Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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November 7, 2016

U.S. Bank seeks strong technical aptitude, exemplary customer-service skills and work ethic in entry-level IT professionals

us_bankThe internal IT help desk at U.S. Bank is a well-organized, sophisticated operation — quick to triage and address problems immediately or escalate them on for speedy resolution.

It has to be — with 70,000 employees working in locations worldwide, U.S. Bank needs its staff to serve millions of customers.

“I know a number of companies recruiting millennials for IT job vacancies promote flexible work hours as a selling point. I’d love to tell a candidate, ‘Sure, work whenever you want and wherever you want as long as you log 40 hours a week,’” said Wendy Norberg, IT Service Center Manager at U.S. Bank. “But our help desk can’t work that way. That’s why it’s so important that help-desk employees have a strong work ethic —and why showing up as scheduled, on time, is equally as important as technical knowledge.”

An 18-year veteran at U.S. Bank, Norberg has worked within its internal IT call center for 14 of those years. The technicians answering queries from employees provide front-line support for all of today’s technology — desktops, laptops, landline and mobile phones, hardware and software, and printers and other equipment.

The calls and chats range from someone forgetting a password and needing help resetting it to much more challenging problems.

“Hopefully, we’re able to resolve their issues during that initial conversation,” Norberg said. “At times we need to generate a ticket for second-level IT support.”

It takes, on average, about six months for a new help-desk technician to grow comfortable in the role because of the library of knowledge needed to field incoming calls, Norberg said. The bank understands there’s a learning curve when it comes to IT knowledge and skills.

So from the bank’s perspective, what’s just as important as technical aptitude is that new hires on the help desk come equipped with soft professional skills critical to success in any customer-facing role — such as active listening, courtesy and empathy.

“In a help-desk environment, you must be comfortable talking with people,” she said. “That means listening to someone describe a problem, asking the right questions in a polite way and expressing concern for someone’s inconvenience. Such softer skills weigh as much as the technical knowledge.”

Ensuring that help-desk technicians possess the necessary soft professional skills is one reason why U.S. Bank began working with IT-Ready, Norberg said.

IT-Ready is an eight-week, hands-on educational and training program that prepares participants for CompTIA A+ certification and entry-level IT positions at area companies.

Sponsored by the Creating IT Futures Foundation, IT-Ready takes bright, motivated individuals who lack opportunity and teaches them — at no personal cost — the hard technical and soft professional skills needed to successfully secure entry-level work in the field of IT.

Upon the conclusion of the program, IT-Ready students take the CompTIA A+ certification exam and may qualify for a paid apprenticeship with a local company. Creating IT Futures is the philanthropic arm of CompTIA, the leading IT industry trade association.

Norberg said that U.S. Bank has hired three IT-Ready graduates for its internal help desk; between their CompTIA A+ knowledge and soft professional skills, they were equipped to start work right away.

“The relationship with IT-Ready has been good for us, and the graduates we’ve hired are doing really well,” she said. “Their strong core values and technical skills have helped with their transition and they’re learning very quickly.”