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What’s Shaping the Future IT Workforce?

"Personal interaction is still really important". These technology leaders discussed the current factors that are shaping the future IT workforce.

Amid the socio-political issues, the dark cloud looming over the economy and the Covid-19 pandemic, the IT workforce has undergone a great deal of change. In this debate, the speakers discussed a number of issues and questions surrounding the future IT workforce. This included going over the key skills needed, how this will shape the IT workforce of the future and what role new talent plays in shaping workforce culture. 


With Keme Nzerem moderating, the speakers of this roundtable debate include:


Key skills and tomorrow’s IT workforce

Moderator Keme Nzerem started the debate by asking the speakers what key skills they think the future IT workforce needs.


The majority of organisations are becoming digitised according to Chief Technologist of CME Industry for EMEA at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Chris Dando. With technology at the heart of this, Chris argued that there are sources of things that technology leaders need. The main skill he mentioned was communication. He stated that we’ve seen communication over vast distances and face-to-face. Now, this will be done across ecosystems going forward, which means taking partners with other people in the value chain. Chris pointed out that it’s clear technology is changing. “We need to look for people who… are creative thinkers and lateral thinkers”, he said.


Following up from this, CIO Executive Partner & Senior Analyst at Forrester, Phil Brunkard, talked about workforce integration. “It’s about the ability to really collaborate across the organisation but that collaboration has to be effective”, he said. Phil added that it’s not only about communication, but also showing empathy and understanding stakeholder needs. 


Agreeing with Chris’ previous point, he pointed out that critical thinking and the skills he mentioned are also key skills. The idea that technology is changing and evolving resonates with Phil. Technologists need to have that capability and, in his view, need to apply that business perspective when talking about emerging technologies such as machine learning.

Workforce challenges

CPTO at OVO Energy, Christina Scott, was asked to talk the speakers through some of the IT workforce challenges through an energy industry lens.


“It’s been a busy year for energy”, Christina stated. Before, she explained that her organisation would set out their strategy and be focused on that. The main challenge now is that instead of following a solid plan, they have had to react to the market. She also noted that government schemes have been brought in and disappeared on the sidelines. While Christina considers communication an important skill for the IT workforce, she highlighted that looking for opportunities and making the best of a situation is something they should be doing. 


Later on she reflected on comments made earlier centred around communication and wider skill sets. Communication skills are something that the workforce is trying to develop in her view. In an example, she explained that OVO were carrying out a “year of learning”. Christina went over the most recent learning point for the team. “Storytelling is so important because you need to communicate with people who aren’t technologists”, she said. Though complex, she highlighted the significance of taking people on that narrative storytelling journey and allowing others to understand the data.


Future IT workforce – attraction and retention

“Like many around the table we’ve got the same issue which is attracting and retaining people”, said Director of Information Security at Penguin Random House UK, Deborah Haworth. On the other hand, she agreed that communication and getting the business message across is key. 


Deborah argued that organisations no longer want technicians “hiding in cupboards” or “sitting in the basement” these days. The talent they are looking for needs to be business focused, dynamic and can change with the business direction.  


From Deborah’s perspective, this needs to be carried out securely. Furthering this point, she stated that technologists should have a base knowledge of security principles. She added that they’re not looking for nor do they expect cybersecurity experts. 


Moving on, Keme stated that Amnesty International’s CIO, Paul Smith, brings an interesting perspective to the debate. He focused on the role of the technologist and their storytelling: “It’s actually about more than just profit … If you guys get it wrong, people’s lives are at risk”.


In agreement with Keme’s statement, Paul argued that for Amnesty, it’s about the impact. He outlined that the key aspect for the organisation, as a technology team, is that they have to show empathy. This helps them understand what isn’t working in the business and shows that the technology isn’t just an addition to the business – they are important in every aspect. Circling back to communication, Paul argued that being part of the business, not the “back group” is key. As a team, he argued that technologists are becoming innovators and “orchestrators” of products, services and platforms. 

Workforce requirements 

When thinking about the workforce, Juan thinks about their wants and needs. CIO at Imperial College London, Juan Villamil agreed with the rest of the speakers when discussing the skills needed. Discussing soft skills and talent that he believes technologists need to be attracting, he stated that they “need technology to be part of the fabric of the organisation”. 


Juan explained that after the last two years with the pandemic, employee expectations have changed in the marketplace. He argued that with this, it’s important to bring that flexibility and agility. “I think that personal interaction is still really important”, he said. Coming together to share ideas and resolve problems is key. Juan believes that if people go fully remote, this collaboration will disappear. Technologists, in Juan’s view, are there to help the business “thrive in a very dynamic environment”. 


CDIO at London Business School, Danny Attias, wants to see fewer technologists “in the basement”. He argued that digital, data and technology needs to permeate the organisation as a whole. Following on from this, he pointed out that data skills, as well as soft skills, are the hardest skills to acquire. Once they have a firm grasp of data within the organisation, Danny explained that you can start to become more curious. Technologists can start to build stories and challenge assumptions as well as becoming experimental and more innovative.  


This roundtable was recorded at The Studio and made in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise.