Article originally posted on InformationWeek
If you're in IT, stop saying you're stressed, you're busy, or you're tired. To attract new talent, IT professionals need to engage their communities and speak about the possibilities, not just the deterrents.
IT has been getting a bad rap for too long. Sure, there are introverts and some people’s soft skills could use some work, but it’s also a profession filled with problem solvers, insanely creative-types, and in the many roles that encompass IT, technology professionals are constantly innovating and tackling new challenges.
Folks, it’s time to come up with a better strategy to market IT.
That’s what a group of attendees attempted to do this week during the Interop ITX Leadership Summit. They sat down to hash out: What makes IT great, and how do we share that with young people entering the market as well as career-changers?
Here’s what they came up with.
IT is no longer just the person who read the manual.
It’s also not just what the popular media portrays it to be: “IT isn’t just hacking, or whatever you hear about on social media,” said one Leadership Summit attendee. “IT is huge, you’ve got everything from coding to infrastructure. Four million flavors of networking and three million flavors of servers,” he said.
And it's not just for people with a computer science degree.
“IT is, in reality, more diverse,” said another attendee. “[People outside IT], they think science and extreme [left-side of the brain subjects], but it’s much more creative,” she added.
It’s the new skilled trade, said another attendee.
So how do you approach new talent about a career in IT or reach out to the younger generation in your organization and keep them in IT? Their answer was to find common ground.
Among this crowd, the word ‘millennial’ wasn’t used as a curse-word. While they noted that there can be generational culture clashes: “Boomers want to come in and do their job, maybe get recognized, and are not used to back rubbing. Millennials want instant gratification. ‘Look at this piece of code I wrote,’” said one attendee – the group decided that IT is not about pitting one generation’s work style against the other, it’s about finding the commonalities and benefiting from the other’s strengths.
Common ground can be built be doing something as simple as finding the other person in the office that also likes dogs, said one attendee.
Connections between senior staff and younger staff are vital if you want to attract new talent to the industry, and the big takeaway from the group was that contrary to popular belief, they can be made.
Katy Tynan, managing director for Liteskip Consulting Group and Interop ITX Leadership Track chair summarized the separate groups’ thoughts in the room during this video.
They also talked about what drives today’s young people to certain careers.
“Making money is good, but I think [young people] want to have an effect,” said one attendee.
“Millennials are used to things changing faster,” said another attendee. “They’re used to multitasking…and are very intelligent,” who added that they’re often after a flexible workplace and flexible hours.
And to this, one attendee answered:
“IT is not a traditional 9-5, leave it at the door, type job. It’s a career, a field, a calling. It’s a passion.”
This group also came to the conclusion that IT is incredibly diverse in terms of roles and projects and industries.
“There’s a lot of flexibility…It’s whatever you want to do and whatever direction you want to go in, and if the company doesn’t have it, you can move to another company,” said an attendee.
As the discussion came to a close, there was a palpable feeling of pride in the room. For all the whining and moaning, IT is an awesome career.
Tynan said, “IT is the power that is underneath -- it is the engine that drives the bus…so how do we all become better ambassadors for what IT is?”
Her answer was simple.
“Try and spend more time saying it’s awesome. Especially to people that are not in IT. Remember that your messaging in the world is what people will think of IT,” said Tynan.
She added these final words: If you’re not already engaged with the local school system, get involved, because if you’re not out there saying you’re from IT and you love it, then you’re letting us all down. Tell them: “If you never want to be bored, you should get into IT.”