Young people are the future. Technology’s the future. And yet, somehow when it comes to the IT industry in the UK, we’re letting them both down, writes Microbyte MD Yusuf Yeganeh.
Many industries are experiencing staff issues lately, and it’s just as true in IT support, but it’s not just a staff shortage; it’s a skills one.
I’ve noticed it in the young people who want to come through the normal IT support model and learn how to problem-solve and understand the disciplines behind systems delivery. And in all honestly, I think we’ve let them down over the last two decades.
In this industry, you’re expected to problem-solve and have discipline; you’re not expected to just give up. For some reason, there’s a gap between the organisational skills we absorb at school and how we enact these in ‘real life’ and the workplace. Often people are still waiting to be told what to do – and it’s not because they’re not bright enough to figure it out; it’s because there’s a disconnect. Even before you get to problem-solving, you need to learn how to recognise problems and to voice that. IT help desks often answer short-term problems, but what’s vital is knowing how to recognising indicators of underlying issues – and owning the responsibility to dig deeper.
Businesses need to find ways to support the next generation
I look around, and I’m not filled with confidence that these skills are being embedded in the next generation. Every business, every sector, has always complained they haven’t got the skills they need. So what I think every business – especially small businesses – has an obligation to do, is to bring up the next generation and teach them those valuable skills, and help them experiment in a safe environment. Young people shouldn’t feel inadequate that they can’t manage a calendar effectively, or that they’re struggling with priorities.
This is what we aim to do at Microbyte. Our first- and second-line roadmaps, built up over the last decade, are based around curious questions in IT, such as: if a client does X, what are they likely trying to achieve? If a client wants to buy Y, what problem do you think they have?
What we’re trying to stimulate with those questions is not “how do you fix the problem”, but “what is the client really asking?” It’s peeling the layers of the onion to determine what is at the root of those issues. And in all honesty, I think the way to reconcile some of those personalities, is to realise that everything isn’t a technical problem. In fact, I would argue, 50% of the queries that come into an IT helpdesk are not technical problems. They just require someone with that problem-solving approach.
Free flow of information
One of the strengths we have at our company is the very flat team structure. There isn’t a hierarchical system of “You need to go this team,” or “You need to go to that team.” The interdepartmental relations people have, and roles between different teams allow so much free flow of not just information, but the examples you can passively impress upon younger or people with different working styles. It is seeing how it all fits together that will enable us to free the skills in these young people coming out of school and let them see how the puzzle fits together, in a way they don’t often see in early-career business environments.
And those are the things we need to focus on as a business community—to truly start empowering new colleagues so they feel listened to. What don’t they know? What are they struggling with? Just like with IT support, building a better future for our profession is about digging in and finding those systemic solutions that will provide long-term change in the industry.