistence and will be very much worthwhile.

It is a great way to build your resilience for your new and upwardly mobile career.


Women in STEM

Understanding the benefits of women in STEM

Women in STEM

By Imogen Moorhouse, CEO, Vicon

Throughout my Mechanical Engineering degree at Southampton University, there were only four women on the course in comparison to 95 men.

Despite this being just over 20 years’ ago, dynamics still haven’t changed.

In fact, according to research around women in STEM, only 15 per cent of engineering graduates are female. And more broadly the percentage of women in STEM for technology and mathematics is a similar picture. Only 19% of computer studies graduates and 38 per cent of maths graduates are women. With only 13 per cent of the overall UK STEM workforce being women, these stats aren’t exactly surprising.

But one of the reasons why women aren’t entering the industry is because there isn’t enough education around what STEM roles actually entail. There’s currently a misnomer about roles in engineering, for example – many see this as a job that involves oily rags and spanners, but it goes way beyond that. An engineering career can in fact help women in their journey to becoming a successful, inspirational leader.

Research from WISE has revealed that the UK is on target to employ one million women in STEM roles, which is extremely encouraging to see. However, in order to meet this target, we need to continue educating young females, especially those who are in the A-level decision making progress, on the career opportunities that are available, and inspire them to go on and study subjects like engineering.

Women in STEM isn’t all just a case of making the workforce fair – we actually need more women in STEM roles to make scientific innovations useful and, more importantly, safe. When it comes to new innovations, how relevant can these be if they’re not taking into consideration the needs of half the population?

In addition, encouraging women to succeed in STEM roles is extremely beneficial financially, according to research from McKinsey Global Institute. The survey discovered that gender parity in the workplace could add up to $28 trillion (or 26 per cent) to annual global GDP by 2025.

So while there are plans to employ more females in STEM roles in the next year, it’s important we continue to inform and inspire them at the earliest stages of their education to pursue these types of careers, and show how their work can significantly benefit the industry.

Imogen MoorhouseAbout the author

Gaining her mechanical engineering degree in 1993, Imogen has since worked in a variety of sales roles within the technology businesses before joining Vicon in 2001. Her road to becoming CEO in 2012 has taken her through Sales, Support, Manufacturing, and General Management. Over the last 18 years, Imogen has seen the company grow from strength to strength, and since she took over as CEO, the business has doubled in size.


female data scientist, woman leading team

The world needs more data scientists

female data scientist, woman leading team

Dr Anya Rumyantseva, Senior Data Scientist at Hitachi Vantara

Data science is often referred to as a ‘dark art’.

As a data scientist myself, I don’t think the field is that mystifying. But for those outside of the profession, there is some lack of awareness of what a data scientist actually does, and what pursuing a career in the field entails.

This can be a real problem – because today, data makes the world go around.

Most companies, regardless of industry, are seeking new ways to leverage the vast amounts of data at their fingertips as a tool to drive efficiencies and transform their business model. But like any tool, data is only useful if it’s in the hands of someone who knows how to use it. It’s easy to forget that digital transformation is as much about people as it is about technology.

The talent deficit 

The UK has been struggling with a skills shortage for some time now. As digital transformation influences every sector, businesses are turning to experts who can help them harness their data. Companies are on the hunt for data engineers, machine learning engineers and data scientists. One study found that in the UK, the demand for people with specialist data skills has more than tripled over the past five years, while another projected the data scientist role will account for 28 per cent of all digital jobs by next year.

It’s a case of supply and demand – but unfortunately, many companies are encountering a sparse talent pool to recruit from. Some estimates even suggest that Europe needs around 346,000 more people trained in data science by 2020. That’s a big gap to fill – and it’s only going to get wider unless the industry takes action.

The data landscape is getting increasingly complex – how much data we’re generating, the types of data and how we’re storing it is changing. To put this in perspective: I’m working on a project right now that uses a petabyte of data. I’m able to work with this huge amount of data because today we have the infrastructure to store it, process it and apply machine learning models. Rewind to the 80s and it would have cost around $600 billion just to store that much data.

Now that we have the tools to work with such large data sets, we’re able to leverage data in exciting new ways. However, this also means we need more people capable of doing so. Considering that IDC forecasts a massive 163 zettabytes of data will be generated by businesses every year by 2025, it’s no wonder UK businesses are worried about a deficit in data specialists.

So, how do we mitigate an impending skills shortage? Well, a good place to start is by changing perceptions of what a data scientist actually is and what they do.

Demystifying the ‘dark arts’

I’ve been a data scientist in Hitachi Vantara’s Solution Engineering team for over two years now. When people ask me what I do, the answer may not be what they expect. My role is to understand the business challenges of our customers, consider potential analytical approaches to solving these challenges and prototype solutions by using advanced analytics, machine learning and deep learning techniques.

In short, I leverage data and mathematical techniques to solve business problems. It’s an exciting field to work in – and can have a significant real-world impact.

As an example, consider the UK rail system. It’s one of the busiest in the world, ferrying thousands of people from point A to B every single day. When you’re a passenger, you probably don’t think about the intricate and nuanced system that keeps your train running. That is, until something goes wrong. Like when a train door gets jammed and is prevented from leaving the station on time. One seemingly minor fault can have a huge knock-on effect further down the line, causing delays and disruption for thousands of passengers.

That’s one real-world problem that I’m trying to help to solve right now. Leveraging data collected from thousands of sensors on the trains themselves and working directly with rail engineers, as a data scientist on the project I bridge the gap between engineering and mathematics, uncovering insights that can drive efficiencies and reduce delays.

Diversity matters

Hopefully now you’ll think of a data scientist as more than just someone who sits behind a computer screen doing equations all day! But the tech sector needs to work hard to build a more inclusive environment where young people – regardless of their background, gender or race – consider data science as an attractive career option.

At Hitachi Vantara, we run a data science internship programme in our London office for talented and intellectually curious young people from diverse backgrounds. Our interns roll up their sleeves and get stuck into analytical projects. They are an important part of the team and their opinions matter. We challenge them to think creatively, asking them to leverage publicly available data to uncover insights into real-world problems – like using data from the Department of Transport to think up new ways to reduce carbon emissions from private and commercial vehicles in the UK. It’s not just a fun thought-experiment – it’s an accurate glimpse into the life of a data scientist.

Data science is a diverse, interesting and constantly evolving field – so it needs people who can think differently, bring new ideas and offer fresh perspectives. If we’re going to tackle the skills shortage, the industry must hold the door open for people from all walks of life.

Anya Rumyantseva, Senior Data Scientist, Hitachi VantaraAbout the author

Anya Rumyantseva is a Senior Data Scientist at Hitachi Vantara. Anya received a Ph.D. degree from the University of Southampton and BS/MS degree in Physics from Lomonosov Moscow State University. Anya is also a fellow of the Nippon Foundation (Japan). Her PhD thesis was focused on using IoT data obtained from marine robotic systems for improving our understanding of phytoplankton blooms and their impact on the global climate. At Hitachi Vantara, Anya is working on projects that use advanced analysis and machine learning techniques to improve business operations in the railway, manufacturing and other industries traditional for Hitachi group. 


woman-on-computer

Why not knowing anything about IT, makes you good at IT...

woman-on-computer

When it comes to success in business, they say that knowledge is power – but knowledge of what, exactly? Often, that is never truly clarified. Can you really run a successful IT support company without knowing the intricacies of the cyber world and the threats orbiting it?

This notion is one that particularly rings true for the managing director of Lancashire-based IT support provider Q2Q, Lorna Stellakis, who is convinced that her minimal knowledge of the complex IT world is not only contributing to making her business highly successful, but is what sets it aside from the raging wave of competition. Here, Lorna explains why in greater depth…

At this point in the Digital Age, IT has been evolving at a rapid rate.

And with all modern-day businesses relying upon the power of the internet and computer-driven systems to efficiently carry out their day-to-day operations, it’s crucial that the expert teams behind the scenes are able to deliver solutions that keep everything in working order. But the truth is, there’s so much more to the successful IT equation than just the technical industry knowledge. Understanding people and business objectives plays a huge part in solving the puzzle, and this how the management team at Q2Q identified an opportunity to take IT support to the next level.

Looking at the headlines from the past twelve months, we can clearly see a pattern – the focus on IT and GDPR-related news has augmented, and the tempest of data breach stories shows no sign of relenting. With household brands such as British Airways, Google and Marriott International all falling victim to cyber-criminals’ attempts to access and compromise data, for smaller companies it can sometimes feel like they don’t stand a chance, when it comes to implementing effective and impenetrable digital defense measures. But how wrong this mentality is.

For many SME’s, dealing with IT can be daunting – it’s not their area of expertise, and they are often concerned that they could be persuaded to pay for solutions that aren’t needed. We find that a surprising amount of the time, employees who have no IT-related qualification – or indeed any prior dealings with this side of operations – are tasked with championing the internal strategy and expected to know how to fix issues when they arise. But the shocking element is not the fact that these people have no experience in this field, it is that they haven’t been asked the necessary questions from neither their internal IT staff members nor their outsourced support team – and that’s a recipe for digital disaster.

Q2Q was created in 2004 by a small team, armed with years of specialist experience, who had grown increasingly frustrated by the lack of plain-speaking, honest and affordable support services available to small and medium sized organisations. This then acted as a stimulus, as they set out to change the way IT assistance was offered to SMEs – omitting the baffling jargon and making it about what companies need. And that’s where my knowledge deficiency renders an advantage.

Two years ago when I first became involved with Q2Q, it was predominantly to look at some of the internal processes and the people-development side of the business. One could argue that because I didn’t possess the background knowledge of the sector, I wouldn’t be able to deliver on the outcomes, but having started my career working for a clothing retailer – where I was a small cog in the wheel that planned, designed, sourced, manufactured and delivered clothing – I knew this to be different. I was officially responsible for only a small portion of the process, but because I felt compelled to understand how everyone else’s role contributed to the lifecycle of the garments, I could make more informed decisions in my own area, that consequently benefitted the company. This broadening-your-view type of approach is therefore how you can skip the technical knowledge part and get under the skin of the system, or business, at hand.

Businesses tend to focus on weak-points and try to find a quick-win solution.

How we work is to look at the strengths and try to work out how they can be applied to an area of weakness, as this can often render the weakness irrelevant. Of course, our technical experts are there to deal with complex issues as well as constantly on the lookout for emerging technologies or solutions that will help organisations reduce costs, work smarter and grow, but what use is a team of cyber professionals that cannot effectively communicate with our customers? That’s why our recruitment is not centered around technical ability alone – attitude and experience are also key.

So, how is this relevant to IT support? Well, it’s all about getting to know a business – including broader challenges not within the systems and IT category. By understanding what companies’ challenges are, unearthing their preferred ways of working, and most notably what’s important to them, our tech team can then work on what solutions will help achieve their overall business goals.  Now, I may not have the IT knowledge, but that is certainly not to say that Q2Q is run by non-techies, on the contrary – we have a team of dedicated digital-savvy professionals.

The harmony of technology, economics and psychology is not only what makes our approach to IT very different to the norm, but it’s what makes my not-knowing-anything-about-IT statement justified.

In reality, the fact that I know nothing, or very little, about IT is actually an added strength for our business and our clients, by asking questions that a typical techie wouldn’t necessarily think of, we can deliver far better technical solutions and services.

Lorna Stellakis, MD of Q2Q ITAbout the author

Lorna Stellakis

OWNER / MANAGING DIRECTOR 

My role is to provide the overall direction and “eye on the compass” as to where we, as a team are heading, setting the overall business strategy and financial budgeting. Whilst always having been involved with systems implementation throughout my career, I have an operational background and no specific IT experience. However, if anything, I believe this makes me more qualified to ensure the team deliver great service, drawing from my operations experience, and having been on the wrong side of poor IT support in the past. I can relate to how crippling this can be to a business, making it paramount that we ensure that IT issues are as invisible as possible, leaving the customers to get on with running their businesses smoothly.


Mentoring-coaching-featured

How to find the right professional mentor

Mentoring-coaching

In the world of business, you often hear company figureheads talking of their mentors. A trusted partner can act as a sounding board for your most ambitious plans, as well as a sense-check to remain focused on targets. But, when it comes to a dependable advisor, how do you find ‘the one’?

Founder and MD of Scriba PR, Katie Mallinson, admits you don’t necessarily need to look for the person with the most glowing resume, the highly-decorated entrepreneur, or the one your friend swears by – the right-hand man (or woman) is in fact a completely subjective decision.

It took me a while to find the right mentor.

Over the years, I was introduced to lots of people – each with varying levels of experience and differing specialisms – and often felt as though they were right for me on paper, but not in practice.

For instance, there was a hugely successful man who had a list of credentials as long as your arm. I liked and respected him, but his view of what constitutes an outstanding business was so far removed from mine. He didn’t understand the importance of having a creative space for colleagues, or a welcoming environment for clients – we just didn’t gel.

So, what makes a good mentor?

I found my answer in Natasha McCreesh of PiP to Grow Strong. Her approach is one which places a lot of emphasis on the role people play in a business journey, and that you can work hard and have a good time while doing it.

For me, I always wanted Scriba to be a company with soul, which lives through its values. Natasha has a background in marketing – so understands our world – but she also cares about workplace wellbeing and team dynamics, which is very close to my own heart. She doesn’t profess to know the answers, but instead leads me along a path and gives me things to think about.

Also, a friend and I mentor each other from time to time. We’re both in similar, but not competing, businesses and will share work and ideas – as well as frustrations. It’s helpful to have someone to meet up with for a coffee and a chat because you often realise that you’re not alone in the challenges you face!

How did you find the right person for you?

You firstly have to identify what it is you want to achieve from your mentoring, as well as the qualities – and respect – in someone you might pay to give advice. It’s also important to bear in mind that one person might not encompass everything you’re looking for, so it’s okay to have more than one confidante.

The key thing though, is not to think this person is going to be a magician. There’s no ‘quick fix’, and you need to commit the time and energy to uphold your end of the bargain. That person is there to challenge and hold you to account, so prepare to be uncomfortable at times, and make space in your schedule to do the ‘homework’ you’ll be set following each session.

Are you a mentor for anyone else?

In the first instance, and as a business owner, I hope that my colleagues will see me as a mentor rather than ‘the boss’. We each bring different skills and experience to Scriba – no one has a formal PR qualification as we have different communication backgrounds – and I like to bring those together to help us grow as a collective.

We’re really open about our personal and professional development plans at work, including my own. We don’t just look at workplace smarts, but personal things such as confidence, insecurity, handling conflict, and message delivery.

Throughout school, college and university, I used to hold voluntary sessions for children with special educational needs, helping them to become more confident readers and providing them with a coping mechanism if they got stuck.

Now, I’m a governor at Greenhead College and support a young entrepreneurs’ initiative at the University of Huddersfield, so still spend time with young people across the region during this crucial developmental stage in their lives.

How important is it to have a professional mentor?

I think it completely depends on the individual. Personally, I enjoy learning and it’s important for me to feel prepared to handle any situation I might come across. As such, my mentor keeps me on my toes!

It’s also quite a fulfilling feeling to have done what has been asked of me – or challenged on why I might not have done something. Natasha can be frank and will speak the inner truth that you often know, but maybe don’t readily admit.

While this kind of approach might not be for everyone, I see a value in reflecting in order to be able to look ahead. I reflect regularly and new scenario plan as standard – I have done for years.

What should you look for in a trusted partner?

You can never know who to trust completely, but you need to be comfortable in what is disclosed. I know I can tell Natasha anything, but I didn’t when we first met. That comes with time.

I’m incredibly confident in Scriba, and the elements which give us our competitive advantage are things you can’t mimic, at least, not in the long-term. People may discuss someone else’s idea for an innovation – breaking a corporate confidence – but when it comes to the DNA of your business, that can’t be copied.

Do you think group mentoring sessions are important too?

In terms of growing as a team and empowering colleagues, internal group sessions play a vital role in making everyone feel invested in what you’re doing.

I’m also a supporter of a peer-to-peer event, the MMB Lunch Club – which I’ve helped to bring to Huddersfield – where business owners and managers come together over good food and a spot of wine! 12 of us sit around the table and have a genuinely honest discussion about a topical business theme, speaking openly, asking questions and giving advice. There’s no ‘one-upmanship’ at these gatherings, only people willing to share their experience with others and genuinely help.

Any final words of advice?

Some people think that scenario-planning is a waste of time, but it has taught me to plan for every possibility, because it will make you more resilient when you need to face the unexpected.

And, you don’t always need to give someone the official title of ‘mentor’, in order for them to play that role in your life. I have someone I click with and have a lot of respect and admiration for – and we’ve been through some similar professional challenges.

Katie Mallinson - Scriba PR - 09.19About the author

CIPR member Katie Mallinson is Scriba’s founder. An Outstanding Young Communicator winner with a gong from HRH Prince Andrew also under her belt, she steers the Scriba ship and maintains the lead on all new business enquiries.

Her passion for communicating and eye for growth opportunities means she still loves to be hands-on with several of our technical clients. She is also an advocate of workplace wellbeing, staff development and young entrepreneurialism, which sees her frequently deliver pro bono support to youngsters in education and starting out in business


women in tech, soft skills featured

Six reasons why modern-day tech workforces need soft skills to survive

women in tech, soft skills

Every tech leader strives towards having the full package when offering the very best service, meaning HR departments and hiring teams can spend a huge amount of time finding the right fits for their organisations.

An all-encompassing tech team builds out a business’s IT architecture and networks. It knows how to deploy a new software release with ease and can talk many different coding languages.

But as cloud services and technology become more user-focused and intuitive – and many traditionally repetitive tasks turn to automation via machine learning and AI – this has led to a shift towards the importance of being ‘human’.

Soft skills are playing more of a vital role within a digital team, and those who overlook the personalities and characters that can drive success, will set themselves up to fail, regardless of the amazing tech that the business possesses.

It’s therefore becoming inevitable that tech enterprises should be focusing on more specific traits and personalities that can add to a team’s dynamic – and here are six reasons why.

Improving communication

Unfortunately for the younger workforce, whilst being digital natives it’s also well-documented how many can often struggle to communicate face-to-face – 40 per cent are lacking soft skills according to recent reports – because they are more used to online interaction.

But communicating strongly has a wide-reaching effect and having that ability to use appropriate language for different stakeholders, negotiate with several departments, and ensure feedback is constructive – and egos are left at the door – can all help individuals express themselves, and positively motivate colleagues.

Having the confidence to provide clear and concise solutions, whilst showing respect to listen to other voices, showcases overall, strong communicative skills.

Encouraging collaboration

The clue here is in the word ‘team’ – an acronym of this being ‘Together Everyone Achieves More’ – as this is the essence of collaboration.

Yes, people are great individually, but the real power in business comes from assembling a group with varied strengths, in order to supercharge success.

Being able to collaborate effectively alongside diverse characters is a key soft skill. A team could have a wide and varied demographic, encompass on and off-site resource, or be made up of contractors and permanent workers, but if they can all work cohesively, they can deliver the best possible outcomes. 

Instilling empathy

With the need to be user-focused and provide the greatest experience and products for end users, employees should be able to show they care and understand how others feel. Those who are empathetic towards customers interacting with their product and services can build strong relationships too.

Colleagues all have personal lives, real emotions and problems – as humans, there is a duty of care to be supportive, counsel, and acknowledge that many situations will manifest during working hours. A little empathy makes the in-house environment a much better place.   

Proving to be adaptable

Digital disruption! The team should live and breathe change as new technologies, ways of working, software, hardware – and everything in-between – burst onto the scene. Those who fail to adapt or don’t see change as an opportunity, rather than a chore, will ultimately struggle.

Employees keen to upskill are vital when it comes to addressing the global tech talent shortage. By educating themselves to further understand emerging trends, a new platform or cloud migration, this can provide huge benefits – both individually and operationally.

On a mental health note too, taking up development opportunities or formal training paths can empower staff, and make them feel incredibly valuable to their firm.

Empowering future leaders

Many enterprises now exist with a flatter organisational structure and are moving towards a more agile approach – enabling the self-management of teams who are all focused on the operation's overall outcomes.

A person with a natural flair for leadership will be self-motivated, interested in business development and have an entrepreneurial spirit. Within a successful tech team, these leaders should be capable of painting a strong picture of where the firm is going and the utopia that exists.

Effective collaborators should also be confident when helping others to visualise how they can consistently tweak and update projects in-line with the ever-changing market requirements too, and lead teams towards success – before competitors do.

Reinvigorating creativity

Strategy, planning and future results – what drives a team positively? This final soft skill covers employees who possess vibrant, engaging ideas that are essential to help a business stand out.

Some creative suggestions might seem a little off the mark, and others will be nearly spot-on and just a little tweak required. However, the point is to build a culture allowing people to feel comfortable to voice and share their thoughts – organisations empowering staff can be hugely attractive to top talent, too.

A popular interview question for many years was, “tell me when you used your initiative in a situation?” It’s time for employees to forget that, and instead explain how one of their ideas can improve the world! 

Having a complete team boasting technical and soft skills is no mean feat, but personalities and certain character traits should not be overlooked when searching for the best talent. A group eager to disrupt the industry positively, work collaboratively and keep embracing change can be a huge advantage in the sustainability of a tech business.

Rachel McElroy, Solutionize GlobalAbout the author

Rachel McElroy is the chief marketing officer of managed and professional services cloud tech consultancy, Solutionize Global.


learning, digital experience

It's always a good idea to develop your tech skills | Sharing some thoughts on how to do it

learning, digital experience

It will come as no surprise to most or all of you that no matter how or where you earn your living, technology will play an important role in your career.

Helene Panzarino – of Centre or Digital Banking at The London Institute of Banking & Finance – offers her tips on skilling up on tech.

At the end of last year, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) reported that 62% of companies in the UK expected to retrain employees over 2019 – with over half of those businesses citing new technologies or new services as the reason.

While there is concern about the skills shortage in the UK’s tech sector, Britain’s digital skills gap is affecting all industries, even farming, according to Access Government. The workplace is simply becoming more digital. Every industry – from media, banking and recruitment, to health and education – needs more tech savvy workers, and every sector is coming to rely on technological expertise.

So, if your tech skills are good, you can look forward to some great opportunities. If you’re not so confident, now’s a good time to brush up. No need to panic – it could be easier than you think.

Tech skills are plenty, so if you are not looking to take a degree level qualification, which tech skills should you be learning?

This depends on you, your interests and where you want your career to take you.

It’s always worth taking a regular and objective look for gaps in your skillset and asking yourself what you need to take you to the next level.

If you’re in a business strategy role, consider learning more about data analysis for example. People in this sphere are highly valued by employers because ‘data is the new oil’ and plays a vital part in the overall business process. If you’re in marketing and comms, you need to know how to write for the web, what keywords are, and to understand search engine optimisation and user analytics.

Unsure of where you want to go next? Then talk to colleagues, managers, friends or family. Concerned about the cost? Your employer may offer you internal or external training funded through their learning and development budget.

Although it can sometimes feel like information overload, it’s useful to keep an ear to the ground for what’s happening in the wider world of tech. Free online publications, like WiredBusiness InsiderTechCrunchThe Verge and Engadget will keep you up to date. If you have a good idea of what’s going on, this will help you work out where your interests lie.

Once you’ve decided where you want to get to, the next step is to work out what to do to get there. The National Careers Service website offers an online skills health check and details of different careers – including a section on computing, technology and digital. This will help you identify gaps in your learning and experience. It’s also great to seek out inspirational role models in your chosen area, join groups or associations where members share their experience and expertise, or attend topical events, Meetups, and lectures where you can network with people who are doing or have done what you are looking to start.

Skilling up

If you are in employment, it’s always worth asking your line manager what sort of training is available through your employer’s learning and development programmes. For example, we work with banks and financial services companies to offer training in FinTech and digital banking. If training isn’t available in house, your company may fund you to attend an external course, especially if you can make a good case for how the training will support you in your role.

But if you can’t get training through work, all is not lost. There are plenty of affordable – even free – accredited online courses available.

The Open University (OU) has some free courses, including several on data analysis and interpretation, including Simple coding, which will teach you the basics of Python, and a course on Learn to code for analysis. You will be awarded a ‘certificate of completion’ for these when you finish which you can mention on your CV. The OU also runs courses up to degree level, so if you decide you want a career in digital, take a look.

Code Academy and Udemy run affordable short courses, that you can study online in the evenings and weekends. Another good provider is Lynda, which now belongs to LinkedIn and offers training you can do at your own pace at home. Their courses cover everything from computer languages at various levels, to user experience (UX) social media marketing, graphics and web programmes.

Shout about your achievements

Once you’ve completed a course, let your line manager know so that they can help you integrate your new learning into your work. This will be important for your next performance review or when you apply for a new job.

Give your digital skills and experience prominence on your CV and in any performance review with management. Show how you used your skills, what the outcome was and how it has had a positive impact on the business.

Improving your digital skills is a win-win. Apart from improving your salary, it shows employers that you understand what they need and that you have the initiative and ability to pursue your professional development.

Training in technology will help you with problem solving and analytical thinking - both of which are valued in the workplace – and will set you on the right path to succeed in your career.