Wanted: Attitude, experience, education

British Prime Minister Tony Blair once said the three things that matter most are "education, education and education".

British Prime Minister Tony Blair once said the three things that matter most are “education, education and education”.

Nowhere is this more true than in the world of information technology, where the only constant is change.

However, some recruitment consultants say attitude is just as important — the hunger to adapt, try something new and succeed.

Many employers apparently see qualifications and experience as being all-important, but they fail to pay quite as much attention to attitude. However, that may be what differentiates the candidates when all have similar qualifications and experience.

Ross Turner of Auckland-based Pinnacle Recruitment says New Zealand employers show a lack of flexibility in recruiting, often being happy to “tick off the boxes” to discover if a person has the right skill-set.

However, what matters more is “a can-do attitude, a will-do attitude”, he says.

If you have an unenthusiastic code cutter, then you might as well employ someone working online from India, he says.

Turner also values overseas experience, particularly that gained from large firms in the US and UK. The dot-com collapses have led many techies to return home laden with experience and fat wallets.

“These people come back to New Zealand and name their own price. They have all done well, are entrepreneurial and often have a lot of money to invest. We need a new wave of young people to head off overseas and replace those that have come back,” he says.

In time, Turner says, they too will come home armed with cash and knowledgeable in the latest technologies and methods, which can only benefit our country.

Candle’s Christine Fitchew agrees attitude and personality skills are important, recently saying IT staff can no longer be “backroom boffins”.

David Palmer of De Winter International echoes much of this, saying people must take an “object-orientated approach” and see the big picture.

He says an analyst programmer using Delphi should see himself as an analyst programmer, not a Delphi programmer; if Jade took off, he could easily transfer. Palmer says often people get stuck in a certain technology and when that technology dies, their careers die with it.

“Make sure you understand the methodologies, rather than delivery and execution. Have that big picture. Keep current with your reading. Focus on high levels of skill-sets. It’s AP, not Delphi. I’m a project manager, not a manager of software,” he says.

Barry O’Brien of Enterprise agrees, pointing out the switch from C++ to Java is only a small one and only takes a few short courses.

Many technology colleges and universities run courses, including short courses in Java, but people should be wary with other training bodies.

“We recommend that you use a fully recognised tertiary institute. There [are] a lot of dodgy people — companies that charge an arm and a leg. People pay many thousands to take a course and the company does not give a placement afterwards. They should develop a pipeline to place these people. I think it’s a scam,” he says.

Fitchew says there are many education and training options out there and all have their place.

She too recommends internationally recognised qualifications, such as university and technical college degrees, particularly if you are at management level.

With training schools, “it’s a gamble as there is no guarantee [of work/success], particularly for midstream career changes. If you are a builder there is no magic key to move into the IT mainstream,” she says.

“Qualifications help, but you [a career changer] would be competing against a 20-year-old with a BSc or some other appropriate degree from AUT, or somewhere similar.”

Fitchew says it’s not difficult to get qualifications — getting that first job is the tricky part. She advises entry level people to be tenacious when job hunting and “do a lot of door knocking”.

“Though for A-grade candidates it’s a different story. They are sought out by employers before they leave uni,” she says.

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