Struggling with IT staffing (Part II)

CDN: I wanted to bring up this point in the discussion. We have two fabulous women on the panel but there’s a problem of lack of women in IT.

Conaby: We talked about how there’s a real fall shortage of people going into math and science and technology. By its very nature, math and science have been male dominated. So it goes right back down to schooling. Largely speaking, women have not been attracted to math and science and technology education.

Yule: It’s back to girls and women and young girls who may be great at math and science. How do we create, in the school environment at a very early age, a culture for all children to ­participate in all elements of academia, and allow the stars to rise to the top. It does start in the early stage. Now, in our organization,we’re proactive. We have a published diversity plan. We have sales managers that are women. We hire the best talent and we retain them and we develop the talent. People, regardless of their gender, are successful in our organization.

Usher: Most of the smaller companies are male dominated. I know that. I don’t think they’re doing enough to attract women to go into this business because it’s very easy for us to dominate men in this business. I think that when we go to sell any solution, we have, in every woman, a little bit of charm. We can use a bit of feminine charm in our sales. We’re doing very well. Even when we’re mixing. Mixed sales teams, men and women, also work better than only men or only women on an account. Some men don’t like to work with women. They say, what do you know? When a woman comes and provides solutions for the man, by their nature, it’s hard for them to give them credibility. We need to teach young women to break through that and teach them how to start the conversation with a man who’s extremely knowledgeable in his business.

Yule: And that goes back into sales training. You show up to the table and you have to overcome some barriers. But when you can hold your own and understand how the dynamics work in a conversation with a client I don’t find gender is an inhibitor at all. It’s about the culture of your organization, and creating an environment where everyone can thrive and there aren’t inhibitors. I believe in my heart that most organizations are that way. You’ll have women succeed in your company just as you’re having men succeed.

Conaby: It’s about attraction. I think male or female is not the issue, because it comes from more a systemic issue of not having women educated in technology. That’s the very basic bottom line. You get them into the industry and they’ll thrive. And take the sales industry. You take a woman and put them in a sales role they’ll probably be more successful than a man. And she’s going to get those doors open because the guy’s already getting 100 male calls a day anyways. All of sudden, he’s getting a call from a female salesperson, so it’s different. I would love to hire a female salesperson. That would help balance off our sales team.

Usher: I know Don is helping business administration programs to clarify their paths in the industry and what kind of jobs we have. So, when you go in to recruit, to attract women, do you try to attract young females? And do you say, it’s not that technical, don’t worry?

Yule: Now why would you even say that, it’s not that technical? Don’t worry girlie? That’s a terrible thing to say!

Conaby: In the technology program in the college you’re already too late. If I wanted to get a female to apply, I’m going to have to go back deeper into that program and talk to them or go to the career fair. If I’m only hiring one or two graduates a year, how much time do I want to invest? Now, it’s a question of how much do I really want to hire a female graduate from a business program to get her on the sales side.

Yule: The other thing in our industry, I mean, we can talk about how long we’ve all been in it but it’s still a relatively new industry. There’s a persona that we currently have of what is an IT career and that’s ever evolving as that position evolves. It wasn’t that long ago that everything IT was back office. Now we have female CIOs. Therefore it changes the persona or the feel of what technology can bring to a company and I think the more that technology evolves, so will the interest of all different people.

Usher: Sales is an extremely demanding job. I’m very lucky, I have a son that’s 21 years old that’s moved out of the house so I can fully concentrate on my career. Sales is so demanding, you’re stuck at work most of the time. And my husband’s stuck at work until 11, so we don’t have a life.

Yule: Maybe the company you work for should look at a program to ensure that they have programs for women who work. Because the other thing you’re going to find is the younger generation they’re hiring now have a different work/life perspective. I was talking to a partner at a conference and he was saying his son’s working there and he leaves at 5 o’clock because he’s done. This generation is different. We as employers and as leaders in the industry have to recognize that this new generation of people that we want to hire has different needs. You’ll find, generally, you’re not getting that same work ethic because it’s a different view to life. We have to do a bit of homework to say, how does this generation need to participate in our industry now because they’re the future of our industry and to build organizational talent, what do they need to do and what does our company need to do to enable them to be successful.

Conaby: The difference in the generation is very simple. Our generation tends to live to work. Now the generations are working to live. So a job is a job. A career’s a career, but they value their personal lives as equally and if not more than work. I use my son as an example. My son’s a very good; hard worker. He’s a valuable asset to the company. But the conversation we had earlier about the work ethics, it’s very challenging. And I see that with most other people. Yeah, they’ll work an extra hour here and they’ll work really hard but if you say you’re going to have to work until 8 o’clock five nights a week, they’ll say, no that’s not going to work.

CDN: There are a lot of people who will work 12 hour days but then may not work for a while and take three or four days off, or maybe do four hours work during their vacation, and that’s happening right now. I mean, who in this day and age doesn’t check e-mail when they’re on vacation?

Yule: The new generations aren’t going to check their e-mail. I would find this generation now, they’re not bringing their blackberrys on vacation.

Usher: I’m going to see my son in two hours and he’s always saying, Mom, you don’t have a life. They do. We don’t. All of our life is work so I don’t even know what to do with it. Probably they will change this industry. For smaller companies, it’s very hard to find optimization and find people who will sit and talk about it and I think this is going to be an extremely interesting topic to read about.

CDN: CDW has developed a method or maybe a new approach to staffing called CDW at work. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Yule: CDW at Work is an extranet tool that our customers have access to. They’ll have their own historical purchases online. It provides an opportunity to save time because it tracks everything. You can engage with our sales organization through this tool. When we hire individuals into our organization, particularly with sales, they’ll go through a rigorous five or six week training program before they talk to customers.

CDN: Joe, can you talk about the Fast Track program from Sage?

Arnone: There’s a fee involved, but in return you can get certain benefits such as the consulting, the Sage University, and there’s mentoring programs through Sage where there’s weekly, and monthly calls. And you get back money for Sage by increasing your sales, so there’s incentive to put people through the program.

CDN: Alvina, I wanted to ask you about the merger in the channel this year. I wonder if the acquisition method helped solve some of your IT staffing issues or did it create other problems?

Usher: I think it helped Prosys right now. Prosys acquired Sona because of our more comprehensive technical services that were provided to the federal government. They didn’t have an office in Ottawa so by purchasing us they got an additional company and an additional category. They got people in the field but we got their fiscal and enterprise solution talents. As a result we have an enterprise solution server and a fiscal VPN on both sides and their performance and optimization and capabilities from our accounting system. So we got their high level talent. We have sales people and it’s a marriage, it’s an amazing marriage. They were mostly a retail manufacturer and we were more corporate and government and sales. So this is amazing. We’re also buying another company. We know the name and everything but we are not able at this point to release it to the public. The process is ongoing. We’re leveraging the strengths right now and it’s really perfect. We so feel it. We have a quad server and CRM, and it’s really cool because it’s an IT department. We really got the marriage of both worlds and we love it.

CDN: Don, I know you touched on the VTN network. I just wondered, from your perspective, how does the VTN network help you out?

Conaby: There’s so many touch points. VTN becomes a vehicle for training because you get access to manufactured dollars. We have our own access to training. They also facilitate their own training from the technical and sales sides and we have something called UVT, which is University of VTN. Practice sharing is also something important. Leveraging other members and what they’re doing, and using what will work within your organization because not everyone has the same best practice. Between the members, you share all sorts of best practices and you develop all of those mechanisms in place. Which helps you to retain and hire. And the third item that’s brought to bear is simply more best practice training from an HR point of view. How to hire a superstar, what process you want to go through when you’re hiring technical staff and the objects around the aspects of hiring. And the biggest point is the networking amongst members to use those resources when you need them. Many of our members have won national service contracts because of the VTN method. We just landed a huge one that’s across Canada with Rogers and Mitel to roll out their hosted business performance solution. So that’s it.

CDN: Terrific. So that ends the roundtable discussion. Thank you so much for your time.

Back to Part I, please click here

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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