How businesses can help plug the tech industry’s skills gap

Front view of diverse business people looking at camera while working together at conference room in a modern office

As the technology industry continues to battle a mass skills shortage, Katie Killinger, Head of People at UK public transport app and website provider, Passenger shares her view on how businesses can inspire more people to expand their tech skill sets. 

The technology sector has suffered from recruitment challenges for many years, and unfortunately the pandemic has only intensified these issues, pushing many businesses to breaking point. 2021 saw ‘The Great Resignation’ sweep across the UK, with many workers planning job changes as the number of opportunities exceeded demand. According to research by Randstad, in November, 1 in 4 UK workers were planning a job change and those in the tech industry were among those who claimed to be most confident in finding new opportunities. No surprises there, as tech skills are indispensable for a huge spectrum of industries – but unfortunately there simply aren’t enough sufficiently skilled workers to meet talent demand.

So why are there so few skilled workers? I think lack of confidence is a key reason. When many people think of the tech industry, they see it being filled with complicated data and formulas which take a specific mindset and mentality to understand. What’s more, there’s still a lack of gender diversity in the sector – therefore, a lack of desire for more women to become skilled in the industry. In addition, shifting COVID restrictions have meant valuable tech community meetups and events have had to be put on hold, so opportunities to learn from others through information sharing are being missed.

To help solve these problems, first and foremost, tech businesses need to empower their employees to lead by example and show others what they can achieve to help build their confidence. Showcasing employees from a variety of backgrounds is important to ensure they resonate with a wider demographic, such as a successful female senior employee, or a worker who has progressed through the company without having had substantial prior tech experience. It’s also important to highlight those people to future generations at an early age by collaborating with schools and universities, giving them role models to aspire to. At Passenger, we have a dedicated Inclusion Guild. This is a working group which puts initiatives in place, such as strategies to improve new-starter onboarding and to better identify diversity gaps, to help us build an inclusive workforce – and in doing so, an inclusive product.

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In addition, keeping an open mind is key. Potential recruits may not have specific technical skills, but it doesn’t mean they can’t learn them with necessary training and mentoring from existing employees. In fact, it can almost serve in that company’s favour to hire someone who doesn’t hold specific tech skills for certain roles, such as in Operations or Customer Services. This means they can come into the business with a fresh perspective and gain an understanding of tech specifics, so they can better explain them to clients – removing all elements of technical jargon.

At Passenger, we’ve hired various employees who don’t come from a traditional tech background to help public transport operators better understand our technology solutions. We’re also expanding our recruitment efforts outside of Dorset by advertising fully remote roles, helping us access a larger pool of tech talent across the country. Our workforce has thrived as a result of our broader recruitment strategy, with two-fifths of our employee base progressing to senior level positions since Passenger launched in 2015 – including within our engineering, design and customer teams.

In addition, we’ve helped broaden operators’ workforce skill sets through our services. For instance, when the pandemic hit last year, we hosted training sessions with 85 operator staff members to upskill them on content management tasks, helping those impacted by staff sicknesses.

To further plug the skills gap, we need to work together as an industry to reinstate more tech meetups and conferences. Passenger has held developer conferences in the past, alongside sponsoring local tech meetups including PHPDorset, Mobile Dorset and hackbmth – all of which encourage businesses to share ideas and knowledge through talks and ideas.

These events don’t solely benefit start-ups – someone who’s worked in the tech industry for over 20 years can gain just as much by discussing their own experiences and hearing others from those with fresh insights and new perspectives. Although we’re in a competitive industry, the success of our businesses relies on the success of the industry – and we can help each other by sharing valuable information and educating one another.

About the author

Katie is Head of People at UK public transport technology company, Passenger. Passenger delivers scalable technology to public transport operators of all sizes, including mobile app ticketing, travel information apps, and websites.

With over 15 years of experience working in people and business management throughout the software industry, Katie joined Passenger in 2021, with a goal to strategically scale the business in terms of people and its operations and a critical time in the company’s growth.


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New year, new you? Try sharpening the tools you already have

women in tech, soft skills

The New Year often carries with it promises to make vast changes in our professional and personal lives, with January heralding calls of ‘this will be my year!’.

But, rather than trying to completely reinvent yourself, it’s often better to work with the skills you’ve already got within your midst.

Take Q2Q IT as an example. Managing director, Lorna Stellakis, is a strong advocate for optimising the infrastructure you already have at your disposal – be it tech or talent – and here, she explains how you can too.

Resolutions and rituals are often set with the best of intentions but can often be broken should the implementation not be ‘easy’. While making a change will always cause some disruption to the norm, in many cases a grand shift isn’t the answer.

Often, simply exploring the capabilities of something you already have – or pay for – can revolutionise your life. And, in terms of tech, this could be extracting every ounce of value from a product or service, by understanding all of its respective ‘bells and whistles’.

When purchasing, you might plump for an ‘add on’ service – a relatively small extra investment which could result in considerably more value to the system or equipment.

And, as a very people-focused business leader, I believe this also applies to colleagues.

With the exception of our admin staff, the team at Q2Q are all highly skilled techies, and the main purpose of their day-to-day role is creating solutions for clients, as well as solving any IT-related issues which crop up.

However, if we stuck to the stereotypical techie role profile, you could stop there and generalise their work as simply ‘doing technical stuff’. And I am sure the company owners reading this will identify with such a sentiment.

When I took over the reins of the Q2Q ship in 2018, I made it my mission to delve further into each one of my colleagues – their skillsets, motivations for coming to work, and what they see as ‘a job well done’.

By understanding what makes them tick – their preferred ways of working, and what they’re passionate about – I could quickly see they were each capable of adding additional value to the business, that wasn’t already being utilised.

In fact, we all have skills beyond those required in our basic job description.

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Talent within the team

Take our technical consultant Damien Gelder as an example. He is a whiz at coming up with analogies that perfectly explain a complex issue in an easy-to-understand way. He uses this talent in all sorts of situations too, and we see it called upon on a daily basis – particularly when trying to introduce a new product to a client that we believe will make their lives easier, or giving a non-technical demonstrations of a service to a prospect.

On the other hand, Ash Williams, our technical support engineer, has an obsessive attention to detail and is extremely methodical in the way he works. So, if we need a complex project scoping out, we call on his expertise to ensure all the steps are ticked off and there are no stages missed.

Phil Irwin, another of our technical support engineers, has strong people skills and is great at seeing a variety of perspectives in any given situation, which translates perfectly into relating to our clients. That’s why he’s our ‘customer excellence champion’ and, if we’re looking to alter any of our processes, he’s our ‘go to’ when it comes to sense-checking changes.

Then, regarding seeing themes in IT-related situations, technical support engineer Harrison Burke comes into his own during our team meetings! We rely on him to highlight where there is a recurring pattern and offer solutions to nip this in the bud, by rolling out new internal processes to all customers.

In fact, all the of the team now have a specialism that is predominantly non-technical!

Not only does this add something extra to the firm’s dynamic – by playing to everyone’s strengths – but it adds value to the service we offer and gives everyone a sense of purpose beyond just doing their job.

So, while I’m not sure that I could get away with describing the Q2Q crew as: “tools that previously needed sharpening,”, that’s essentially what we’ve done!

Making the most of what you have is not only a cost-effective and time-efficient way of making sure you’re getting the maximum out of existing investments, but also identifying where you may need to plug any gaps.

That’s why, it’s worth having an IT reassessment, or audit, every year – or six months if you’re growing rapidly – to make sure it’s continuing to do what you need it to.

If you’d like to chat to us about any of the additional services mentioned above – or you have any other questions about what’s possible from your IT setup – give us a call on 01524 581690, or drop us a direct message!

About the author

Lorna Stellakis, MD of Q2Q ITMy 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.


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Upskilling communities to eliminate digital exclusion

woman and man looking at a computer screen with coding, carving a career in tech, digital exclusion

Digital exclusion remains a growing issue all around the world and the pandemic has brought the problem into even sharper focus.

The past year has demonstrated how a lack of digital skills or connectivity can create an additional layer of social exclusion and exacerbate social and economic problems for communities.

Last month, local councils in the UK announced a collaboration to build a stronger data picture of digital exclusion in their areas, as part of the CCIN Policy Lab Understanding the Digital Divide project. But it’s not just the responsibility of the public sector to address the issue of digital exclusion.

Technology companies have a large role to play in helping to upskill communities and equip them with the ability to be successful in their digital lives. This will also be crucial for addressing the widening STEM skills gap, which is affecting society and industry more broadly. According to a new report from the Institute of Engineering and Technology, 93% of engineering firms do not have the right skills to meet 2050 climate targets.

Here, WeAreTechWomen speak to Sarah Atkinson, director, corporate social responsibility at global software company, Micro Focus, on the role of technology companies in helping to upskill communities and eliminate digital exclusion.

Can you provide us with a brief overview of your career and how you got into running CSR programmes?

I’m a former news journalist, with over 20 years of experience with organisations such as Cisco, BEA and most recently, ten years as Vice President, Communications & Social Responsibility at CA Technologies. Purpose has always been important to me and around 2008, I felt that I wanted to make more of a difference, not just in terms of the workplace but more broadly regarding inclusion at all levels.

I took on my first non-exec role at techUK (a member organisation representing the IT industry in government on topics ranging from economic policy to skills and diversity). Here, I worked closely with the government on various digital skills and I&D initiatives, such as Gender Pay Gap reporting, Returners Programs. I was a founding supporter of the WISE Campaign’s People Like Me Digital, which aims to influence 200,000 11-15-year-old girls to consider a career in STEM. I also had an amazing opportunity to collaborate with Girlguiding to help incorporate STEM subjects into their badges and attended Camp CEO as a role model for Girl Guides.

I joined Micro Focus in 2019 to establish and lead their CSR program globally. Today, I am also a board director at the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Chair of the Nominations & Governance Committee and a member of its Skills, Education & Employment Advisory Panel as well as the LEP’s I&D Champion. I am also a long-standing member of techUK’s Skills & Diversity Council and a trustee at Berkshire Youth, a social enterprise that works to support, empower and inspire young people.

Why is addressing the problem of digital exclusion so important?

Today every business is a digital business. As more and more services move online as digital transformation becomes more pervasive, it is important that nobody is left behind. Industry must continue to play a key role in helping to address this issue, as digital exclusion can also widen inequalities on many levels, including health, social and economic mobility. It spans all aspects of society – whether it’s a school child not being about to submit homework or take part in online lessons. Or those in the community not having the right skills to access important government services, or missing out on competitive energy tariffs. It can impact in many ways.

How has the last year exacerbated the issue of digital exclusion?

Overnight our lives went digital – schooling, socialising, shopping , staying in touch with each other and working from home (where possible) meant that those who did not have access whether broadband, devices or the skills were marginalised even further. We also changed our approach as we quickly transitioned from delivering in person workshops at schools to virtual workshops, where employees were able to connect with hundreds of students in the classroom virtually.

What is the role of technology companies in helping upskill communities and eliminating digital exclusion?

Tech firms can and do play a major role in helping, on many levels.  The Micro Focus INSPIRE program is focused on helping equip communities with the right skills to be successful in their digital lives.  Every employee has four days a year to volunteer and through a number of our non-profit/charity partnerships we have been able to help multiple communities around the world. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, volunteers in Bulgaria and Italy used their volunteering days to help upskills teachers to get online to deliver lessons.

What are the specific steps technology companies can take to address this issue?

Engaging your employees is a great first step. Tapping into the talent and passion you have in your organisation can provide you with an army of volunteers and role models – whatever the size of your business. Secondly, empowering and enable employees to take time in work hours to volunteer. And thirdly, supporting educational organisations/non-profits/charities who are working in this space.

What skills do we need to equip people with to help them be more successful in their digital futures? How does this relate to closing the widening STEM skills gap?

Today every job requires some level of digital skills. Therefore, it’s important to help young people understand that whatever career choices they make, digital skills will be required along the way. In terms of the skills gap, yes there remains a chronic STEM skills shortage in the UK. While improvements are being made, we still have a long way to go.  The issue must be addressed from the classroom to the boardroom – over coming stereotypes, biases and providing more role models as a starting point.  Engaging young people to study STEM subjects and pursue jobs in tech is important. However, we cannot rely solely on the next generation to solve the problem. Reskilling existing workforces for the jobs of tomorrow is critical, as many low-digitally-skilled workers will be impacted by automation and AI, leaving them without the right skills to be successful in the future.

Employers can play a key role in helping to keep their workforce up to date through investments in ongoing learning and development, amongst other things. Attracting a diverse pool of talent also remains an issue. Tech needs talent from all backgrounds. Research has shown time and time again, that to drive innovation we need diverse thinking, ideas and problem solving.  Let’s not forget it is also about equality and fairness. Not all talent gets the same opportunity so we need to help create opportunities for all but also then ensure we have inclusive environments where all talent can thrive.

Sarah AtkinsonAbout Sarah

An experienced leader and former news journalist, Sarah Atkinson has over 20 years of experience in multinational organizations including Cisco, 3Com and most recently spent ten years as Vice President, Communications & Social Responsibility, EMEA at CA Technologies. A member of the company’s leadership team, she also led Create Tomorrow, a program designed to inspire and excite young people, particularly girls, about careers in STEM, as well as the company’s Diversity & Inclusion strategy in EMEA.

From 2015 to 2018, she served on the main board of techUK, a non-profit representing the companies and technologies that are defining today, the world that we will live in tomorrow.

Today, she is the Vice Chair of the Diversity & Skills Council at techUK and is actively involved in several Diversity & Inclusion programs including Gender Pay Gap reporting, Returners Programs and is a founding supporter of the WISE Campaign’s People Like Me Digital which aims to influence 200,000 11-15-year-old girls in the UK to consider a career in STEM. In 2018, she also worked with Girlguiding to incorporate STEM into their badges and attended 2018 Camp CEO as a role model for Girl Guides.

She was listed in Cranfield University’s School of Management 100 Women to Watch report – a supplement to the Female FTSE Board Report 2018 and in the Computer Weekly 100 Most Influential Women in Technology in 2017 & 2018.

A regular commentator on STEM, equality and inclusion topics, she has appeared on BBC News, BBC World and in various publications.


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Tech needs you: How to translate your existing skills and strengths for a career in IT

women in tech, soft skills

Article by Nataliia Pelykh, Business analysis competency lead at Ciklum

My career didn’t begin in tech – but instead as an analyst working on financial models and forecasting for a whole host of industries, including agriculture, oil and gas.

My best friend back then was Microsoft Excel, and my role was a combination of working numbers and narratives. The exponential and impressive growth of the tech sector led me to make the switch and join the 55 million others working in IT across the world. Thinking of Sheryl Sandberg’s famous words, I had high hopes that the sector would be the means by which I would skyrocket my career.

It’s never too late, or too early, to change course

Ciklum’s business analyst department is undergoing a review of seniority levels this summer, and as part of this initiative, I am also working on updates to the BA job description. Why? The job description hasn’t changed much since I first used it to apply for my current role more than three years ago – but my team’s processes, and the demands of our clients, have. My vision for the newly revised JD is that we will focus less on the number of years a candidate has on their CV and instead give more weight to the diversity and breadth of their experience. There are so many fantastic candidates out there – who could be great for a BA role in tech – and it is important that in my team, we do not raise barriers to those who come from outside of the industry.

Here are my thoughts on how best to translate your existing skills and strengths for your big move into the tech sector.

1. Do your research

In spring 2016, I got in touch with a friend who was already working in a tech-based BA role – we talked about the nature of the job, his day-to-day tasks, what about the job he found interesting, and what drove him. This was my first introduction into a tech career that changed my own pre-existing assumptions about the industry.

I then spent lots of time researching the tech sector – reading widely, and speaking with my friend a little more about his work. This is my first suggestion for those looking to expand their experiences by moving into tech: do your research. Read industry magazines, google what kind of roles might be available, reach out to people already in the industry via LinkedIn – you’ll find that so many professionals will be responsive and keen to offer advice. Attend industry events and soak up as much as you possibly can; find job descriptions from a range of tech companies offering a variety of roles and compare them. This can help you narrow down where you might find your place within tech – and trust me, there’s space for your skillset. Be open to feedback after interviews, and remember, statistics show that women tend to only apply for a job when they meet 100% of the criteria. If you’re on the fence about an application because you’re worried you don’t have the experience, apply anyway.

At the same time as doing this work, it’s also important to ask yourself – where do I want to be in a year or in several years’ time? My research showed me just how quickly the IT industry was growing, and I decided that it was a place in which I would find some of the things I was looking for; working with people, utilising my communication skills, and the opportunity to create digital products.

2. Embrace your background

The level of opportunities within the tech sector is seismic – I truly believe there is space for every possible skill set and ability within this fast-growing, incredibly creative industry. Embrace the background you have – everything you have done up to this point has value – and know that there are always opportunities to learn in this constantly evolving sector.

I wouldn’t change my background or my career journey thus far – even if I could go back and do it again. The wonderful thing about the industry being so fast-paced is that it moves quicker than we do. I constantly need to level up my skills and to learn the things that I don’t know already. In my case, I really found that my financial consultancy background enabled me to gain key experience in working with and managing clients – from a range of complicated and challenging industries. At Ciklum, my clients are no different: they have a wide range of needs and challenges that we work to solve. As I’ve progressed in my tech career, I’ve come to see that my understanding of business models has helped me to better grasp the challenges that clients face. An experience that I initially thought might not have much connection to the IT industry does, in fact, have so much value to offer.

3. Identify your transferable skills

No matter what industry you’re already working in, I can guarantee you will have a wealth of skills and competencies at your fingertips – and we need those skills in tech.

This isn’t as much about your technical knowledge – but about your behaviours and attributes and your transferable, learned skills. Examples might include communication skills and personability; analytical thinking; ability to manage projects and people; team working; curiosity; problem solving; active listening, or a desire to learn. Identifying transferable skills often means looking beyond the confines of a CV or a job description. Make a list of your day-to-day work activities, and assign associated skills to each one. Ask others to identify your ‘soft’ skills, or talk to someone already working in tech about the attributes they view as being important for their particular role – and find connections between your list and theirs.

As a consultant, my key strengths were in building an argument, proving value, understanding client problems or concerns, and getting under the skin of a business. I would definitely describe myself as a storyteller and someone who can see the whole picture. Not only has this attribute proved to be immensely transferable, but I have found that my exposure to the many end-users of a range of digital applications has resulted in the narratives I create as a BA becoming more human-centric and richer, with real-life experiences.

Creatives, consultants, leaders, analytical thinkers, scientists, scholars, the list goes on – but tech needs us all. It is never too early in your career, and never too late, to try something new and make the transfer to a job in the IT sector. And whilst you might be considering making the switch to a tech career, it is the responsibility of the wider industry to rethink how they approach job descriptions and tackle some of the barriers that women, in particular, face upon entry to the sector.

Nataliia PelykhAbout the author

Nataliia Pelykh is business analysis competency lead at Ciklum, a global digital solutions company for Fortune 500 and fast-growing businesses. Nataliia’s contribution to her organisation and the business analysis community helped her secure a TOP-3 Business Analysts in Ukrainian IT Awards nomination in 2020. More recently, she has been nominated for the Women In Tech Excellence Rising Star of the Year Award. Nataliia is also a Board Member of a non-profit organisation with a key focus on professional education and networking events.

 


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here

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Five essential soft skills for managing a remote team

By Hannah Paterson, Principal Consultant, Step5

Wild Code School_remote learning, woman learning to codeSoft skills don’t always get the attention they deserve. They’re not measurable, they’re subjective and they can all too easily be forgotten in the day-to-day pressures of the job.

However, having the right soft skills will not only help you support your team through this prolonged period of remote working, it will also make you a better, more sought-after IT professional.

There are endless definitions of soft skills, but the following are five of the most important:

  1. Communications

There’s no shortage of tools for remote collaboration and communication, but this can also be overwhelming. During the first lockdown in March, we stepped up the video calls as a team, but people found them draining and counterproductive. I now check in with everyone at the start of the day but otherwise trust them to get on with their job. And I’m only at the end of a phone or instant message if they need help or want to chat something through.

So much of effective communications is understanding how your team members like to work. If people are able to communicate in their preferred way, they’re much more likely to communicate openly.

  1. Flexibility

When people are working away from the office, you need to measure their performance in a different way. It’s not about how long people spend at their desk, it’s whether they’re effective and meet their objectives. Also, some people may be juggling work with other commitments, such as looking after young children or caring for elderly parents, or their home office set-up is perhaps far from ideal. They might not be able to work their standard hours, so it’s important to give them the flexibility to work when suits them best. By accommodating your team’s needs, you’re enabling them to better adapt to the current situation and to work more productively.

I try to lead by example. As a working mum of two under 5, late afternoon and evening are my most challenging times; I block them out of my calendar and let my team know that if I’m needed, the phone is the only route. I hope this shows them that working flexibly is both possible and accepted.

  1. Listening - for better problem solving

Being able to analyse a problem, identify a solution and implement it, however small, is a critical skill that we need to develop in ourselves and in our teams. The first step is to encourage an open dialogue with your team where nothing is off the agenda, and to really listen to what they have to say, coaxing them to explain problems in their own words and to work through their own solutions. This builds their trust in their abilities, making them more self-sufficient and able to solve problems on their own, which is so important right now when everyone is working apart.

  1. Empathy

Whether you’re dealing with a customer, a team member or a supplier, being able to see things from their perspective leads to better, more trusting relationships. Admittedly, this is more difficult when working remotely as you have fewer physical signs to observe. You can’t really tell how someone is feeling or coping with the current situation until you ask, which is why I build in extra time on calls for people to open up and ask questions. Ultimately, I try to impress on my team the importance of being kind to each other. You don’t know the circumstances the person on the other end of the video call is facing, so you shouldn’t be too hasty to judge if things are less than perfect. If Shadow Chancellor Annelise Dodds can be interrupted by her three-year-old mid TV interview, it can happen to the best of us!

  1. Social/ interpersonal skills

The most common thing I hear from people adapting to remote working is that they find it lonely because they lose the office banter and informal chats. Addressing this helps build team morale while developing core social skills. Team hangouts over a coffee or a Friday afternoon beer are a great way to bring people together. I like to keep these agenda-light; I provide a quick update on the week and let the conversation flow to maintain those all-important water cooler conversations. There’s no limit to how creative you can be – it’s all about tapping into employees’ shared interests. I’ve even read of one company hosting a virtual dog show as a way to maintain those vital human connections! In an office environment, the social side of work happens naturally. When your team is dispersed, you need to consciously encourage it.

They may sound fluffy, but soft skills are far from soft. They’re essential skills that are increasingly a key requirement for C-suite executives and professionals across the whole IT sector, as corroborated by LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2019 report. It ranks soft skills and flexible working as the top two trends in acquiring and retaining talent.

This is not a short-term trend, and as we all get used to working remotely in an ever-changing world, IT professionals with well-honed essential skills will be much in demand.

About the author

Hannah PatersonHannah’s IT career has seen her work on ground-breaking public sector projects in the UK, US and Australia. She has crossed sectors from Defence to Healthcare with clients including public sector services supplier SSCL, the BBC and the National Health Service.

Prior to joining Step5, Hannah was Project Director for the New South Wales Department of Premier and Cabinet responsible for the review and consolidation of human services delivery with an annual budget of Aus$7 billion. She was previously at Worley Parsons, the global engineering and resources firm, leading the implementation of a global project and program implementation framework and supporting single platform.

Hannah is a Prince2 and MSP practitioner and uses Software Development Lifecycle, AGILE and PMBOK methodologies.


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10 tips to launch your new resilient career

woman holding a like a boss mug, career developmentIn the wake of current economic crisis with redundancies and job losses now setting in, there is certainly intrigue about what a resilient career might look like and how it’s possible to transition successfully.

Influential Tech Coach, Heather Black, considered one of the ‘Most Influential Women in Tech’ by Computer Weekly, shares her 10 tips to tackle unemployment by doing a career pivot into tech.

The latest skills survey by LinkedIn highlighted the skills companies need most in 2020 with tech at the front-front. Heather sought out a more resilient career in 2010, after her coaching business was heavily affected by changing marketing conditions and she realised she needed to explore other avenues. She had really enjoyed implementing and using Salesforce CRM to help manage her business and so she decided to upskill and pursue a new career within the tech sector, believing that this an industry that will be less affected by changing market conditions. Now 8 years in, she has built a team of 20 with multiple revenue streams, and has been able to ride the tide of Covid-19. She is passionate about helping others, especially other mums, who are at a crossroads with their career or business to see the opportunities in the tech sector, and in 2016 launched Supermums.org, where she now helps mums to upskill and follow a similar path to her.

She said: “Now, we never know what is around the corner. Lets face it, no one anticipated the wake of Covid-19, but what we can do is understand the most in-demand skills and walk towards the sectors where talent is most needed and are likely to continue to grow. My own experience saw me move from being a business coach to upskill as a business analyst and Salesforce consultant (a global CRM system) and I found this quite seamless despite having no experience in tech. I now reap the benefits of flexibility, a good salary and an exciting and rewarding career.

She continues..The ability to change career into tech might not be as daunting as it seems. If you have a background in a certain industry or sector, then its likely that you could transfer this into a specialist tech niche. For example, most industries now have a tech counterpart - whether you have worked in retail, education, events, health etc, there is likely to be a tech sector that is picking up pace. Its certainly the case with Salesforce CRM as their products align to specific industry verticals. My background was in the non-profit sector so I now help implement Salesforce for non-profits.

So how do you do it? How do you go from no tech experience to having a solid career in the industry? It’s all about capitalising on the skills and experience you have, says Heather and finding your niche in the market

  1. Do your research to help find your place - investigate what the job opportunities are by joining webinars, reading blogs, listening to podcasts, that highlight how people carved out their career in the tech space. You need to find a role that feels exciting and possible for you
  2. Use your industry experience – tech solutions sell into industry verticals – initially align yourself to a customer or consultancy that works in the industry that you have most knowledge about. It will feel comfortable as you already understand the relevant processes and performance measures and you can focus on just learning the tech
  3. Be proud of your professionals skills – Have you been a Director, Manager, Project Manager or Business Analyst in another capacity – then take these transferable skills into a new industry. You don’t necessarily have to start at the bottom and work your way up
  4. Don’t undersell soft skills – Share your experience and training in communication, facilitation, presentation, sales, team management, leadership, skills etc – these are hugely relevant skills when you are supporting teams or people to embrace tech
  5. Bridge the gap on your CV– If you have had time out to look after kids, it’s not a gap, it’s just a different type of job. Be proud of the skills you have acquired whilst managing home and kids and talk about them on your CV
  6. Tailor-make and enhance your CV - Look at job specs, talk to recruiters or training providers, do your research and plan your course of action to upskill and create a relevant CV for your target job
  7. Learn from the best - Participate in reputable quality assured training that will get the hands on experience and certifications that you need to land the job
  8. Seek out relevant experience - Research, approach companies and seek out valuable work shadowing alongside a mentor or secure volunteer experience to get first hand exposure to your new industry
  9. Secure professional references - Whether it’s from your professional trainers, mentors or work experience clients, try to get someone to oversee, assure and verify your learning and application of new skills to get relevant recommendations on LinkedIn
  10. Stay competitive - Invest the time and finance as needed to learn and secure the necessary certifications to be relevant and competitive. Don’t stop short. Starting a new career in tech will require a commitment to lifelong learning as tech continues to innovate and hiring talent is assessed on the level of their knowledge and certifications

It’s well known that there is a severe shortage of talent with digital skills and if anything, the value of tech has become even more important as we learn to thrive in a virtual world. Tech is innovating at the speed of light and it opens up a whole myriad of job opportunities from sales, marketing, leadership, project management to hands-on developer skills that people can transfer into.

In summary Heather says:

Remember changing career takes time and effort its not a quick switch. You have to be bold, determined and eager to learn. It takes a lot of guts to change careers, its like leaving school all over again. Its important to remember that tech skills werent around 20 years ago and its new for the majority.  Its never to late to change career if you put in the time and effort. Its time to put yourself into a growth mind-set, overcome your imposter syndrome and coach yourself to achieve success. Youve got this..

Heather BlackAbout the author

Heather Black is CEO of Supermums.org a global initiative which upskills new talent and places parents into flexible well-paid salesforce job roles. She is also a Salesforce Coach empowering individuals and companies with salesforce technology and leads a Salesforce Consultancy called Economic Change for the non-profit sector.


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here


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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.


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2019 Cybersecurity Professionals Salary, Skills and Stress Survey | Exabeam

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The Exabeam 2019 Cybersecurity Professionals Salary, Skills and Stress report is based on a global survey of 479 security professionals.

The purpose of the survey was to gain insight on trends in the salaries of security professionals, education levels, job satisfaction and attitudes toward innovative and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.

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What five skills do finance professionals need to work in the tech sector?

women-in-finance-

Clare Crook, finance director at Force24, delves into what it takes to marry budgets with digital developments – and the importance of the two working in-sync.

It’s easy to think about employees being stuck behind a desk juggling numbers and spreadsheets when considering the role of working in finance. But there’s so much more to this important profession, especially when embedded within the technology industry.

To be a success in such a fast-paced sector, finance professionals have to be able to think on their feet and react swiftly. They must also be strong communicators and the gatekeeper to the crucial make-up of a digital business – from forecasting and building projection models, to looking ahead and inspiring further growth processes.

Online developments have created workspaces that are exciting places to be in, and there’s so many more opportunities made possible thanks to technology, no matter what the speciality of the employee.

And, auditing is very much a part of the evolution of a modern-day workplace, plus a department people need to embrace if they are to make a success of marrying it up well with technology.

There’s great news here too because the analytical side of finance and the creativity of technology can work in-sync – so, as a result, financial professionals should possess skills that are very transferable, and desirable, in the tech space. But what are the true qualities to really home in on?

Able to adapt to change

It’s not just about implementing a process and completing projects from start to finish for people working in finance – a modern-day employee understands there’s so much more to the role now.

They have to be agile, ready to embrace change, and prepare organisations for financial flux during the unpredictable times the tech industry is accustomed to. Being part of this sector requires a dynamic individual to steer the ship swiftly – with control and clear judgement – to respond to what the market instantly craves.

Plan, plan, plan!

Being able to bring analytical skills to the fore means businesses can greatly utilise their finance department to effectively forecast for the often erratic nature that comes with technological developments – and work on ways to overcome impending budgetary obstacles.

Having the capabilities to produce processes which outline how the company can operate successfully, in a rapidly-changing industry, further cements the crucial position a financial employee holds.

Not only that, they are the key to cash flow and budgeting – a huge factor in how tech firms take on new clients, and how often. This department must also consider what’s needed for retained clients and the management of ad-hoc projects to plan so the firm can continue to generate much-needed leads.

Staying ahead of the curve

Within a fast-moving industry, decisions must not stall any processes – they need to be swift and strong.

Effective, financially-based judgement calls can help ensure a business always moves forwards, which can be crucial to survive, and thrive, in the ever-evolving technology sector.

If an organisation becomes stagnant because it’s unable to react well to digital developments, that could be a huge – almost impossible – mountain to overcome when they’re desperately trying to recover lost time and resources.

Strong communication skills

Not only does a finance professional have to be an approachable ‘go-between’ for staff and clients, they should also be personable, knowledgeable of the sector, and be able to offer clear advice and support throughout.

Luckily, this is where technology can really come into its own because not everything has to be done face-to-face for customers to feel they are getting a rounded experience. With personalised processes, such as marketing automation, finance can use the tools for internal and external communication, track conversations and ensure the organisation’s messaging and audit updates, are accurate – and distributed – in a controlled, humanised way.

The endeavour to upskill

In today’s modern workforces, there seems to be a real urgency to keep learning and developing to stay up to date with developments – thanks to the impact technology has truly made across every walk of life.

That shouldn’t be any different for financial staff either. If there’s a willingness to develop skillsets and become engrained in how technology can help with training, that can be a pot of gold for any organisation.

It’s vitally important for employees to understand the industry they work in – even if it doesn’t directly link with their primary skill-set – and the urge to progress can provide a real benefit to them, plus their business and its clients.

Clare CrookAbout the author

Clare Crook is a Financial Controller for Force24 – she is responsible for the financial activities such as planning, cash management and reporting – as well as forecasting and building project models for the company.