Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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July 14, 2015

Transferring ‘soft’ professional skills — such as empathy and listening — to the technical world of IT services

VirtevaBannerLogoWhen Managed IT Services provider Virteva seeks to hire entry-level personnel, recruiters carefully consider each job candidate’s technical skills. But they also look closely at personality.

“When you consider Virteva’s line of work — and how we provide support for end-users globally — we require key personality traits such as the ability to listen well and express empathy,” said Rachel Wittrock, human resources generalist. “If you’re an end-user and your computer breaks down, you’re usually not in the best mood. So it’s critically important that our Virteva employee be able to listen, care, and navigate that initially stressful situation to a successful resolution.”

Listening and caring. It is precisely because Virteva needs employees with such “soft” work skills that it has chosen to partner with IT-Ready in Minneapolis.

Offered free of charge by the Creating IT Futures Foundation, IT-Ready provides IT education, training and job placement to qualifying unemployed and under-employed adults who enjoy and are comfortable using technology, but lack formal experience in the field. Priority is offered to individuals under-represented in IT, including women, veterans and ethnic minorities.

Taught by experienced instructors in a classroom setting, IT-Ready imparts the skills students need to secure entry-level IT positions. Students also learn softer professional skills such as communication and customer service. At the program’s end, students take the CompTIA A+ certification exam, after which they can qualify for a six-month, paid temporary assignment with a local company. Such assignments can often lead to permanent, full-time employment. 

That’s been the case at Virteva, which has brought on several IT-Ready graduates for temporary or project-based assignments and later hired them on as permanent, full-time employees.

“Our experience with IT-Ready grads has been very positive,” Wittrock said. “Since Virteva is a managed services provider, our new hires can face a steep learning curve. But because they’ve gone through the rigors of the IT-Ready program and certification process, graduates have already demonstrated an aptitude for the work, as well as the ability to quickly learn and assimilate new skills.”

In fact, Wittrock added, supervisors at Virteva observe that IT-Ready graduates are especially enthusiastic and motivated, often serving as role models for their peers.

“I think it starts with the effort and time they’ve invested in IT-Ready,” she said. “That’s an eight-week program in which they don’t get paid and are permitted few absences or tardies. By the time they reach us, they’ve already proven they have a strong work ethic, and are emotionally invested in their success and ready to get to work.”

As a recruiter for Virteva, Kelsey Kielb volunteers her time with IT-Ready by conducting mock job interviews with students, and conducting lunch-and-learn sessions about recruitment and personnel issues.

Although many IT-Ready students don’t have formal IT experience before starting the program, Kielb said, they usually do have other transferable professional skills.

“Many IT-Ready students have customer-facing experience, whether it was in retail or hospitality, and those skills definitely transfer to IT,” she said. “Some employers are hesitant to hire entry-level personnel who lack experience; they are scared of the risk of the unknown. But at Virteva, we embrace that model because we know there are things we can teach and things we can’t teach. IT done the Virteva way is something we can teach. Enthusiasm, drive, empathy, the ability to listen well — those are things we can’t really teach.”  

Virteva delivers managed IT and project-based consulting services that optimize their clients’ IT infrastructure and operations. Headquartered in Minnesota and serving clients worldwide, Virteva services help clients say “yes” to the wide spectrum of information technology demands by their business, employees and customers, securely and reliably, anyplace or anytime.

IT-Ready is offered in Minneapolis / St. Paul by the Creating IT Futures Foundation, the philanthropic arm of CompTIA.