Future Proofing

UK Technology and Digital Skills

Industry Insights

Tell us how you came to work in the technology industry?

Chris Lord CIO I started my working life as a trader, using Lotus 123 to model risk-less arbitrage opportunities and came to realise that I was more interested in building the models than in the trading.

From there I moved to Reuters where I managed the Money Market products, working with the Technology teams. I expanded my remit whilst at Reuters working on varied projects beyond just delivering products. I was involved in deploying systems for the 2000+ journalists, building analytical tools used by over for 10,000 data analysts and managing one of the three core databases at Reuters.

Mine was a rather unconventional career path, which did not follow formal technical roles and gave me the opportunity to identify the inter-dependencies between several related functions. Exposure to such a wide remit across all the core technology disciplines highlighted the fundamental role of data and its value to an organisation. Data will only become more critical for business growth and survival in the future with the IoT, AI and bots.

Lucie Glenday CDO I started working with tech back in 2007, designing a collaboration platform for international academics but actually it’s just an extension of understanding how information flows and is managed and that’s what I did in my early career.

I’m going to sound very sad now… I love data and technology gives us the tools to understand and get greater insight in to the individuals / businesses we support or call customers. Understanding what’s happened in the past allows us to predict what might be needed in the future and as a problem solver that’s a very good thing.

Scott Hooker Tech Lead Developer Over the course of my career I’ve often suffered from “imposter syndrome” and questioned whether I am good enough to lead a team, veto an opinion, or have the deciding vote in a technical argument. Largely because my route into technology was not an average one… or so I thought.

I studied history at University and did not really see my self moving into technology. However, I guess you do always end up doing what you love. I’ve always been a “technocrat” and built my first website aged 12 and wrote my first bit of PHP not long after. To be able to do this as a career is fantastic. I get to play with computers all day. Fantastic.

What are the main reasons your business invests in technology?

Albert Zaragoza VP Engineering EVRYTHNG's technology is our IoT Smart Products Platform, which enable brands to digitally transform their businesses. The key driver for this digital transformation is connectivity, which means everything physical, including all consumer products, will be connected.

This is changing the way things are made, bought, used and recycled. It is opening up new channels for brands to reach their consumers, and new ways to drive efficiencies in their supply chain operations. EVRYTHNG technology allows product manufacturers to transform their physical assets to smart, trackable, programmable digital assets to drive new values across the full product lifecycle. Our investment in technology is driven by our mission to give products a digital life.

Lucie Glenday CDO As a care provider we know that technology is not a replacement for human interaction and help but what it can do is provide reassurance and real data to support a more tailored care plan. It can also help us find out things that we may not have otherwise known in a very unobtrusive way.

Challenging behaviour in those with autism is often triggered by someone or something. If we know a particular staff member causes a customer to get stressed especially when the customer has had a restless night, we can let the care manager know. If we notice a decline in mobility with one of our elderly customers we can get in to understand why and potentially divert some of the knock on conditions such as dehydration, malnutrition, incontinence, and social isolation.

Scott Hooker Tech Lead Developer It hasn’t been a tough ask to get our business to invest in technology, once a business recognises that their customer base is online the answer is simple.

I am often surprised by businesses that don’t take the technology investment route and instead try to hire really senior people in very specific non-tech roles. At the end of the day if the leadership is sound in their vision and can communicate this to developers (good developers) the ROI of a digital product is above and beyond that of what someone can deliver in a year. With the added bonus that the digital product will run and run and run.

What is currently driving the need for technology/digital skills within your business?

Laura Squires Snr Project Manger A fast moving market place and the ability to react quickly. We need to produce digital products to fit in with our business plans and our models. We need a broad range of skills and teams for this.

Ruth Penfold Director Talent Acquisition To keep up the pace of innovation and the growth that we plan for our product and in turn, our business. High calibre tech talent will be the people who ultimately will be telling us what we need to do next, not the other way around!

Scott Hooker Tech Lead Developer Being in the education sector that is rapidly changing, whilst also being squeezed by tightening government budgets. We’re having to find new ways to reach our market whilst simultaneously expanding into new markets.

Our technology can reach these quicker and easier than people on the ground so the need for technology skills is an easy argument to our investors and those that sign the cheques. It’s very tangible and has a very clear and visible ROI.

Do you think cross training someone from a non-technical role into the tech/digital team is a good way to get more people into the industry?

Albert Zaragoza VP Engineering Definitely, especially when working with companies and environments that have adopted agile the right way. We need all types of skillsets and backgrounds to make sure the best product is delivered to the end customer. Cross-functional teams require a wide range of information to reach their decisions and the wider the knowledge pool, the better.

Scott Hooker Tech Lead Developer With all that in mind its no secret that the skills gap remains large, perhaps more businesses will train staff internally. But, with a shortage of skills already can they afford the time for their senior developers to dedicate time to teaching?

Can business afford to take a slower road to developing a product by hiring junior developers. It’s all a tough balancing act. Long term though we as technologists need to be better at demonstrating the barriers to entry are not high. Open source is bigger than its ever been and anyone can start writing code. They just need to be aware that its not a scary matrix looking world. Soon we’ll find marketers writing the HTML of their own emails without needing a developer, product owners will be writing lines of JSON that trigger actions on their own websites, and everyone in the business will know what GitHub is.

To shrink the gap, well I don’t have the magic answer, but I know it starts with perceptions of the software industry. If we can show it to be as open as those inside know it is. Well that would be a good start.

Ben Aronsten CMO Yes. We actually hold weekly lunch and learns within the business to help cross train non-technical team members on understand the technology functions in the business, along with the tools they use. This helps empower people from non-technical roles to understand the basics of things like querying the database for information and providing context when looking at items outside their departments. Knowledge is power and we try to fascinate a minimum understanding within the business for non-technical roles.

Do you see the need for soft skills in tech/digital changing over the next 3 years?

Chris Lord CIO The core skills stay the same but the need for better skills in building connections across teams with different cultures, backgrounds and skills will increase as the idea of going it alone when building something fade away.

Laura Squires Snr Project Manger I think they are becoming more important. Teams needs to be motivated, they need to network and keep up to date with the fast pace environment we work in. Communication is important for everyone, not just for project managers. Self organising teams, everyone has to be a team player.

Lucie Glenday CDO My daughter is 9 and she is coding in Python, she is unlikely to choose at 18 to become a full time developer as a career, she has her heart set on being an engineer (as did I at her age).

Technology underpins virtually everything we do now and it’s the responsibility of schools and universities to show our children and young adults the opportunities it affords us, but also be a safe place to learn about the impact of innovation. How many young people are training today for jobs that will be obsolete in 10 years time because computers will do it better… empathy and human kindness might be soft skills but they will be the differentiator and should be now.

What are the top three things a company could implement / improve to increase staff productivity?

Albert Zaragoza VP Engineering Listen. Good ideas come from everywhere; valuing opinions and listening to suggestions make people feel part of a team and will give them a sense of contribution. The more they feel that their voice is being heard, the more they will contribute to the mission of the company.

Set goals and use results to help employees grow. People work better when they learn and are being challenged.Respect staff as individuals, in addition to the job they do.Respect can be a simple but powerful motivator; when employees feel genuinely respected, they're much more likely "to go the extra mile" to help a company succeed.

Laura Squires Snr Project Manger Any company needs to ensure digital and technical staff have appropriate equipment, it is absolutely vital. It is also important to look after the teams, rewarding them, it keeps them motivated. Teams should be proud of the work they are doing, they should understand, they need to be included.

Jo Cavill PHP Developer On/off site working flexibility, more autonomy within projects, better defined career paths.

What do you think has been the biggest contributing factor to cause the technology skills gap?

Laura Squires Snr Project Manger Companies, recruiters, colleges, universities, the more involved the better. Get people interested earlier, surely that would be a better outcome.

Ben Aronsten CMO I think everyone is responsible. Government and Educational institutions to ensure they fund and define real work education programmes. Recruiters, ensuring they place the right talent and challenge businesses who have not defined the roles properly. And businesses, for mapping skill sets with actual business objectives verse creating roles that are more superficial that just try to tick the ‘digital’ box.

If there were one thing you believe businesses could do, right now, to help towards closing the skills gap in tech and digital, what would it be?

Albert Zaragoza VP Engineering Where there are gaps in knowledge, businesses should train their employees to bring the necessary skills into the business. This is also about having a forward-thinking strategy for recruitment and also helping to encourage and nurture tech talent at a grassroots level.

Chris Lord CIO Participate more in mentoring and internships at universities and at start-ups, everyone wins.