This week I chaired an interactive panel discussion on the skills challenge facing New Zealand technology companies. It’s part of Massey University’s ecentre cloud series. Here’s how the discussion played out on Twitter. The link is to Storify which apparently can’t be embedded in WordPress.
Useful research by Aimee Whitcroft who goes beyond the call of duty testing various ways of turning Linkedin data into infographics.
Her Your LinkedIn profile, visualised concludes the artwork generated by services automating the process are little more than good-looking gimmicks and certainly not good enough to send someone when you’re looking for a new job.
She goes onto the say the idea is lovely and there are some great elements, but the services need to improve.
How often have you read a story about the lack of women working in technology which goes on to suggest promoting tech careers to schoolgirls as a solution?
The idea is dumb and patronising.
Dumb because women face problems with technology careers that a marketing campaign won’t fix.
Patronising to think dishonest marketing can fool women.
Look at the facts.
- The number of women in technology has declined. Some say the number has been declining for a decade. In fact, the number of US women in tech peaked in the 1980s. It’ll be roughly the same here.
- Women leave technology to work elsewhere. This is more worrying than the lack of women entering the industry. It says a marketing campaign won’t work long-term.
- There’s still a pay gap in IT. The numbers are from Australia, they won’t be different in New Zealand, many tech companies here report to Sydney.
- Girls are scared of boring, lonely tech careers.
- And let’s not forget there are sexist attitudes in the industry. We’ve all heard stories of woman being sexually harassed at industry functions.
Of course many women working in technology love the industry. We could start by asking them about what they like and what frustrates them.
But the real problem is down to the people running technology companies — men and women. Clearly women don’t think they do enough to make them feel wanted and appreciated. They don’t feel they are fairly paid. They worry bosses do little more than pay lip service to ideas of equality and are not acting quickly to stamp out arsehole behaviour.
If you’re a technology manager you need to move jobs roughly every five years to avoid being seen as a job-hopper or a plodder writes Jennifer Foreshew in The Australian’s IT section: Don’t job hop, IT managers told.
She says younger technology workers should look at moving on every two to three years.
For more on this see How long should I stay in a job?
Scott Herrick at Cube Rules says careers are over. Herrick is writing about working in the USA, but his comments apply equally to New Zealand where people tend to stick with their jobs longer mainly because they have fewer alternative employers.
The days of our fathers and grandfathers — where grey flannel suits reigned and there was lifetime employment at a company — are over. I just can’t believe people still think that type of employment still exists. Have we seen the layoffs? The outsourcing? The downsizing? The increased productivity?
Stumped for a career direction?
Try asking yourself these ten questions. If you run into difficulties ask friends and family for an honest view of the answers.
There’s no magic formula, the answers won’t reveal your working future, but they will help you clarify matters and give you the insights you’ll need to choose a degree programme that plays to your strengths.
What are my favourite subjects?
It sounds like an obvious starting point, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who sign up for courses that don’t interest them.
Don’t spend the rest of your life, or at least the next few years, slaving over something that you find boring.
You’ll get more out of higher education and your subsequent career if you work in an area you enjoy. If you think medicine sounds interesting then go for it, if it sends you to sleep, avoid it.
What are my academic achievements?
Take a look at your high school career. What subjects were you best at? To some extent your exam results will answer this question, but results might not accurately reflect your long-term performance.
Where did you consistently get good marks? You may have won a prize, come top or near the top of the class. You may have used your skills to tutor younger or weaker students in a subject area. Was there a subject where your friends asked you for homework help or recognised you as an expert?
What else turns me on?
What excites you? What do you choose to do when you don’t have to do anything? Is there something that you love to do, perhaps it is a hobby or other leisure activity that you look forward to? In many cases these activities can form the basis of a career.
For example, if you love animals, think of veterinary science; if you enjoy spending time with computers then consider a career in information technology. Some connections are less obvious, if you enjoy tinkering with a car you may be suited to work as a computer engineer.
Am I creative?
You may like to express yourself through words, art, music or other artistic form. But there’s more to creativity than creative arts: businesses need creative thinking and the best scientists, engineers and mathematicians generally have a strong creative streak. It’s important to answer this question honestly.
It’s hard to accept a lack of creativity, but this is not necessarily a weakness; in some disciplines creativity is regarded with suspicion, think what the term creative accountant means.
Do I have good communications skills?
How good are you at expressing all those brilliant thoughts that pass through your head? Can you put them down on paper or speak about them in a way that makes things easy to understand or do you struggle? Could you stand in front of a group of people and explain a complex idea? How about a hall filled with hundreds of people?
Communications isn’t a one-way street, it’s just as important to listen to others and to use feedback.
How do I rate my people skills?
Although people skills are closely related to communication skills, there are differences. If you’re a good communicator you can relay or receive ideas, if you have good people skills you can pick up on feelings or mood. You also need to understand what motivates people and why they act in certain ways. Dealing with conflict is important. Knowing when to ask a subordinate to do a task is as important as knowing how to explain the mechanics of the task.
Is money important to me?
The best things in life are free, but cash can buy an awful lot of second-best things.
Ask yourself if material rewards motivate you or if other things are more important. For example, you may want a career where you can help to make the world better, brighter or safer. Of course, with student loan debts and sky-high housing costs, you may feel you don’t have much choice but to take the money and run. If you’re not motivated by money, you’ll have a lot more interesting career option.
Do I need structure?
School life is highly structured, with timetabled lessons, strict hierarchies and so on, but university and the adult world of work isn’t always like that. Many people thrive in an unstructured environment and do their best work where there are fewer restrictions. Others are lost without a rule book. This is an area where you may change over time, but ask yourself if you feel safer on a highly structured course or if you’re ready to cut loose.
Am I internally or externally driven?
Some people are self-motivated. They can get up and work hard for long hours without anyone saying anything to them. They will make their own decisions about what to do and how to complete tasks. Other people need external motivating. This can take the form of a highly disciplined workplace in say the armed forces or it can come from colleagues operating in a team.
You’ll need self-motivation to get through university, but the quality is essential if you plan to work for yourself at a later date.
Can I put off my career decision?
There’s a lot of pressure on young people to make hard and fast decisions about their careers before they embark on a university degree. Some people feel comfortable with this; others are not ready to choose at this stage.
The good news is that you don’t have to make a firm commitment yet. Many university departments offer generalised degree programmes within a certain discipline. In most cases you can wait until the end of your first year before selecting a major subject. Other universities offer liberal studies degrees and BA programmes that will keep your employment options open.
Marketing consultant Johnny Moore writes about “a creeping extension of the need for academic qualifications, the ability to write clever essays” in The Tyranny of the Explicit.
The intention is good, but the practical effect is to engulf people in explicit, complicated systems and reduce their freedom – based on an unconscious assumption that everyone is not to be trusted. We give ascendancy to people who are really great at theory and effectively degrade practice. I think its rooted in the idea that one person or a group of people can effectively oversee a system and control how it works with written instructions.
One aspect of this is the arse-covering qualifications provide. If, say, a marketing manager hires a copywriter with a degree in copy-writing, they feel they are not to blame if the writer fails to deliver.
There’s an incentive in most organisations to engage the best-qualified person for a task, not the most experienced, best skilled or highest performer.