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Why now is the perfect time to upskill in tech

man and woman discussing tech, women in tech, computers, code

Ahead of a new fully-remote web development course starting on June 22nd, Anna Stepanoff, CEO & Founder of Wild Code School, the technology educator nurturing today’s digital talent, discusses why now is the perfect time to further career prospects in the tech industry.

The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic is causing considerable challenges for us all, impacting all industries and sectors.

Vocational training organisations have certainly been challenged, although some providers, including Wild Code School, have been able to migrate activities online to ensure educational continuity for students. As a technology bootcamp, we are well placed to do this, with the technological know-how and proven remote learning methodologies already in place. And with 90 per cent of our students now working in the tech ecosystem, we know that our courses are aligned to the needs of businesses.

With the pandemic resulting in more time at home, and the tech industry offering flexible and varied career opportunities, could now be the perfect time to take advantage of the fully remote courses that are available and develop those sought-after digital skills?

Everything in place

Until recently, a reliable connection to a broadband network was still a major obstacle to online training’s accessibility, especially when it came to live remote training. However, access to a fibre network from almost everywhere in the Western world has been a game changer, enabling connectivity and access to learning tools such as interactive webinars for consumers and participants across the world.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) have been fully established and accessible since 2012. On these online learning platforms, resources are freely accessible to students who can choose the pace of learning that is best suited to them and their personal preferences. MOOC are particularly well suited to autonomous individuals who are looking to upskill or acquire new skills to develop their careers.

In recent years, the tools and technology available have grown rapidly and been introduced to ensure an even higher quality of online courses. Video conferencing platforms, online chat and communication tools, as well as document sharing capabilities have helped accelerate the possibility of indirect interactions and made it possible for instructors or course tutors and lecturers to remotely interact with a community of students. Although online courses have been around for many years, they provide a shining example of efficient, practical and effective remote working.

Remote working expertise

As the majority of us have discovered during this period of worldwide lockdown, working from home requires a new set of skills. It is making us rethink our working habits and adapt to new tools and practices, forcing us to be more than flexible and agile than ever before. And with the future looking to be more reliant on remote working, learning in a remote environment is helping our students with both the digital and soft skills that will support future remote working.

Adaptability, proactivity, and communication, for example, are not only essential skills for the tech industry, but also for discovering opportunities in challenging situations. Online learning also allows individuals to develop autonomy, rigour and the ability to organise yourself more efficiently.

But these skills are not unique to the tech industry, and in fact people from a diverse range of careers and backgrounds are well equipped and suited to the training.

Helping career changers

Our first fully remote course began in April, and we’ve been canvassing the opinions of our first fully remote students to find out how it’s working for them and why now was the right time to learn new skills and make the change.

One of our current web development students, Leonore Ghisalberti, previously worked in design and product management for a fashion brand and is now working to building her own creative design agency. She realised her new world required further digital skills to complement her design credentials and told us:

“The main draw for me was that I needed to further my skills in order to progress my business. Front-end development especially, which this course focuses on, has many synergies with my design background. It is very visual and creative, and enables you to build something, and see it come to life with your chosen design.”

Another student, Gladys Pascual is a Chemical Engineer, qualified with a PhD and working in a Dublin-based startup. It’s a career she enjoys and finds fulfilling, but she has seen the flexibility that a career in tech can offer, as well as the opportunities in Dublin and abroad:

“Technology is a big industry here in Dublin, and indeed all across the world and I was keen to see what doors I could open through training that will allow me to consider a shift in career. While I have still been working full time, lockdown meant that all my travelling plans were cancelled and I’m not able to do any of the sports I’m used to – I’ve therefore got more time on hands and so it has posed a good opportunity to upskill and do something I’m interested in.

“Like anything new, at first I was a little overwhelmed – especially with a demanding full-time job. It is quite advanced, which is a good thing in terms of its long-term use and after just a few weeks I have had the time to focus and absorb what I’m learning.

“The multi-national nature of the course is also really cool; the class is made up of students from all across Europe and it means we get to work with people from different places and with varied backgrounds. This sort of environment is common in the tech world, so it’s useful to get a taste here.”

We’re looking forward to welcoming our next set of students onto the June course and excited to see both men and women embrace technology and realise its career opportunities.

About the author:

Anna StepanoffAnna Stepanoff is the CEO & Founder of Wild Code School, the technology educator nurturing today’s digital talent.

Founded in 2014, Wild Code School has more than 20 campuses across Europe. It has trained more than 2,000 students, with 90 per cent of graduates now working within the Tech Ecosystem. The School offers part-time front-end, or full-time full-stack web development courses that take place over a five-month period. Both courses will get the student to where they want to be, with the full-time course offering a more immersive environment that gets them there quicker. The school was founded by mother of three Anna Stepanoff, and is now the fifth largest school in Paris.


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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.

 


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Nominations are now open

The TechWomen100 awards are the first of their kind to focus solely on the female tech talent pipeline and recognise the impact of champions, companies and networks that are leading the way. Nominations are now open until 10 September 2021.

CAST YOUR NOMINATIONS

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Halt the female tech skills drain before it’s too late

female data scientist, woman leading team

By Teodora Gavrilut, Chief Operating Officer, Creatopy

To read the headlines, you would think that we already live in a fully digital, automation and AI-driven world. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

It would seem that we are woefully under-equipped to meet the promise of a tech-powered future and worse still, we’re failing to do much to change the situation.

Despite a push towards digitisation as a result of Covid, The Learning and Work Institute stated that the number of young people taking IT subjects at GCSE in the UK has dropped 40% since 2015. It also revealed that 70% of young people expect their employers to put them on a path to digital skills, but only half of the employers surveyed were able to provide training.

Further, a report from Kaspersky suggests that half of women in the tech sector believe Covid-19 has actually delayed their career progression. When you consider that women make up less than a quarter of the UK’s core-STEM workforce and fill only 17% of tech jobs, there appears to be a dramatic reversal of fortune.

Why should gender be important at all in an industry that, at face value, is created specifically to remove the human from the equation?

Quite simply, a lack of diversity stifles innovation, holds back progress and leads to poorer technology. The insight behind technology and process design is critical. The tech is simply a tool – it takes a collective made up of different perspectives to make sure that tool is effective. To redress the imbalance, we need to create an industry that provides an inclusive pipeline of talent at every level.

We can’t wait until women enter the workforce either. Gender stereotypes in tech need to be tackled at school, with support from the business community to give young women a context for a career in technology. Educational settings need to go beyond the expected path and introduce more workshops and apprenticeship programmes so students can move beyond the theoretical.

This is not without precedent. InnovateHer is a scheme in the North West of England that has been running tech educational programmes for girls for four years now, already reaching over 1,000 girls across 50 schools. There is now an InnovateHer Online portal so girls can access the scheme remotely.

At the other end of the nation is Brixton Finishing School, the London-based accelerator that helps underserved young talent get past the traditional barriers to acquire skills in digital, creativity and marketing.

But learning doesn’t stop at the office door. Tech is going to keep evolving and skills have to change to match. According to The Future of Jobs Report, by 2022, 80% of UK companies will be using machine learning. But we’re not talking about technology replacing skilled workers. It’s an evolution. As tech changes, it’s going to change the business models it serves along with it. Roles will change and new jobs will emerge. A combination of cutting-edge technology and leading human creativity will be a heady mix and a strong driver of competitive advantage. The skills gap risks all of this.

Automation and advanced tech landscapes present an opportunity, but only if business and education are willing to meet the challenge halfway. Arguably, we don’t even have a skills gap but a skills drain – the disconnect isn’t even staying the same, it’s getting bigger. We all need to play an active role in putting the structures in place so that talent can thrive. To misquote a well-known phrase – if we don’t build it, they won’t come.

About the author

Teodora Gavriluț is the Chief Operating Officer of Creatopy. With a solid marketing background of over 15 years, she handles the company’s internal affairs. By combining analytical thinking with creative processes, Teodora believes she’s fortunate to have built a career out of her love for technology and passion for marketing.


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Get your tech skills ready for the future

Woman on LaptopAlthough most of us are complaining that the national wifi is groaning under the strain of millions more working from home, imagine how much worse this lockdown would be without the tech to communicate.

Just pause and think about it for a moment. We were already glued to our phones, but now we depend on them more than ever to keep in touch with friends and family. The internet and our home computers allow us to work remotely. Smart TVs help keep us entertained and up to date on the world outside. Health and fitness trackers feed data into the impact of our one-hour workouts so we can track our progress. Tech is saving us all.

Fintech is a big part of it too. Increased online shopping (and let us all clap our hands for the couriers and posties) especially for groceries, means a rise in online payments. In fact, some sources say that FinTech has experienced an upsurge of 72% in usage during the pandemic. Even on the high street, contactless has become the payment of preference with the upper limit now raised to £45 so that people can avoid using cash and keep the virus at bay.

Turns out the world owes a lot to all those unsung female tech heroines who – back in the day – invented and developed computer science.

Why fintech is the future

While pundits debate what sort of world we’ll be living in when this is all over, there’s one thing we know for certain: fintech will be playing a bigger role than ever.

It’s true that some of the fintechs – like many other businesses – are having a bumpy ride, but when you look at the way our behaviour’s changing you can see how the industry is going to bounce back.

Let’s look at some of the evidence.

Banks were already closing their branches, even though branch banking was still popular with some customers. With less footfall on the high street, those customers are either obliged, or more inclined, to choose online banking and mobile apps. Now that they’ve switched, many of them will stick with digital options for convenience.

In the same way, where some consumers might have been more wary or even not have trusted technology in the past, they will be more likely to embrace it after this crisis. They will be more open to open banking, for example.

Companies too have had to adopt fintech to get themselves through this. Some insurance companies are turning to block chain to verify medical data and, because banks are having to move more quickly to offer digital services, they need fintech consultants to help them upgrade.

Governments are supporting fintechs. The Australian senate has reopened its committee on FinTech and RegTech to support the industry and find new solutions that can be delivered by the government and private sector.

The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) is asking the country’s financial services sector to reinforce internal fintech capacity and invest in research and development. While in South Korea, new laws have been passed to regulate and legalise cryptocurrencies.

So if fintech is the future, what can you do to update your skills, networks and know-how so that you’re ready for when this crisis is over?

Develop your skills and knowledge

First, take a look online and you’ll find some excellent, even free, courses from world renowned universities like the Open University (OU) and Harvard.

The OU’s free courses include 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. Harvard also runs several free online courses in programming, data science and computer science.

If your budget allows, both offer paid courses as well, but there’s plenty to keep you busy if you’d rather not splash out at this point.

On the banking side, things are moving quickly. You’d be wise not just to keep up to date with the news but to follow comment and analysis too. You might consider listening to podcasts of discussions with experts and thought-leaders, or extending your understanding of the sector through reading.

And while many events can’t run anymore, some of the best are going online and providing great opportunities to network and learn. Innovate Finance, for example, had to cancel their conference for UK Fintech Week (20-24 April) but they’re marking the week with a digital programme. And the Financial Alliance for Women are opening sessions in their Ask the Expert series to non-members for the first time.

At any stage of your career, it’s important to network, learn and develop your skills if you want to stay ahead of the curve. At this strange moment in history, it’s just as possible to do all of that as it was before the lockdown – and all because of tech.

Helene PanzarinoAbout the author

Helene Panzarino is an Associate Director at LIBF’s Centre for Digital Banking and Finance. A former banker turned entrepreneur, educator and investment readiness adviser in fintech, she’s helped over 15,000 small to medium enterprises access funding options. She’s listed as a Senior Leader on the Women in Fintech Powerlist 2019.


Macbook laptop computer

Why upskilling in marketing automation can empower your brand

Macbook laptop computer, marketing automation, upskilling

Article by Diana Rowatt, operations director at Leeds-based marketing automation platform Force24

For business leaders and their workforces, there are always opportunities to learn new tech skills – not least because of how rapidly it evolves.

And for brands that are keen to simplify a customer’s purchasing experience, complete conversions quicker and free up employee time – to focus on innovation – marketing automation could be the answer.

Why? Because the statistics evidence how this advanced technology can empower organisations. Customer optimisation specialist invesp reports how automation can drive up to a 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overheads. Furthermore, 80% of marketing automation users saw an increase in the number of leads, and 77% experienced an uplift in conversions.

What’s stopping the adoption of marketing automation?

So, why might some leaders still be slow to learn and adopt this technology? Maybe it’s because they don’t know enough about it? If that’s the case, now is the time to develop critical skills that could transform their firm’s commercial activity and customer loyalty, when they need it most.

By its very definition, marketing automation should make life simple. It should liberate marketing campaigns, not restrict them, and make strategies agile, rather than sluggish. It’s technology that is super-personalised and delivers humanised communications to recipients via email, SMS, direct mail, social and more – in only a couple of simple clicks.

But with an extensive portfolio of channels to leverage and greater opportunities to target through data, understanding a new platform to deliver the insight an enterprise needs, might seem like a scary, time-consuming prospect.

In fact, it’s anything but! However, for an organisation to start maximising its customer opportunities and making things slicker, quicker, smarter and easier for their workforces as a whole, learning how it works is the first step towards potentially exploring a ‘new way of working’.

Where to begin with marketing automation

A great starting point on the learning journey is to look at the current systems in place within the organisation – and to understand where automation can both help achieve better results, save time and provide customer value.

Upon identifying that more needs to be done in terms of interacting with a target audience, leaders should want to develop the knowledge in how marketing automation can provide the effective touch points that will maintain – if not improve – online engagement. Learning about how a simple click can deliver crucial comms – that are sent to the right people, at the right time and when they’re most digitally active – can prove to be critical to the bottom line.

And as relationships become deeper between an organisation and a consumer, the data gleaned from automation needs to be interrogated and communicated to other parts of the organisation – such as sales and marketing – so that more conversions can then be made.

Always think about the end user

It’s also vital for leaders and their workforces to continue putting the customer first – ensuring that each recipient is enjoying a personalised experience via their chosen method of comms. Knowing how time-consuming this can be when done manually may appear to be a stumbling block for many, but those wanting to learn the ropes with marketing automation can actually tailor each piece of content in a matter of minutes. These time burdens are exactly the type of thing that automation technology should alleviate.

For the individuals keen to upskill themselves, a critical attribute is having the tenacity and eagerness to understand a new way of delivering comms and making the tech work in a seamless way that takes on the strain of laborious jobs and engages customers throughout.

Managers can utilise tech effectively to lead by example

Additionally, for automation to effectively operate – and produce positive results on the business’s bottom line – there needs to be a strong leader and engaged workforce that knows exactly what value such technology is bringing to the company. Being able to communicate how it can personalise customer emails, increase conversion rates and engage audiences are all as critical as upskilling in the platform itself.

In truth, when it comes to marketing automation it’s more about developing an understanding in how to adapt to a different way of working. Of course, there needs to be training in how the platform works and the process of creating customer email journeys, landing pages and more, but above all else, it’s about evolving with an agile mindset when embracing change.

To learn something new, leaders must embrace fresh technology and build a team that wants to develop its skillsets. A willingness to ignite key attributes that empower innovative thinking, reduce overheads and reinvigorate teams can help enterprises to work faster, smarter and harder. And that recipe is more crucial now than ever.

About the author

Di RowattDiana Rowatt is a highly driven and experienced operations director with key responsibilities throughout the running of marketing automation platform Force24. Having been part of the team’s journey for nearly a decade, Diana is known as the company’s ‘go to’ person when any advice or support is required. Leading and nurturing the services team – and ensuring operations are of premium quality throughout – Diana ensures the Yorkshire firm provides the highest levels of support and achieves the best possible results for B2B and B2C brands and their customers.


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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.


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.