Competency is the New Currency
About This Episode
As organizations seek to build the workforces of tomorrow, they recognize now more than ever, that they must first address the growing skills crisis of today. Because in the modern workforce, competency is the new currency, and those who fail to evangelize a culture of learning will ultimately fall behind. And for those in tech, keeping up with the rate and pace of change is relentless. The average life of a tech skill today is less than 5 years, and so, continuous upskilling through training and certification is mission-critical for every IT professional. We explore this further with Jane Pitt, a Training Program Manager at Microsoft, who is at the heart of helping organizations develop their IT talent and delivering greater value to people and the businesses they serve.
Interested in learning more?
- Read our latest research in the 2021 Women In Tech Report, an in-depth study of the state of women in IT
- Download Skillsoft’s Global Knowledge 2021 IT Skills and Salaries Report, one of the largest studies of industry salaries, certifications, skills and more
- Learn more about Microsoft's technical and role-based training and certification available through Skillsoft’s Global Knowledge
The views expressed by guests are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Skillsoft.
Michelle BB 00:00:07 The views expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Skillsoft. Welcome to the edge, a Skillsoft podcast for learners and leaders alike. And every episode we engage in candid thought provoking conversations on the topic of learning and growth in the workplace. And I want to start first by wishing you all a very happy new year. I hope you had a peaceful and healthy holiday season, and I would love to tell you that I did, but unfortunately my husband likes so many people came down with COVID, which shifted the tone of our celebrations. Now, fortunately, he had a very mild case. The rest of the family remained COVID free. And so we have much to be grateful for. And I am also grateful for this, the opportunity to be back in the virtual recording studio for another episode of The Edge.
Michelle BB 00:01:03 Now look, as we ring in this new year, we have to acknowledge, we have just made it through nearly two years of unprecedented disruption. And if I'm honest with myself and with you, I have to tell you, I am getting so tired of this phrase and even the idea of the new normal. What does that even mean? Is there such a thing so much of our collective time has been spent addressing the impact and devastating toll of the pandemic on ourselves and the people with whom we work as so many of us have gone remote. We've witnessed a real separation between work and workplace. They are no longer synonymous. We have seen the emergence of new working models, social, and let's face it emotional distancing, zoom fatigue, and a workforce reckoning, which has been dubbed the great resignation. So rather than look ahead and imagine the future.
Michelle BB 00:02:02 I think we have to realize that it is here. The future is now. And I think we can all agree that one of the most pressing challenges we as leaders must address is the widening skills gap. As we seek to build the workforce of tomorrow, we've got to address the growing skills crisis of today. And does the Deloitte survey found a widening skills gap is creating a potential economic impact of $2.5 trillion. Yes. Trillion with a T. So how do we respond with a growing movement that seeks to address the talent shortage? We call it the skills revolution where organizations create cultures of learning, where employees can develop new skills needed to grow their careers. This world we are building is one in which competency is the new currency. And let me tell you this, doesn't just apply to highly technical roles within it organizations because greatly accelerated by COVID-19 today.
MichelleBB 00:03:05 Every company is a technology company. And so every company success depends on its ability to invest in technology driven offerings, operations and people. And on today's episode, we're going to put a strong emphasis on that last part, people. And I am so thrilled to be joined by a guest who is at the heart of helping organizations develop their talent and deliver greater value to people and the businesses they serve. Jane Pitt is a training program manager at Microsoft, working in a worldwide learning division, a skilling evangelist, and trusted training advisor to customers. Jane works with those customers and learning partners to train and certify the workforce of today. And tomorrow we're going to come back to that notion of certification. Shortly. Jane brings 20 plus years of experience in infrastructure engineering and architectural design to her role. And prior to Microsoft, she held roles at several large technology organizations, including CenturyLink technology solutions, Savvis UK and Dell EMC.
Michelle BB 00:04:20 Jane is also committed to taking action to move us closer to a world where diversity in gender race and disability is no obstacle to achievements of any kind in particular. She has a passion for breaking down barriers for women in technology, making training and skilling more accessible for women and asking the tough questions. How can we encourage more women to go out and get their certifications? Jane regularly speaks at stem events and has an established community tech her that brings together women working in technology to educate and inspire each other. And in 2019, Jane was named a tech women 100 award winner for her commitment to improving the gender balance in the technology industry. So of course I couldn't be more thrilled to have Jane with me here today. Jane. Welcome. Thank you for joining me on The Edge.
Jane 00:05:21 Thank you. Thank you very much, Michelle. I'm really pleased to be here and thank you for inviting me.
Michelle BB 00:05:26 Oh, absolutely. Now before we get going, um, I think we need to know a little bit more about your LinkedIn profile picture because there's a bike there. I love the bike. What is the story behind this picture?
Jane 00:05:42 Yes, indeed. Yes. It's not. Um, it's not your usual LinkedIn profile picture. That is me on a track day at Donington racetrack here in the UK. And, um, it's a really fun day. Where are, um, I love motor motorcycling. I would say that, uh, you know, um, upfront, but you are taken on a kind of guided track day. So your lender bikes, so you don't have to actually trash your own bike, um, should something go wrong and you're told how to ride on a track. So that's me really going as fast as I can around the corner. Um, but equally it could be anything on two wheels. I, I absolutely love being on two wheels, so it could be a motorbike. It could be a bicycle, um, either of those would, would do for me. So that's really, my passion is it's kind of being on two wheels.
Michelle BB 00:06:35 I love that. And, and I may have to take you up on, on hitting the track, um, when we can get together in person. That sounds so exciting and exhilarating. Okay. But now that we've gotten that out of the way, I understand that you actually didn't begin your career working in tech and I gave, you know, by the way I shared with everybody your background, but I think it would be interesting for people to understand where you got your start and what led you to tech and then, and then to Microsoft.
Jane 00:07:02 Mm, yes. Yes. It's certainly not where I started in life. So what I would say is, um, my dad was a computer programmer back in the day when computers took up a whole room and he always encouraged that interest for me in tech. So he would bring home IBM, computers used to buy me, um, Sinclair books and, you know, we, we had sort of Sinclair spectrums, and he very much encouraged me to learn about tech and learn about coding from a young age. And I think what's quite interesting is when you start at a very young age, you never questioned your, um, how appropriate this is. You know, you, you never think, well, should I be doing something else? You know, is this appropriate for me as a girl, I just really, really enjoyed it. So that was my start in life. But as I moved through education, I was more interested in the creative side of things.
Jane 00:08:04 So my ambition was to, to work in television, really to be a writer. And so I did a degree in English literature, and then I got a job working in television, and that was where my career started. So I was a, a script reader and a script writer. And, uh, um, I worked really in production for a corporate television company for about five years. But what I found was that I was starting to absorb more and more of the technical stuff within the company. So really, without even kind of planning it, I found I was taking on things like maintenance of the edit suites I was taking on maintenance of the, um, the it, and there was a point where I realized that that was what I enjoyed more than the sort of creative side of things in terms of, you know, what I wanted to do for work.
Jane 00:08:56 So I made the decision then to, to change career, um, to throw away all of that, um, you know, those kinds of ideas I had about myself and where I would be and move into tech. So I left television and I set up a company supporting, um, computers for small to medium businesses. I run that for five years. I learned a huge amount about a huge amount of things, including myself, to be honest, if you run a company, I think you do learn an awful lot about yourself. Um, I sold my company and then I moved into the enterprise engineering space. So, um, it was, uh, you know, it was, there was kind of a, although I didn't realize it. I think there was probably a, a sort of inevitability about me and in tech, because that was where my passion was, you know, when I was very young.
Jane 00:09:50 So, um, then I worked my way through various roles in tech, um, architecture, engineering, account management, that kind of thing. And then I was approached by Microsoft in 2016, early 2016. And that when I was approached by Microsoft, I was quite, um, wary, I think because I, I think I had some preconceptions, you know, about the company and they were very, very keen to show me how the culture had changed at Microsoft and all the work they'd done to support women and that's, and that's, you know, when you're a woman in tech, that's something that's really, really important to you, or it should be, it definitely should be, you know, what is in place in this company to make me feel like I'm supported, I'm going to be developed, I'm in a good place for me. And they were very, very keen to show me all of the work they were doing to, um, to make Microsoft a great place for women. So I then took a role at Microsoft and that was an architect. And then I've moved over the last five years into this place I am now, which is in the worldwide learning division, which is where I feel I belong, um, helping people gain skills.
Michelle BB 00:11:01 I love that. And so two things I have to tell you, number one, I am. So I'm fascinated by this idea that your father had such an influence on you because I've, I've actually written about this. I've talked about this. My mother was a computer programmer at a time when that wasn't even a class in school. And, um, she began her career as a contractor for NASA. And so I've always been, um, fascinated by and a part of technology, I think, as a result of that. So, so much like you, but the other thing that I've found, because I did go more of a creative, more into a creative track, but always within technology. And I do believe that there is tremendous creativity in technology in this industry and in what we do.
Jane 00:11:55 Hm. Oh yeah, no, without question, without question. And I think I still have very much that sort of creative urge. I still really, really enjoying that, but I think, um, you know, there's, uh, you can use technology in any way you want, there are creative roles, there are problems solving roles. There are, you know, there are, um, sales roles, there's, there's all of these different tracks you can take in. The great thing is that you can hop between them. And that's something I've been able to do during the course of my career is be in engineering and then be architecture and, you know, be account management. And, and now, um, you know, now I'm in learning. So all of those skills that I have, all of those skills I developed, I do use now. Um, and I'm really, you know, I'm really pleased to say that I did, you know, although I did kind of change track, I do, I am still able to, to, um, use those creative abilities to, to bring something to my work.
Jane 00:12:52 But I just feel that, um, that, you know, like you say, if you grow up with tech and, and I was the same as you in the sense that my school had about five computers and they were locked in a room and that room was never opened. It just, it just, wasn't something that you did was learn about computers. Um, but I've been able to take that, um, that background that my, my dad gave me that confidence that he gave me and that curiosity that he gave me and combine that with the creativity and, and make a career out of that. So yeah, definitely a tech is a great place to be really whatever your skillset.
Michelle BB 00:13:29 Well, and I think that this move that you've made into learning and development is perhaps one of the most needed and most important areas of, and I'm going to use air quotes technology now because the organizations that are going to thrive in today's economy are those that are investing in things like skills development to future-proof their teams. And I shared this emerging idea and the opening of competency as the new currency. And look, it's pithy. I get it. But I do think the phrase rings true because the rate and pace of change, particularly in technology won't abate. And so organizations have to focus on providing critical training for in demand skills that are largely technical, but it's more than that because the skills are one thing, but the competencies, the ability to demonstrate and prove mastery, that's really important. And I think as we start to discuss this idea of certifications, they play a big role here.
Jane 00:14:35 Yes, absolutely. No question at all. And I think there's a number of things there, which are interesting to talk about, and you're absolutely right in the sense that, um, technology changes constantly and that, that will never change that that change will never change that pace of change. So I think about when I entered the business, what I was doing, the skills I had when I entered the business, I was working on windows, NT servers. Those skills now are completely useless. Um, even though I'm still, you know, potentially doing the same jobs. So, you know, I have had to evolve my skills and my competencies hugely over the course of my career and that continues all of the time and that will continue all of the time. So it is, it is relentless that pace of change. And I do work for tech companies. So you might say, well, that's fine if you're in a tech company, but every company is a tech company now, and every company is going to be buffeted by that change.
Jane 00:15:45 Um, so every company needs to have a similar position on skills and that they need to stay ahead. We, we don't have a choice, um, because because new solutions that are available, they enable innovation. And if a company doesn't keep ahead of those skills, they, they don't keep ahead of that innovation. Then they will fall behind as a business. So it's really not a choice. Uh, you don't have the choice to say, well, I can do what I can do, and I'm happy doing that. So I am just going to, you know, stay where I am. If you are in any business that touches any form of technology, you don't have that choice. So it's really a case of how you are going to approach learning and how you're going to approach validating and proving those skills and those competencies. So, yes, absolutely. And the other thing is that as I, as I mentioned, um, every company is a tech company and Microsoft, we use the term tech intensity, accompanies tech intensity, and that's really about empowering every single employee to be able to use the tech.
Jane 00:17:03 So it's not just limited to the it department. It's all about enabling everyone in the business to be able to create and use the tools that they have. And I think a company that has that focus on tech intensity, and that needs to be underwritten by a culture of learning. We talk about this at Microsoft, a lot, the culture of learning, and that's really embedding, learning into work, not looking at it as a separate thing saying, well, part of your job is learning. Um, and that combination of that culture of learning and tech intensity is the way that companies will thrive. I think a study by Microsoft found that 75% of businesses and business and technology decision makers believe that harnessing tech intensity is the most effective way to build a competitive advantage. And I think that is absolutely the truth. You have to look at how, how are you going to encourage your, your employees, your workforce to embrace technology? How are you going to improve your own tech intensity? Um, and that really comes down to building skills that comes down to training and certification and giving people the time and the resources they need to gain those skills. Um, and, and of course it's a continual process because skills have a very short life these days. So it's going to be continuous. It's going to be part of the day job. And that's the way things are now. I think I, I don't think that that can be any question really about that.
Michelle BB 00:18:44 Yeah. I agree. I love, I love that term tech intensity. So if you hear me say it in another context, uh, or in another place, it's just, I, I will give you credit Jean cause that's fantastic. Um, but you said something that I, I want to come back to this idea of validating and proving those capabilities. And, and I think that sometimes people look at certification as a piece of paper or a digital badge or something that is, is, is just the sort of static thing that, that, you know, you can hang on a wall or, or put on your, you put on your desktop, but there's clear and demonstrable value in actually gaining certification. But I think one of the things that we found and we've heard is that it's hard for people to get to that last mile, which is actually completing the training, but then getting the certification. So there's this, there's this gap because there's nothing easy about it, right? It's hard enough to do the training. And then there's a commitment that you have to make to go sit for. However long, the certification is exam might be three to four hours. So Jane let's, let's shed some light on the facts because again, certifications are that validation. They have meaningful and quantifiable value to the people who received them, the organizations, these serve. Why are they more important now than ever?
Jane 00:20:08 Um, yeah, it's interesting, isn't it? Because, um, I personally want something to show for the effort I've put into training. So if I do a training course, then I, I want to do the certification that is at the end of it because, you know, that is kind of like the validation of I've put in this effort, I've done this work now. I want something to show for it, but we see perhaps 10 to 15% of individuals who go through training actually then go through and do the certification. So we actually do see that there's quite a low conversion rate of, you know, doing the training and then going ahead and setting the exam. Um, I mean, it's difficult to really understand why that is. I think there's certainly a, um, you know, it is, it is that, that sort of, am I going to be able to pass the exam?
Jane 00:21:03 You know, is this going to be something I measured by, I've done the training. I feel I've got the skills I need now. I don't need to do the exam. Why would I put myself through that? You know, maybe there's some of that, um, you know, sort of a mindset in there that this is just one step too far, you know, Microsoft exams are about three hours, so it is quite a significant investment of time. Um, but what I've personally found and I've done quite a lot of, of our certifications is that if you go through a training course, it sort of, you know, you tend to go into it looking for something you tend to say, well, if I do this training course, I will gain this skill or that skill. Um, and that training course will help you build those skills and you'll come out of that training course going great, fantastic.
Jane 00:21:48 I can do this now. You know, I've got what I needed. And what you tend to do is take the things that you didn't really anticipate needing, or you don't see a place for currently in your role. And you sort of put those to the back of your mind and you could possibly forget about them. If you go through that, if you take that extra step and say, well, I'm going to do that certification. What you have to do is apply all of those skills that you've learned. You have to apply all of that knowledge. And our exams now are very much role-based, you know, they're task-based, so the exams are really focused on how are you going to use this knowledge? It's not just a validation of, have you memorized what you learned? It's how are you going to apply this knowledge? So by taking that extra step and doing the exam and gaining that certification, it does actually force you to take a look at that broader range of skills that you have gained and apply them.
Jane 00:22:44 And then you can come out of that by saying, well, actually I've learned that I didn't know I was going to learn that I did learn that that's a better way of doing it. I'm going to do that now. So, and we've done it. Microsoft did a study, um, and the IDC I've also done a study that said certified teams are about 20% more productive than non certified teams. And if you look at that, you say, well, well, it is interesting if you think, how could that be? But actually I've having been through it myself. I can see how it's that, it's that taking that extra leap out of your comfort zone and putting in that bit of extra work, exposing yourself to that broader range of, um, of knowledge and, and training to do things that perhaps you didn't anticipate you were ever going to need to do.
Jane 00:23:34 Um, and, and then gaining that certification coming out with a broader set. So, you know, training is kind of three quarters of the way certification is that 25% to get you, um, further and get you that extra set of skills that you, you know, that you've, you've learned going through that process and getting them to register your brain. So it's definitely worth doing. Um, and I think, you know, there's also that recognition. It's something that you can really be proud of. You know, I am proud of the badges that I have gained because, you know, they are a, um, a, a sort of validation that I've put in the work to do that training. Um, and it's, it's a way that you can, you can demonstrate to your own company, to your colleagues. Um, you can post on LinkedIn to say, I have gained these skills.
Jane 00:24:27 I've put in the work. It's not necessarily about saying, well, I'm only doing this because I want a better job that that may not be the case. It's about, well, this is the investment my company has made in me, and that's enabled me to gain this certification. So of course it can help you, if you are looking for another job, having a certification will generally get you more attention from, um, recruiters on LinkedIn. It gives you that leverage to say, well, I have put this work in, I have gained certifications. Therefore I'm going to come in at a higher salary. Um, it really does provide that validation if you are looking for a new role, but it's not necessarily about that. It's about saying, this is my commitment to skills, and this is what I've earned through doing that. So I absolutely, um, you know, see a huge value in going and doing, not just the training, but getting that certification as well. Um, you know, it does give you that broader range of skills and it gives you that confidence, I think to say, I've done the training and I've tested those skills and I've validated that knowledge and I've gained that certification. So, absolutely without question, it's a, it's a vital component of that, of that process.
Michelle BB 00:25:39 And, you know, you, you mentioned the investment that companies make in people, but really you're also making an investment in yourself, which then leads to that self-confidence and it leads to a commitment that you're making to further your own growth and to help yourself and, and look, the certification is that acknowledgement. It demonstrates your peers and your organizations and the market at large, that you've mastered a particular skill or set of skills, but most importantly, it's validation to yourself. And so if we want to encourage people to sit for more certifications, if we want to fill this certification gap, because we, we we've already, you've just outlined for us the value, how do we get organizations to help their employees? What rewards systems can we put in place? How do we, how do we further this idea that you, as an organization are going to help you retain your employees, that you're going to, that you're going to be better for it? What is it that we can do as companies?
Jane 00:26:41 Yeah, so it's interesting because it's actually really simple. It's a really simple thing that companies can do, but it's not done widely. And that is recognize, recognize, and reward the effort that's gone in to gaining these certifications. It is not an inconsiderable amount of work. It is a significant amount of work. So if you want to do a Microsoft certified professional associates certification, you're looking at perhaps a four day training course, or perhaps 90 to a hundred hours of self study, there is then a, an amount of additional practice that you need to do. And that could be depending on your, your base level, that could be two weeks to a month of hands-on practice and, um, kind of, uh, you know, further reading. And then you're, you're looking really at a, a three hour exam. So it's a very significant amount of investment that people have made to get to that point where they have gained a certification.
Jane 00:27:48 So I find it really quite amazing that companies aren't shouting this from the rooftops. Um, people have done this work. They've really invested hugely in the company in gaining skills, which is, you know, those skills are ultimately going to benefit the company they work for. They have put themselves through quite a, quite a considerable amount of work and, you know, taking an exam is quite stressful. So they've put themselves through that and they've come out of this with a certification. So the companies where I see, um, the highest amount of certifications is when there is a simple system of recognition and reward, and it doesn't have to be anything significant. It doesn't have to be, you know, a big bonus. It can be simply naming the people who have done this. It can be simply a monthly, um, shout out to all of the people who have gained a certification.
Jane 00:28:48 And one of my customers in particular does this very, very well. They have a teams channel and anyone who gains a certification gets their name on this team's channel with a little GIF of a champagne bottle or something like that. So it's that simple. It's just so-and-so has gained this certification this month and that's got the double, um, impact of making person who's taken that certification feel really good. You know, it's, it's great to have your name called out. It's great to be celebrated for something. It just feels really nice and it makes you think, okay, I'm going to do another one. And the other thing is that it makes everyone else look at that and say, well, I want my name up there. You know, they got a little champagne bottle. I want to have one. So then I will go and do a certification.
Jane 00:29:32 So it's a really, really simple system of just calling people out for what they've achieved and that, you know, that really does foster this, um, this environment where people feel that it's worthwhile gaining a certification. So, you know, and that doesn't cost anything that really doesn't cost anything. It just needs someone to really kind of track that, that, um, you know, who's taking a certification just post that, that, uh, that name up there. It can be a call out in a monthly town hall meeting. Some companies do choose to offer a cash incentive, a small cash incentive, you know, a couple of vouchers or 50 pounds or something, whatever works for you really. Um, but it doesn't have to be complex. So I would say to people put something in place, it doesn't have to cost a lot. It doesn't have to be really sophisticated, just put something in place that celebrates that success.
Jane 00:30:26 And you will see a very significant increase in the people who, um, who are doing, uh, going ahead and getting, setting those exams and gaining those certifications. And also from a company's point of view, it encourages people to say, well, I've got this certification. You know, it encourages you to report that certification to your company. And then your company can say, well, we've got this many people certified this percentage of people certified, and that's really useful information for companies. That's really interesting to see how many certs they've got. So, you know, it works both ways, that little bit of effort, but for me, that's just such an elegant, elegantly, simple solution. It's just a, you know, once a month or once a week just name people, who've done it. And that really, really works.
Michelle BB 00:31:12 I love that I have taken notes and I'm going to bring that back to my organization as well, because as a, as a learning and development company, one that really fosters this idea of skills development. Um, I want to make sure that we're celebrating that as well. So thank you know, Jane, I want to move on to a topic about which you and I are both passionate. You started off some of your discussion around this and it's women in technology and creating cultures that support women. And look, I think it's no secret that women in the workplace have historically been undervalued and underrepresented, particularly in tech roles and in the United States alone, women still make up less than 40% of the global workforce and only fill 25% of professional computing technology jobs. Now, in partnership with Microsoft, we recently released Skillsoft's 2021 women in tech report, an in-depth study of women who work in technology. And in our survey alone, we found that 45% of surveyed women in tech said, men outnumber them at work at ratios of four to one or greater. And we're in the midst of a global pandemic, right. Even still. And I know that that has had an impact. I've talked at length about the pink pandemic and, and unfortunately, um, the disproportionate impact it's had on women. So Jane, what I would love to hear from you are your thoughts on how we can help more women enter or reenter the workforce in technology or technology leadership roles.
Jane 00:32:53 Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So I think that this is really, it has to be a three pronged approach. Um, so first of all, we need to encourage young girls to consider tech as a career part. So I was very lucky. I had my dad, you were very lucky. You had your mum as role models. You know, my dad was very keen to encourage me to learn about computers recently. I was speaking at a local school and I was talking to one of the teachers and they said, well, we still have, you know, it's, it's still a problem with parents. Um, thinking that computing is not tech is not a subject for girls. And, and I, um, you know, I just, I just sort of, I don't know how you change that really apart from really being a role model and doing what you can to talk to young girls, to encourage them, to see the exciting things that are out there.
Jane 00:33:58 Um, and Microsoft has worked very hard. We have a number of programs we have. Um, did you girls, we have, um, EDU connect and these are, these are both programs which, you know, reach out to girls in schools to try to excite them around tech and it's something we're also encouraged to do. And I think it's a responsibility on all of us, all women in tech to try to show what a great career it can be to, um, young girls, because there's just a whole cultural, um, situation out there, which they are up against, which is saying that this is not a great place for girls. And if you have a look at the, sort of the role models in the media, are there any strong role models of women in tech that they just really aren't and, um, you know, there's a lot you tend to, when people tend to think when you, when you have a look at sort of people in tech and in films and popular culture, they tend to be, um, her D you know, they tend to wear her DS.
Jane 00:34:57 They tend to be coders. There's a, there's a sort of idea of what someone Intacct looks like, and it's not very appealing to be honest, but actually there's this whole range of other things. You don't have to be a coder. You can be into AI, you know, you can be, um, you can be a salesperson, you know, there's all of these different career paths in tech. Um, what we need to try and do is show girls these career paths and, and show them how exciting it can be. So this is absolutely vital. Um, you know, and it we're up against generations and generations of cultural, um, restrictions and, um, you know, basically girls being discouraged from going into tech. So we have to fight that. Um, so that's, that's really one approach and I think it's something we all need to find opportunities to do.
Jane 00:35:52 Um, the other thing is we need to look at encouraging women into tech roles through skilling. So, and this is something that, that I do quite a lot of, because I think, again, it's something which is, um, you know, we, we almost need to, um, show the appeal of this to, to women who basically probably have the skills, but they think, well, I'm, I'm not tacky. Therefore I can't work in tech. And this is, you know, these are women who have come up through other career paths potentially who have perhaps had a career who've taken a break, um, who were just looking at, you know, alternative roles, um, alternative sort of things to do. Um, we have to encourage girls to move into tech. And the way to do this is through skilling is to make skilling available, accessible, and appealing to, to women who are not, uh, you know, from a traditional tech background so that they actually are able to look at careers in tech and say, well, actually that, you know, that's fun.
Jane 00:37:03 I really enjoyed, you know, I did a course. I really enjoyed it, actually. Um, I could do it. I was comfortable doing it. I really enjoyed it. So I'm going to pursue that further. So I think making, making skilling available is absolutely crucial to that. And finally, you know, you can recruit women into your organization, but if the culture is not, is not a good, um, you know, it's not a good fit. They're gonna leave, they're gonna leave. So you have to develop culture in a company that supports women. And that is the whole I'm really that sort of that's from women's health, from flexible working, um, from continual development, for role models, mentoring, there's this whole range of, um, elements to that culture that supports women, that companies need to think about it. And you can't just change a little bit, or bolt-on a support group now into a culture that's kind of, you know, foundationally developed to support men.
Jane 00:38:04 Um, it just doesn't work. So you really have to look at it from the ground up and say, well, what is working? What is not working here? Let's have some honest conversations and you need that. You need that messaging to come from the leadership, you need the leadership to drive that messaging downward. So it's really, really, um, the culture is really, really important, you know, not only is there a problem recruiting women into tech, there's a problem retaining women in tech because just because, um, you know, culturally, it's not always a great place to work. So there's, there's, you know, it is that three-pronged approach. Get girls interested in tech, build a pipeline of talent through skilling, through bringing women in, into tech roles and then creating a culture where women can thrive and will stay in those tech roles and we'll develop. So, yeah, it's, um, it's not an easy fix. It's not a quick fix, but you know, it can be done.
Michelle BB 00:39:01 And I think that last point is, is incredibly crucial because when we, we did this survey together, one of the things that we found is that women are not necessarily getting the support they want or need 58% of the respondents said their current employer doesn't offer training opportunities to them. And, you know, I think that it's, it's not only a challenge. I mean, once you get, once you decide or make the decision, um, to move into a technology role, once you find an organization and then not to get that support, it's really discouraging. And I think there's a corollary between this idea of, of women in tech and this, this notion of how do we provide the opportunities for skilling and for certification. One of the really surprising findings was that almost one in four women in tech don't actually hold any certifications. And so when, when we look at this, it says to me that it's likely that women want the same level of training certification options that their male counterparts are getting, but they lack access to them. And so absolutely I think that there has to be far more that our organizations are doing around accessibility, and it's not just the training, but it is the certification. And then building that culture of continuous learning that supports women on that journey. And, you know, look, I don't know if it's, the companies don't have enough of the right resources or if they're not directing them the way that they would like to, or need to be, or if it's just not that sort of current mindset. W what guidance would you give these organizations? Hmm.
Jane 00:40:56 Yeah, it's interesting. I mean, I talked to a lot of companies about training and unideal, and there is still quite a, um, what we call it, um, a training mindset. So, so there's a, um, sort of a learning culture, a learning mindset, and then there's a training mindset. And if you still have that kind of training mindset, which is, if you want to train, in course, then we will organize a training course, and you will go on that training course. And then that's you trained, you know, that that's, that's sort of trainer driven event driven, um, learning. And actually that doesn't work for a lot of women. Um, if you w I to run training courses, and I found that they were almost exclusively attended by men, even though they were three and they were offered to many women. And, and I, you know, I rarely saw any women attend those training courses.
Jane 00:41:46 And, um, I'm going to having been an engineer myself. I know from experience that if you do attend the technical training course, you're probably going to be the only female there. You know, sometimes there's a bit of a competitive, um, you know, environment on the training courses. Sometimes you don't feel comfortable speaking out. Um, sometimes, you know, there are, you're being spoken over. There's all sorts of reasons. Sometimes the hours don't work, if you have, you know, caring duties. So all sorts of reasons why women do not, um, benefit from offering sort of training traditional training courses. So what, what we found is, um, we offered, we started to offer training courses specifically for women. Now, this was exactly the same material. It's exactly the same training course, but it is targeted specifically for women. And we say, you know, these are training courses exclusively for women.
Jane 00:42:41 And what we found is that hundreds and hundreds of women stepped forward to attend the courses. Last year, we trained over a thousand women using resources targeted specifically for women, exactly the same course content, exactly the same course that's available for men. Women just feel more comfortable in an environment where it is just women. They feel that, you know, they're not going to be spoken over ridicule. They're not going to feel uncomfortable. They're not going to feel out of place or all of those things. Um, so, you know, you have to take that into account. Am I offering something which works for women, which is which women feel comfortable attending? And I think a lot of companies, they just offer a training course and then women don't step forward. So they're like, oh, well, maybe she doesn't want it. Maybe she's not interested, but maybe that's not the reason.
Jane 00:43:32 You know, maybe this is just not a comfortable environment. So offering training opportunities specifically for women, we have found has a huge, huge impact. Also, as you start to move away from that training culture, more into that learning culture, then learning is no longer about doing a training course. It's a continuous thing. It's something that people can dip in and dip out of as, and when they, they need it and they want it. Um, and that again makes it much easier. Everybody learns in a different way. So having the opportunity to learn in the way that suits you at the times, it suits you that really opens up the field of, you know, development for women. Um, you know, it just makes it much more accessible. So I think, you know, you've got to look at targeting resources specifically for women, and you've got to look at building learning and development into every day work and not just making it an event, a special event, that way we will make, we will encourage more women to, to do those certifications, um, do the training and gain those certifications because, you know, they, you know, if women do training, they want to gain the certifications.
Jane 00:44:44 Same as anyone. It's just, you know, it's not necessarily a comfortable environment, so we need to make it comfortable. We need to make it accessible.
Michelle BB 00:44:53 You know, I, um, they recently had the benefit of, of, of interviewing my mother, which was a really interesting experience because I did not really understand how challenging her gosh, almost 50 year career in tech was. And when I asked her what guidance she would offer to women who were interested in going into technology roles, she talked about perseverance. Um, and even today the importance of that, and also of speaking up of asking for what you want and, and finding then those other women who will serve as your advocates, who will serve as your champions. And, um, you know, I think it was such a wonderful way for me to sort of discover a little bit more about her experience because while I know things have changed, I think we are still not at a point where we would want to be when it comes to, um, where, you know, women's success in technology. So I would ask you the same question that I asked of Betsy. What, what guidance, what advice would you offer to women who are either in technical roles or aspire to move into technology or looking to re-skill, um, to find their next career?
Jane 00:46:21 I think I would, I would give exactly the same advice as your mum did, and that is to be a voice, to speak up. Um, and if, and I think that's one of my regrets as I look back over my career is that I found myself in situations, which clearly were not right. They were not the way they should have been. And I didn't, I just felt, you know, because I was maybe the only female in an all male team, I didn't speak up. And I just, I just thought, well, you know, I've got where I am. I'm better off keeping quiet, even though I know this is not great. And I wish I had, I wish I had, I wish I had made noise. You know, I wish I had said, look, this is not, this is not the way things are done.
Jane 00:47:10 This is not the way you do things, because if you don't speak up things, don't change. Things will carry on exactly the way they are. So I think it's on all of us to, to be a voice for all of us, even though that may sometimes be uncomfortable and you may think, well, this isn't going to do me any good. Ultimately it will. So, you know, I think having the courage to be a voice is absolutely key. The other thing is being a mentor, being a role model. Absolutely. Again, it's for all of us to show the way, find yourself some mentors, find some women you admire, ask for their advice, ask how they got, where they got, but, but pay that forward, offer that to young women, um, give them the same support that you have got from other people. I think that's, again, something that is really, really important for all of us, um, to, you know, we've got, we've got to be a force for change. We have to be, um, it's not going to happen on its own. So be that force through your voice and by, you know, by your activity.
Michelle BB 00:48:17 I love that. I absolutely love that. And, you know, look, I could carry on this conversation. I am so motivated and inspired by what we've talked about, Jane. Um, but I also recognize that we we've been speaking for some time and I need to let you go on to doing the other things that you do. But I do have one final question for you. Look, this is one I've asked all of my guests and it seems to be one that people enjoy hearing. So we continue to ask it is a three parter, so please get ready. Um, but as we reflect on, on now, the past 20 months, we've all had a very different experience when it comes to the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our lives. So the three parter is first. What have you learned about yourself during this time, period? Second, how are you applying what you've learned in the flow of work or life? And then finally, what advice might you give to others based on that knowledge that you've acquired?
Jane 00:49:21 Okay. Okay. So interesting. Interesting question. Um, so what have I learned about myself? I think, um, I think I learned that I was, I was quite well-placed really to, um, to weather the storm that we have all been going through. Um, quite inadvertently, I think, and, and this is really down to my, um, my commitment to developing skills. I love to learn new things. This is, I have a, you know, a very curious mind, a passion for learning. And what I found is as, as we in this country, went into quite a long and quite severe lockdown. I think a lot of the things that other people were struggling with, um, I actually found that I wasn't struggling with, because I had gone through, um, a process of, of learning a lot to do a lot of the things that other people sort of rely on other people to do.
Jane 00:50:19 So actually having that passion for learning and that curiosity about learning new things. I think what I learned was how useful that is when you find yourself in a position where you actually can't rely on other people. So equipping yourself in life through curiosity is something that's hugely, hugely useful. Um, and that curiosity, and in terms of, um, applying what I've learnt, that curiosity also has extended, uh, to really keeping my emotional response to the, um, coverage in check, because obviously you, you know, we still read every day or this is happening, this is happening. Um, and it's very easy to read those headlines and to feel, oh, this is, are out of control. You know, the, this, what is going on is outside of control. But what I have learned is that you can look beyond the headline and you can look at the underlying data.
Jane 00:51:23 And one of the areas that I'm personally really passionate about is data. So I am absolutely passionate about the story that data tells. And, um, when you start to apply that, um, not knowledge of data and data analytics and stories being driven by data, when you start to apply that to what you're reading, then it changes, it changes what you're reading, and it becomes a source of great interest rather than a, and you can have a really curious response to what you're reading and not a sort of emotional response to what you're reading you think, oh, that's the headline? Well, well, let's have a dig into that and let's see what, what actually is going on in, you know, what's driving this, this change in the street, the situation. And when they talk about all this, this case scenario, that that case scenario let's have a look at what they're using to drive those case scenarios.
Jane 00:52:23 So, so that curiosity, um, I think that's, that's really, really helping me to deal with the sort of emotional roller coaster that we've all been going through. Um, and it seems to be continuing, we seem to be getting better than things suddenly get worse and then, you know, they get better. And, and actually it's really helping me kind of smooth that out in my mind has been really, really curious about where this stuff is coming from. Um, in terms of what advice I would share with others is exactly the same. Be curious, don't accept on face value. What you're given, um, ask yourself, what does this mean? What does this mean for me? Um, when people say, oh, you know, the COVID case number is going through the roof, oh, this is really bad. Then I said, well, what is it? You know, what does that actually mean?
Jane 00:53:17 What does that high case number mean for you? Uh, what, where is that coming from? You know, what, what's the, what's the data underlying this? So I think it's, for me, it's really, really highlighted the importance of always learning, always learning new skills, um, keeping your, you know, keeping that muscle, um, you know, alive and busy is to learn. But also to question, to be curious, always ask what's, what is this about? What's the underlying message, what's the data behind this and what message are we being given that that's causing this emotional reaction? And should, you know, is there a better reaction to this? If I actually dig, dig under, under the sort of, um, the headlines and actually really start to analyze what's going on? So yeah, that's what I'd say to people is just be curious, just be constantly curious about yourself and about, about the world. And this is a time where back curiosity is, is really, you know, can, can be, uh, fed more than ever, just because of this is unprecedented. This is, you know, we're in an unprecedented situation. So learn, take that opportunity and learn from it.
Michelle BB 00:54:30 I love that Jane, and you know, on that note, I would also echo this idea of curiosity. I think it is what keeps us motivated. It's what keeps us going, especially during times of uncertainty. Um, Jane, thank you so much for joining us. This has been fabulous. I hope you've, you've enjoyed yourself.
Jane 00:54:53 Oh, absolutely. It's been absolutely fantastic. Fascinating conversation, Michelle and I I'm sorry, we haven't got longer because I think we could probably go on for another couple of hours.
Michelle BB 00:55:01 I know, I know. And look, I want to thank our listeners as well for tuning into this and every episode as we unleash our edge together. And look, if you haven't read our 20, 21 women in tech report, please go do so. You can find it at skillsoft.com and on behalf of the entire Skillsoft team, I encourage you to keep learning, keep growing. And in light of today's conversation, I want you to consider the following question, what are you doing? And I'm going to steal the words from Jane to harness the tech intensity in your organization and build that true culture of learning for your team members. And how are you evangelizing the value and rewarding this competency mastery that our team members are achieving at a time when we know that competency is the new currency. I'm Michelle BB. This is The Edge. And until next time be well.
About Our Guest
Jane Pitt began her career as a script writer for a television production company, but her love of technology and problem-solving drove her to change career path. She established and built an IT support company for small businesses which she ran for five years, before selling the company in 2005 and moving into enterprise IT.
Jane held a number of Engineering and Architecture roles prior to joining Microsoft in 2016 where she now works as a Business Program Manager in the World Wide Learning organisation, helping customers future-proof the skills of their workforce.
Alongside technology at Microsoft, Jane’s passion is promoting gender diversity. She regularly speaks at STEM events and has established a community, TechHer, to bring together women working in technology to educate and inspire each other.
About Our Host
As Chief Marketing Officer, Michelle leads a global marketing organization, focused on transforming today’s workforce for tomorrow’s economy. Since joining the company, she has been responsible for Skillsoft’s global marketing strategy, which includes generating awareness, driving preference, and building affinity for Skillsoft. Additionally – and perhaps most importantly – Michelle serves as the company's brand evangelist, helping to build a vibrant community of passionate learners.
With more than 25 years of marketing, branding, and strategy experience, Michelle has made it her personal mission to support the advancement of women in business. Prior to Skillsoft, she served as Chief Marketing Officer of IBM Watson, where she was instrumental in developing the first “Women Leaders in AI” program, which honors women who put AI to work across industries and around the globe. She also served as the global head of marketing for The Weather Company, an IBM Business, helping companies understand how to anticipate, plan for, and ultimately make better decisions – with greater confidence – in the face of weather.
Michelle is a prolific speaker on a range of topics, including the war for talent, digital transformation, and marketing in a post-pandemic world. She covers these topics and more as the host of Skillsoft's podcast, The Edge, now in its second season. She has authored countless papers covering a range of business and marketing topics, was at the center of Skillsoft’s leadership role in DEI through free “Leadercamps,” and has taught two Percipio courses on the Pink Pandemic and Public Speaking.
Michelle is also a founding member of CMO Huddles, a group dedicated to bringing together and empowering highly effective B2B CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness. Michelle holds a Master’s degree from Simmons University and sits on the pro side of the Oxford comma debate.
2021 Women in Tech Report
Our 2021 Women in Tech Report presents the findings of an in-depth survey of 1,100 women working in the United States, Canada, France and the United Kingdom.
2021 IT Skills and Salary Report
For the 16th straight year, the Global Knowledge IT Skills and Salary Report is one of the largest studies of industry salaries, certifications, skills, and more.