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WWT Tackles Talent Shortage With Homegrown Engineer Training Program
‘I don’t need someone with five to 10 years of experience anymore. I want somebody that has a good foundation and a passion for learning—then spend a whole year building on top of that,’ says David Kramer, leader of WWT’s Associate Consulting Systems Engineer Development Program.
Solution provider superstar World Wide Technology is striving to solve the ongoing talent shortage in the IT industry through a unique homegrown training program aimed at creating talented technical consultants who don’t necessarily have IT backgrounds—from former military personnel to third-grade teachers.
The $14.5 billion company’s belief is that with technology capabilities rapidly evolving and disruptive IT becoming the norm, on-boarding highly in-demand systems engineers isn’t necessarily the only—or best—option, according to David Kramer, who leads WWT’s Associate Consulting Systems Engineer Development Program.
“There’s this paradox in our industry that we that we want to answer: With the rate of change of technology being so rapid, you have this feeling that once somebody has an opening in their organization for any level engineer, they come with so much experience, but the experience is becoming less and less relevant. Because we know that in 12 months, there’s going to be a whole shift in some of the foundational technologies anyway,” said Kramer, who has been with WWT for over a decade and is now its senior systems engineering director.
“We turned that problem upside down and said, ‘Wouldn’t we rather have employees that have a passion for learning? Because that’s so much more important than what they currently know today,’” he said. “I don’t need someone with five to 10 years of experience anymore. I want somebody that has a good foundation and a passion for learning—then spend a whole year building on top of that.”
WWT’s Associate Consulting Systems Engineer Development Program is an immersive 12-month training program for change in career, early in career or advance in career talent. The Maryland Heights, Mo.-based company is looking to train the next generation of technical consulting professionals and drive sales via the program, which turns trainees into technical and sales competency-certified WWT employees and field-ready associates.
For years, solution providers have been dealing with talent shortages. WWT’s program not only seeks to help solve this dilemma, but also help boost diversity, reduce employee churn and generate out-of-the-box ideas.
Third-Grade Teacher ‘Changing Lives’ At WWT
Ashley Schrage was a third-grade teacher without a technical background but held degrees in education and leadership.
Through the Associate Consulting Systems Engineer Development Program, WWT trained Schrage, who immediately began helping the company by approaching things differently, such as how to better survey and evaluate engineers, reaching out to vendor partners for training insight, as well as creating a curriculum or “lesson plan” for the entire program.
“I found my value in my experience as a teacher. Everybody always joked that I was a third-grade teacher, which is what helps me navigate engineers, but it does help,” said Schrage, who is now associate manager for the program.
Kramer said Schrage, who joined WWT less than six months ago, is already “really changing lives here for us.”
Program Helps WWT Win In Verticals
WWT’s Associate Consulting Systems Engineer Development Program focuses on helping candidates reach their full potential by providing a structured training program designed to teach participants the technology and business fundamentals necessary to be a successful technical consultant. It allows helps WWT’s Global Enterprise Segment build a strong and competent pipeline of talent to help satisfy the presales engineering needs in certain market segments.
The program on-boards and trains people with all sorts of backgrounds—from former military personnel who hold leadership skills but have no sales or IT experience to recent college graduates who have computing engineering degrees but lack professional experience.
This strategy helps with WWT’s ability to have experts in certain vertical markets—such as education, government or the food services industry—thus giving WWT “instant credibility” with some customers, according to Kramer.
“We have one guy who was a longtime sous-chef who became a full-stack developer just as a hobby. He’s now great at WWT,” said Kramer. “We have a lot of big major customers in the food services industry and restaurants—this guy knows that industry better than anybody in our company. So we look at that almost as a reformation of the approach to sales engineering.”
WWT is looking to add dozens of new sales engineers and technical consultants each year through the Associate Consulting Systems Engineer Development Program to its team of more than 7,800 employees.
“Ultimately, the real measure is once they graduate from the program and they go out into the field and they’re reassigned to whichever team they’re on, we want to make sure that they’re adding value and they’re easy to work with,” said Kramer. “The biggest measuring stick is that sort of a subjective label that gets put on a particular consultant or an SE out in the field: ‘Wow, that guy’s easy to work with,’ or ‘That young lady is really adding a lot of value.’ That’s really our ultimate measuring stick at the end. So far, it’s working out great.”