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Does the IT Sector have an image problem?

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Much like accountants and lawyers those in the IT sector have long suffered from an image problem.  As the need for highly skilled ICT professionals continues to grow year on year, with an additional 100,000 information and technology workers needed by the end of the decade. It may be time that we look to give the IT sector an image overhaul.

The traditional image of the socially awkward nerd sitting in a dark room playing World of War Craft and avoiding human contact does not reflect well on today’s ICT sector, in fact it could not be further from the truth when it comes to those working on emerging technologies or within digital companies that are changing the economic and business landscape.

Not only is the traditional view of the ICT industry slightly unfair it has done little to attract the sort of new talent that is urgently required in today’s emerging digital economy. This brings us to the issue of telling a new and different story about the sector, one that engages school leavers, industry professionals and those considering a career change with a new understanding of what it means to work in IT.

It is estimated that up to 40% of existing jobs will disappear in Australia because of technology advancements in the next ten years and those who are building, creating and managing these developments will not only be in demand they will be at the forefront of the modern economy. The ICT sector has changed greatly in the past ten years and those who are currently working on self-drive cars, new aeronautics software for passenger jets or the development of IT software will be the ones who eventually change the face of the modern workforce.

So as we race towards an ever increasing technology based future it will those who are in IT that will lead the way and we need to ensure we get this message out to those considering their potential career paths in the future. We know that no one wants to be seen as un-cool or socially awaked so we must do what we can to remove this image of dorkiness from what it a leading creative technology hub.

So how do we as an industry go about addressing the ICT image problem and attract school leavers, career professionals and considering a career change into the sector?

Tell a different story

The best way for us to address the image problem currently facing the ICT sector is to start telling a different story, one that resonates well with those who are considering a career in the ICT industry. The way we promote and talk about those who have achieved success in the industry sector will need to appeal to a much wider audience, framed in terms that mean something to those who are not already working in the sector.

We can learn much from other industry sectors that have previously had issues explaining what it is they do and why they do it, take for example the digital media and online marketing sector which has previously been seen as confusing and filled with endless industry acronyms and jargon. It is now however develop into a much desired career path for school leavers who are looking to stretch their native abilities in the use of digital while building a successful career with a clear path to both monetary and personal success.


Promote women in Technology

Women are still underrepresented in the information and communication technology workforce with men currently making up over 70% of the overall workforce and this is not only an issue for women it is an issue for the entire sector. Without an increase in the number of women studying ICT and working to advance the sector we will suffer economically as well as technically, lacking the advancements that come from talented women who can often bring a fresh perspective to the products and services currently being product by the sector.

So we must work harder as an industry to continually re-engage women with the help of government bodies, existing organisations and ICT companies who are already champion the cause of women in ICT. This should start long before their tertiary education is complete, preferably in primary school and continuing through to their higher school education and beyond. While many young students are gaining a level basic computer literacy at an early age, they are often not further incentivised to look at a career path in ICT due to a lack of information concerning the sector and the current misconception that a career in ICT means long hours in front of computer in some dark room away from the public eye.

Define clearer career paths

Often the best way to entice and excite potential entrants into choosing one career path over another is to define a clear path to success that will allow them to plan for their future while meeting their personal, financial and lifestyle goals. The ICT sector has not previously been good at showing how some of the most successful ICT professionals have gone on to shape their careers and achieve not only success in their chosen fields but success in the larger business world, often reshaping industries and making obscene amounts of money along the way.

Most of today’s industry leaders and successful entrepreneurs have come from the ICT sector and the roles that they currently occupy include all levels of senior management as well as business ownership. We only have to look at Elon Musk to see that a chosen career in the ICT sector does limit your future ambitions and indeed few industries have the success rate that ICT does when it comes to producing industry leaders or global icons.

Yes the ICT sector does have an image problem, but it is one that can easily be changed if work together to tell a better story, educate the young and promote the benefits and the truth about the sector by putting a spot light on those who are already working in the sector.


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