Hiring techies alone no longer computes

The fast-growing world of IT is seeking more than just technical know-how, says Virginia Matthews

For the technology graduate - or for the graduate whose lack of a techie degree is more than made up for by a burning desire to work in a fast-paced City IT role - the opportunities in development, procurement, risk assessment, e-commerce or systems support are seemingly endless.

At Deutsche Bank for example - which is one of the largest employers in London's Square Mile - the opportunity to work with cutting-edge technologies such as Bluetooth, wireless networking, voice, video and data convergence comes as standard via a job with the Information Enterprise Services (IES) division.

IES designs and manages the IT infrastructure that underpins all operations and applications within the bank. It offers the chance to work with a vast array of IT systems, from basic desktops and laptops to huge servers with multiple processors and countless gigabytes of memory.

While a sympathy with technology is of course vital for a job in IT, what the City banks are really looking for are candidates with both technical know-how and an understanding of how business works. In the Square Mile, maximum efficiency and performance delivered for less is the mantra for all IT departments.

At accountancy firm Ernst & Young, director of recruiting Stevan Rolls says the firm will be taking on between 40 and 50 graduates this year to work on IT, many of them inside the consultancy's Information Security Assurance and Advisory Services division or ISAAS. Their starting salary will be between £22,000 and £25,000.

"Our main focus is on the security area," says Rolls. "Risk reviews at the client end can involve finding out just how easy it is to hack into live IT systems or reviewing the effectiveness of a client's latest IT project."

While many graduates come into Ernst & Young via the accountancy or accountancy/IT route, Rolls has good news for those who have perhaps studied something entirely non-techie: "We look for graduates from any discipline to fill IT roles here, as long as they have an interest in and aptitude for IT and a strong commercial sense."

For the 40,000 to 50,000 IT graduates coming out of universities each year, one of the most prestigious and generous training schemes is that offered by Accenture. One of the world's leading management and technical consultancies, it takes on around 500 graduates every year and pays them a starting salary of £28,500, plus a £10,000 joining bonus.

Emily Chandler, who heads up graduate recruitment for the firm, says: "We are looking for a 2.1 minimum from our graduate analysts, but a technical degree is not essential for a role that will include anything from system design and construction to writing training materials."

She adds: "As long as you are very bright, have an aptitude for technology and a strong business awareness, our intensive training here will give you all the technical tools you need."

Because less than 25 per cent of the UK's IT workforce are female, Ernst & Young, Accenture and other leading employers are keen to promote employment diversity. "We have a lot of awfully clever techie people here and many of them are male," says Rolls, "but real business savvy is a gift that crosses the gender barrier."

For every 60 or 70 people using a computer on their desk at work, it has been estimated that there is at least one person working behind them in an IT support role. According to Sunil Duggal, managing director of Just IT Recruitment, graduates who fail to get into the IT sector via a graduate training scheme - and they are in the majority - should consider training in systems support and helpdesk work.

"Technology is vital to all City institutions and the ability to sort out crashes, viruses and shutdowns swiftly and calmly is a very sellable skill," he says. "In a support role, you will need to work with people at all levels - from the executive floor to the post room. The top priorities are patience, communication skills and teamwork; none of which can easily be taught. The technical side of the role is actually far easier to learn than many imagine."

Comments