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IT Skills Shortage? No, Just Looking in the wrong place

By Phil Factor,

One lesson I learned very quickly as a manager in a large corporate was to never blame the people who report to you. It was some time ago, but I expect the ethos is the same still. It was your job as a manager to make the best of the cards you were dealt, even if you had a suspiciously large number of jokers. If your team wasn’t delivering what it should, it was your fault, not theirs. I still believe this, because there are so many skills, and different talents that are essential for good IT work; and so a wide variety of people have a niche in a good team. It is your job to match the person to the task.

Developers, for example, come in variety. There are the plodders and the racehorses, the tinkerers, the barrack-room lawyers, the fuss-pots, the malicious, the dreamers and so on. The average development has room for a wide range of human abilities, and working methods, and the job of the manager to allocate the jobs accordingly: The pedestrian tasks to the plodders, testing for the malicious, the daring edge-of-the-seat programming to the racehorses and so on. Every temperament suits a particular role, but get it wrong and you have discontent. Get it right, and development runs smoothly with surprising contentment.

I’ve always been happiest with a widely-diverse team in IT. A mix of age, experience, culture and interests has always suited me, even educational backgrounds. This is why I’m deeply suspicious of anyone complaining about an IT ‘skills shortage’. If you can’t source your dream team for your wonderful startup, then you’re artificially restricting yourself whilst under the delusion that a mix of highly trained and talented people, probably male and twenty-something, would necessarily make a good team. No, they’ll probably fight like Kilkenny Cats.

I’m always fascinated to talk to DBAs about their backgrounds. Somehow, DBAs have escaped a lot of the stereotyping, and because of the many different ways that they’ve entered the profession, we have a healthy diversity of background and previous experience. As well as computer scientists, I know of several DBAs who were once professional musicians, actors, hairdressers, artists, scientists, athletes, soldiers and even solicitors and architects. They all make good DBAs too. If only developers were able to bring such a range of skills, experience and knowledge to the job!

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