By Russ Levanway, CEO
Best of Both Worlds
I’m often asked what I look for in a technician when it comes to hiring for our company. Sure, there are required prerequisites such as education, experience, and cultural fit, however fundamentally a technician has to do two things really well to work in IT. He or she must be able to troubleshoot a wide range of issues while also being comfortable interacting with a wide range of people.
Many candidates can do one or the other, but rarely both. Somebody who’s very customer-service oriented but doesn’t have the technical chops will end up spinning their wheels on the job, while someone who’s very technical but has no talent for customer service sets the wrong tone for our clients.
Finding the Right Stuff
It’s hard to define how I know when someone has that unique combination of technical and people skills. I wish I could say I’m able to identify this unique pairing of skills in an interview, but that is a half-truth and usually not the case on the technical side of things.
During our interview process, we administer some challenging tests, but ultimately that only measures book knowledge. We ask candidates how they would troubleshoot a hypothetical problem, but that only demonstrates a general grasp of IT. Being an effective troubleshooter requires strong critical thinking, ability to practically apply knowledge, ability to see the overall issue and interconnectedness of problems, and high ownership. I can watch someone work and see how they “just get it” when it comes to troubleshooting. I struggle to measure that skill outside of observation, however.
So what do you do when you are in an industry with a serious labor shortage that requires such a dualistic skillset?
IT-Ready is a nation-wide trade education program that aspires to train people for entry into the IT field. From IT, technologies, processes and customer service, IT-Ready is a great model for developing more of the world’s much-needed technicians by collaborating with regional partners to offer holistic IT training.
Our local IT-Ready program received over 800 applications this last spring for 50 open spots. Over the summer, those 50 people went through an intensive 9-5 boot camp and 47 people just graduated from pre-apprenticeship last week. Only 25 of these participants made it to the next phase. Next week participants start the job-preparation phase, focusing on customer service, employee interaction standards and appropriate processes in the IT. Then in October, they’ll start their apprenticeships, paired with journeymen in local companies.
The Future is Bright
We’re excited because at least two of those graduates will be joining our team here at TekTegrity. We not only look forward to supporting their ongoing IT education and career advancement, but to introducing them to the more gratifying parts of the job – quickly resolving issues for clients. Many people on our staff really love being able to say, “Wow, I helped eight people with all kinds of issues today.” They have a genuine sense of accomplishment. Anyone who thrives on the excitement of being able to solve issues quickly and works well with lots of different kinds of people will go far in this industry.