'Only a third of IT leaders have testers that can code'
In the modern IT world, professionals have to navigate an evolving landscape of AI, green technology and cloud native solutions - and there aren't enough people to do all of it.
The UK IT Industry Awards, hosted by Computing and BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, stands as the pinnacle event of the industry calendar, spotlighting the trailblazers shaping the future of technology; celebrating innovation; and honouring those shaping our digital society.
Just before Christmas we spoke to Ryan James, MD at nFocus Testing, which won Services Company of the Year at the UK IT Industry Awards 2023, about how his company is closing the skills gap.
What do you think it was that stood out for the judges at this year's awards?
Our entry this year focused on the fact that, as an organisation, we'd identified a scarcity in the industry. Having identified that scarcity, and undertaken some market research, we created an academy to do our best to try and solve that scarcity - the scarcity being in test automation engineers.
In just two years we've been able to hire, train and deploy 32 juniors, which is such a huge number of people we've started on their way in their careers.
Alongside our junior practice we have a really successful senior practice, which has been running for 23 years, whereby we provide our proven test professionals into client projects and programmes that are undertaking digital transformation.
It's been our best ever year. That seemed to really resonate with the judges: more clients than we've ever had before, more client projects running in parallel than we've ever had before, plus more employees.
How important are academy programmes like yours when it comes to closing the UK's skills gap?
We feel they're really, vitally important. We undertook some market research, as I mentioned before; we spoke to 160 IT leaders through an independent market research company. They found that whilst two-thirds of them were working in an iterative methodology like Agile or DevOps, only a third of them had testers that could code: the kind of people you need to create test automation.
When we asked those same IT leaders how hard they were finding it to recruit these people right now, the most common answer we had was seven out of ten, so it is really hard to find them at the moment.
We felt, as an organisation, what better way to try and solve [this problem] than investing in people at the start of their IT careers? And that really resonates with us as a company, we like to invest in our people and develop our own people. I'm such a good example of that: I joined the business 15 years ago as a graduate myself, and today I find myself as managing director!
Your name was announced as the winner in front of hundreds of other IT leaders at the UK IT Industry Awards. How did that feel?
It was so unexpected. As an organisation we really feel that we're doing something quite special here at nFocus, and to be reviewed by an independent panel of judges - and they do get into quite a bit of detail - to have them review what we're doing and decide that we're worthy of Service Company of the Year is really quite validating, especially given that fact that we're a testing services company. We're one part of a much bigger process, so for a testing services company to win that award was a really special moment for us.