Industry body IT Professionals New Zealand has the election year in its sights as it aims to grow the capability of people in tech at all levels—from those entering the industry to new CIOs.
Formerly known as the New Zealand Computer Society, ITP has been operating for 65 years, and is focused on skills, talent and capability of those who work in the digital technology industry.
The organisation’s CEO, Victoria MacLennan, says ITP is working “to support both industry growth and maturity, and we work really closely with education providers to ensure their courses are grounded in industry needs, and are attractive to people who want to learn digital technology skills.”
The organisation has around 5,000 members and 2,5000 student members, and MacLennan is working to open membership to anyone who works in, or aspires to work in, the digital technology industry “because we want it to be an open, broad, supportive organisation,” she says.
So her ultimate goal is to change the face of the industry. “I want to make it easier for people to choose careers working with digital technology; easier for people we don’t usually see in the industry—women, Māori, Pasifika, people with disabilities—to take advantage of how awesome it is and to find that the environment is supportive, inclusive, and they can study and work here without facing discrimination.”
To support new CIOs and aspiring CIOs, ITP is launching its ‘How to be an effective CIO’ course, now in its fourth year. MacLennan said the training came about when a group of experienced CIOs, who went on to run the course, were looking at succession planning challenges for themselves and their own organisations, and wondered where the next cohort of CIOs was coming from.
“They got together to collaborate and design a program to help those who aspire to be a CIO, or they find themselves newly appointed into the role, looking for that kind of grounding that they need to understand how they take that step,” she says.
The 12-week course has a mixture of online and in-person sessions, with up to 20 participants working together in groups, and it’s run in chunks so people don’t have to give up a whole week to attend.
“I’m told all the time by people who’ve been through the course that they still communicate with their cohort,” says MacLennan. “They get together and they’ve got a really good peer support framework.”
The role of CIO has evolved, and MacLennan says people from all sorts of backgrounds are now taking up these positions.
“Times have changed, as we know, and we’re no longer in a world where a CIO is the most technical person who’s been promoted into that role,” she says. “An effective, modern-day CIO needs to be a people leader as much as a technology leader. They need great communication skills and a strong understanding of governance, strategy and how to make decisions for today while focusing on the future. When you’re making that step from being an operational, hands-on tools person to a strategic role like a CIO, how you make those decisions is a unique skill.”
CIOs also need a good grounding in risk,cybersecurity, as well as an understanding of emerging technology and an ability to work with boards and senior leadership.
The other way ITP supports New Zealand’s CIO community is by offering mentoring. “There are many good, really effective CIOs who are mentors,” she says. “They offer their time to support aspiring CIOs or those new to the role. So, for our members, there’s a good process to match you with someone who can help with your career, aspirations, and goals.”
Election year opportunities
ITP also plays a role lobbying Government on behalf of the industry to ensure policy and investment settings include digital technology, “It’s easy for them to forget about us and forget that digital skills are something that are required not only for digital technology industry organisations, but for every organisation that employs people in their IT departments,” she says.
With the NZ General Election coming up in October, MacLennan is pushing hard to remind the Government of the changes the industry wants to see.
“The Government is probably the largest employer of digital technology capability in New Zealand, and uses a mixture of permanent employment and contractors, she says. “But a lot of the challenges we have with the workforce and management of the workforce, particularly in Wellington, comes from the fact that Government suck everyone up.”
She adds that the Government needs to “get their own house in order as an employer and use the workforce and the space more effectively” by using things like the SFIA framework, which has become the globally accepted common language for the skills and competencies for the digital world, and which every organisation in New Zealand can use.
“If you join the government as a policy analyst, there’s really clear roles, responsibilities, and career progressions,” she says. “None of that is applied in a digital technology role context.”
The other area ITP is looking to change is in the education space.
“It’s hard for people to choose a digital technology career and easy for a 17-year-old to follow a construction career path line that’s all mapped out,” she says. “We haven’t mapped it out to make it easy for digital technology. There are something like seven types of bachelor’s degrees offered across the Te Pūkenga network [the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology], for example, which are all digital technology related. We’ve got to find easier ways of making it possible for people to choose and be less confusing.”
And while it might be a bridge too far for the Government or the Opposition, MacLennan is also keen for procurement to be used as a lever with the private sector, so more investment is made in building new capability.
She points out that there is power in procurement and that it’s one way to get the private sector to look at things differently.
Education Industry, Government, IT Leadership, Technology Industry