1. Knowledge of
Sure, new computer science grads
can program, but do they understand
accounts receivables, logistics and operations, or marketing plans?
Probably not, says Todd Thibodeaux,
president and CEO of the Computing Technology Industry Association
(Comp TIA), headquartered in
Downers Grove, Ill.
That’s because most students in
computer science undergraduate
programs still do the majority of their
coursework within that field — even
though many end up in corporate IT
positions where they’re expected to
develop applications to facilitate the
work done by other departments. And while graduate-level IT
programs do a better job of offering business-related courses,
there can still be a knowledge gap.
Colleges are starting to address the problem, says Brian Janz,
an MIS professor at the University of Memphis’s Fogelman
College of Business and Economics and associate director of the
university’s FedEx Center for Supply Chain Management.
The university is in its second year of following the IS 2010
model curriculum designed by the Association for Information
Systems and the Association for Computing Machinery. That
plan calls for teaching tech students both IT skills and professional skills such as communication and leadership.
The switch has brought more business studies into the MIS
coursework, Janz says. “There are always going to be gaps that
are going to be very specific to the hiring organization, but we
can make sure the foundation is there,” he says. “If we can give
them the sound foundation, [businesses] can give them the stuff
specific to their organization.”
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 employ-
ers 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.
puter 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.
To compensate for this skills gap, many corporate IT departments choose to train new hires themselves, he says. Large
companies tend to engage consultants to aid in the process, while
small and midsize companies find ways to train people directly.
We are expecting
more and more, and
universities are supplying
more, but we’re asking
for still more.
GREG TAFFET, CIO,
U.S. GAS & ELECTRIC
3. Emerging Technologies Expertise
Business intelligence (BI) and cloud computing are two emerging
tech trends that are high priorities to enterprise IT managers, but
those topics haven’t trickled down into college curricula yet.
Colleges can offer only so many courses, and with technologies changing so rapidly, there tends to be some lag time when
it comes to developing extensive coursework in evolving trends,
says Marty Sylvester, senior vice president of Modis, an IT staffing firm in Harrisburg, Pa.
Sylvester says he regularly hears from CIOs who say how hard
it is to find young people trained in emerging enterprise technologies, particularly cloud computing.
Some companies offer crash courses to
get new hires up to speed. One employer
that takes that approach is Pariveda
Solutions, a Dallas-based IT consultancy.
CEO Bruce Ballengee says Pariveda
generally hires recent grads who hold
bachelor’s degrees in MIS or computer
science and then starts them off with a
week of “developer school” to familiarize
them with emerging technologies they may
not have studied in college, such as cloud
computing and BI, as well as in-demand
enterprise programming languages like
SQL, .Net and Java.
2. Experience With
There’s no denying that college students,
regardless of their major, get plenty of com-
Colleges don’t teach the “basic
basics” of IT, says Jeff Bowden
of Dassault Systèmes.
4. The Tech Basics
As IT becomes increasingly advanced, Jeff
Bowden has seen a decline in the ability
of college graduates to handle simple tech
tasks. “One gap we’re finding is that colleges don’t teach the real basic basics,” says
Bowden, director of IT systems at Dassault