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6 key skills new IT grads are lacking

Mary K. Pratt | Feb. 14, 2012
Greg Taffet is scouting for talent.

Traits IT managers love

While it's true that IT managers are dismayed that new tech grads lack certain skills, overall they agree that this new generation is tech-savvy, hard-working and willing to learn.

Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA, says he hears from colleagues that the latest graduates are energetic, creative and eager to contribute.

"I'm not sure that was always the case," he says. "Twenty years ago, there was more of a command-and-control environment. People didn't volunteer themselves or jump into projects as much. The kids today like variety, and they have the energy, creativity and good nature that comes along with that."

IT executives also say their latest college hires have an intuitive sense of technology -- in particular, an understanding of social networking and ideas on how to apply it to enhance business performance.

"Often they have great insights as to what ought to be tried or to what might work," says John N. Oglesby, an IT executive in Tennessee and a founding member of the Memphis chapter of the Society for Information Management. "They bring a completely new outside perspective, and that's typically where innovation comes from."

— Mary K. Pratt

In the meantime, IT leaders have developed strategies to ensure their new employees have basic business acumen. Taffet, for example, looks for recent grads with some previous work experience -- and a corresponding understanding of how a business operates -- but other employers often snap up those candidates quickly.

For those new hires who don't have sufficient business knowledge, particularly in the area of finance, Taffet teaches what he calls "Finance 101" -- a series of informal lessons on basic business accounting concepts like accounts receivable and accounts payable.

"It's less glamorous than a lot of the new things that are being taught, but it's just as important that an employee understand [the business functions] that all companies have," he explains.

2. Experience With Systems Integration

There's no denying that college students, regardless of their major, get plenty of computer experience. But that doesn't mean they're schooled in the IT processes that businesses use, says Thibodeaux.

Most computer science students spend a majority of their time in college learning how to build their own applications and systems, he points out, even though businesses often don't necessarily need that type of expertise.

"When you get into the business world, it's a lot less about having to create your own system and more about how to integrate systems," Thibodeaux says.

People who can build systems from scratch may have impressive talents, he explains, but many companies find more value in those who can integrate multiple enterprise applications and commercial packages or can take a function created internally and integrate it into an established system.


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