Sunil Cherian still remembers one of his first jobs in IT, at a company that had 27 men and just three women. Minorities and veterans were also few and far between in the technology space.
During the dotcom boom, Sunil co-founded a computer networking company developing technology for websites to handle large amounts of traffic. But as he helped guide his company, Array Networks, through the roller coaster ride of the early 2000s, he noticed another problem in the IT space. Companies large and small have a hard time attracting and retaining the right talent.
“There’s a lot of other people who could have done the job with even a little bit of coaching and training and patience. But they’re shut out of the market, because they lack that elite skill level that employers are looking for. Everything is teachable to people who are willing to learn,” Sunil said.
Recruiting the right talent
Sunil explained that many IT companies complain about low employee productivity. They expect workers to come in with the right skillset and make immediate contributions. The firms that do invest in training programs often end up without the results they were expecting.
“A lot of companies pay trainers to come in and do classes that are several weeks long. But very few people can remember what they got from the training and apply it to their jobs. The concept of delivering outcomes is missing,” Sunil said.
While some companies can shell out large amounts of money for the best and brightest tech talent, not everyone has billions of dollars in cash flow like Google, Apple or Facebook. IT companies with less name-recognition desperately need alternatives to rote training courses or paying top-dollar for the best talent.
“If you’re competing against the Facebooks and Apples and Googles of the world that are paying twice what you’re able to afford, then you really need to look at other models,” Sunil said.
“If you’re a mid-level company that’s running at $50 million or $100 million in revenue, every hire is important to you.”
A MindShift in hiring
Sunil’s company, Mentor Global, uses the apprenticeship model to train the next generation of IT employees. The company looks for a mindset, not necessarily a skill set, in its students.
The goal, Sunil explained, is to recruit students who want to learn and have the internal desire to complete hard work. Mentor Global then pays these students to go through an apprenticeship, or bootcamp.
Students take live, in-person courses on cloud computing, project management, big data and other topics. The intensive curriculum includes 90 teaching days, with classes held from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
IT companies invest in the talent Mentor Global produces and commit to hiring its graduates at the end of their apprenticeship period.
“We have a very good track record with respect to companies absorbing them. After they work for a year-long contract, many of them get converted to full-time,” Cherian said.
Silicon Valley-based Mentor Global allows Sunil to give back in many ways. From connecting qualified people with good jobs, to taking the risk out of the hiring process. But he also has a deep commitment to diversity.
Expanding diversity in IT
The number of women and minorities working technology jobs has ebbed and flowed since the dotcom boom, but ultimately, very little has changed.
That’s why Mentor Global is taking steps to solve the diversity problem in the IT space. According to Sunil, hundreds of women and minority students have gone through his apprenticeship program as of this year. Mentor Global recruits these students through community organizations and schools.
Expanding diversity, Sunil said, will help companies respond to the needs of their audiences.
“Look at the companies that are creating products. The products that these guys are producing are going to be used by a cross-section of the population. Fifty percent of the population or less are women, 50 percent are men,” Sunil said.
Sunil, a veteran of the IT space, finds his current work with Mentor Global extremely rewarding. And that’s largely due to the opportunities he has to expand diversity.
“It was the first time I had an opportunity to work in something that had a great impact from the point of view of bringing women, minorities and veterans into the tech space and giving them this opportunity, while also helping to build a business,” Sunil said.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of MindShift.money.
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