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What an employer is looking for in a Technical Role by @saintdle

This guest post is by Dean Lewis who blogs at Educational Centre, where you can find his back catalogue of posts. Find out more about the guest blogger program here.

So after an interesting North West VMUG event on 12th November, I’ve decided to write my own comments on the state of employment within IT. This is prompted by Neil Mills Talk at the above VMUG event, where he gave tips on super charging your CV, and the industry as he see’s it.

Most of my recruiting experience from the last year comes from a reseller/solutions provider point of view.

From Neil’s talk I gleaned the following;

  • The Market is awash with jobs and not enough quality candidates
  • Cloud is taking off, but not at the rate it was first thought of
    • This may be down to issues surrounding the adoption of cloud, i.e compliance.
  • Certifications suchasVCP,MCSA/E, have become the commodity, and expected
    • Advanced/Higher certifications such as VCAP is what makes the differentiator
  • If you are using a recruiter, work them, don’t leave them too it!

So what have I personally noticed;

  • The quality of candidates at a Senior/Lead level are not good enough
  • Commercial awareness is vital
  • Recruiters are struggling to fill roles, advertising the same things, and as such have resorted to some underhand tactics to “headhunt” candidates.
Let’s Expand on this

So 3 to 4 years ago I was hiring for a Service Desk Support role, I had nearly 100 applications for what was a decent role on decent money working in a college, so many perks tbh, in terms of working hours and holidays.

The quality of candidate coming into directly and via recruiters was shocking, personally I don’t think we were asking for a lot,

  • Someone who has an interest or experience working in IT,
  • I wanted someone who was more customer focus based,
  • Could answer a phone
  • Was able to probe for the correct information

The key thing here was customer server /focus based, I wanted someone who could change their method of talking to someone on the phone to instil confidence in them, make the customer feel as if they are being taken care of.

This was the bit I struggled with, finding someone who had an understanding of good customer service, and how to implement it and follow through. I actually had one interviewee tell me in the interview, they did not feel comfortable answering phones, out of politeness I didn’t end the interview at that point, but as you can imagine they didn’t get the job.

Currently, I have been helping out to find the right candidate to hire as a Senior Engineer, we have gone to recruiters again for the role, and taken some direct people who have fallen our way.

We are struggling to find people who

  • Have the right certifications to back up the skills they say they have
  • Find someone who we think can achieve higher certifications to ensure we keep our partner status
  • Are commercially aware, I.e look at the fact that a company has grown in double its size, and will need an architecture that will scale 3,4 fold in the next year etc. Rather than just something that can replace existing infrastructure.
  • Find someone who can engage with customers, at various levels, whether it is technical, or jargon busting high level to Managers, Senior managers etc.
  • Is truly passionate about the technologies they work with, keeping up to date on the latest trends, finding business needs that suit new equipment, or taking business needs and finding how the newest trends fit them.
  • Able to produce various levels of documentation, from technical project documentation, Pre-sales architecture documentation
  • Has the ability to audit a system/site and then provide strategic pointers to help a company decide on how to invest in its IT estate.
  • Is flexible slipping between the roles of support, implementation, design, pre-sales, after-sales etc.
The Soft Skills

Basically we don’t care much for the technical ability of someone, so long as they have the soft skills, business/commercial awareness is key. At a very simple level, here is an example;

  • A business has issues with email sat on an Exchange 2003 Server,
  • An Engineer goes in, fixes the issues.
  • Speaks to the customer about the benefits of Office 365, explains the implementation, and how the design fits in, or is different from what they currently have
  • Does this at the correct Jargon level.
  • Helps the Pre-sales/Design Team and Account Manager action this further for the customer.

As a reseller, we spot opportunities to enhance a customer’s environment, their interactions with IT on a day-to-day basis, and the same again with their customers. IT is an integral part of any company, ensuring it working is key, but spotting how to take that further, whether it’s delivering more with less, scaling the systems at the correct time.

Be Proactive, not reactive.

Knowing how to achieve the above is your key to success.

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Certifications

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There is always the discussion about if a certification is worth taking/having, about its value in the business place. Well, it’s always better to have them than to not, whether you believe in that technology or certification or not.

If you are looking to move into the reseller market, you need the certifications, so the resellers keep their partner status. It’s a fact of life, if you don’t have the certifications they need, as long as you have the skills to achieve them and demonstrate this in an interview, this will not heed your chances of employment.

If you’re looking at expanding your horizons, certify in the area you want to work, and not the area you are in. If you want to be a Cloud Architect, then don’t do you Windows 8.1 Install and Configure Exams, you need to be taking your VMware VCP’s and VCAPs, your Microsoft Private Cloud exams, TOEGAFF and ITIL are also non-technical ways of enhancing your worth a company.

There is a lot to be said about the quality of certain exams at this point in time, but as a candidate, if you show you keep up to date, willing to take those exams, you are a lot better than someone who has worked in the same area/department for X amount of years, and never bothered to validate their skills in some way.

The Freelance Mindset

The job market is becoming like liquid, it is moving rapidly to meet the demand of employers, with different skill sets needed to take companies forward. The age of taking on a job and working your way up is has gone, there is no gold watch at the end.

You need to think about the freelance mindset, whether you’re a permanent employee or contractor, think of yourself as Freelance.

This means not been afraid to move around to different companies to take on challenges, develop your skill areas. In the yesteryear you would be looking in your lifetime to work for 2 or 3 companies. Now you’re looking at working for 7 or more companies in your life time.

Take advantage of startups, these are where you get to be in the cutting edge. Whether this is deploying their solutions in a business, or actually working for them.

CV Tips

There are so many online, so go and read them, but here’s one tip.

Recruiters use various keyword algorithms to find you on social media and job search websites,

  • If you upload your CV, enter various keywords for the area you want to work in, in white text. This makes it unseen on the document itself, but picked up by scrapers that are looking for keywords.

Alternatively, have a section about area’s you’d like to develop, and include these keywords.

Summary

This blog post isn’t to criticise, or have a poke at people, but to provoke thoughts for those of you who are looking to move forward in your career, or those of you who are happy sitting there reading blog posts all day long.

This is entirely my thoughts put down in one note, then copied to wordpress. I want to bring out the best in myself and in others, I want to enhance the IT market, I want to enhance people’s IT infrastructures, that’s what drives me. I.e I wrote the blog posts on documentation, because it’s an area people struggle with, if people become more confident about it, then it might provide them more confidence to take that leap of faith and go for something bigger.

Take a leap of faith, you are the person who is in demand by employers, make it work for you.

Regards

Dean

4 thoughts on “What an employer is looking for in a Technical Role by @saintdle

  • Hiring managers and “headhunters” need to stop placing so much emphasis on certifications, especially when they do not know what the certification qualifies the holder to do. Case in point, I once saw an ad for an entry level VMware support person. One of the desired qualifications was the VCDX. Obviously, whomever wrote the job ad had no idea what the VCDX certification is. What’s even worse is that the ad was posted several weeks BEFORE all the VCDX qualification exams were released.

  • Great post. Refreshing to hear someone with a modern perspective on the IT infrastructure job market. As someone with over 10 years experience in this industry, over the course of 4 positions in 4 separate businesses, I totally agree that moving around a bit is key to a broad skill development. However, its also important to show some longevity on your CV. I’ve favorited this to remind myself in the future of the things that I need to be on a day to day level! Liam.

  • Really nice post and great insight! I wished I’d run into this kind of post at the early stage of my IT career. I totally concur with what you are saying here and this is similar to my thinking/plan in terms of advancing one’s career in IT with regards to having a freelance mindset and move on to a new company in order to gain new skills. Also, nowadays, there is no more loyalty from the employer; so keep looking out for yourself.

    I don’t think there are enough blog posts about career planning in IT and I really appreciate this.

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