By Martin Sutcliffe, QA Practice Lead at Iridium 
“There is only so much learning that can be done in a classroom setting. I am a strong advocate in on-the-job training as this is where the best experience can be garnered - whether that’s learning from mistakes or putting into practice what has been learned in the classroom. It's just like learning to drive… all those hours of lessons give you a solid foundation, but the real learning starts once you have passed your test and you’re out on the road. 
I completed one year of a Business Information Systems degree before being tempted to move away from university and into developing the skills on-the-job with British Gas. Over the years, my ‘formal training’ has been supplemented with various testing-related qualifications, and I will always maintain that was the right path for me.” 
There’s more than one way to get into IT, whatever your life stage 
“There’s a historical perception that a university degree leads to professional glory… However, in this day and age, particularly for careers in IT, degrees are not a guaranteed route to success, whereas apprenticeships and on-the-job training are providing viable routes for individuals who have chosen not to, or have been unable to, go to university. 
I think there is still a view that apprenticeships are targeted predominately at school leavers, but they can actually provide a route into IT for a far more diverse set of individuals. Whether that’s women looking to get back into a career following maternity, individuals leaving careers like the armed forces, and a whole host of other individuals who see a career in IT as an alternative to their current job. 
There are plenty of organisations out there who offer routes into tech careers, like Coders Guild, which offers specific opportunities to get involved in IT-related boot camps and subsequent apprentice schemes.” 
Businesses must play ball too 
“Imagine your business is a football team. 
You can go out and buy the best players in the world, but it will be costly, they won’t necessarily have an affiliation to the team they move to, may not share the same vision having not been part of the club, or have the same level of loyalty as other players. 
However, less experienced players who come through the club, providing you invest the time in those individuals, training them to a high level and getting them feeling part of the team, can end up being just as good as players you may purchase from other clubs. The difference with these new players is that they have a much deeper degree of loyalty with a club that has invested time in them, they feel part of something, and will be reluctant to move elsewhere. 
All organisations need these types of ‘players’ to maintain, grow and be successful. Buying success may, in the short term, reap some rewards, but the long-term plan can never be guaranteed this way - and that is why businesses need to recognise and grow their own talent. Simple things like not waiting for someone to resign before a pay rise or a promotion is offered shows investment in people in a proactive way.” 
Managers are about business. Leaders are about people 
“I thoroughly enjoy developing people. Taking time to invest in individuals is something that distinguishes leaders from managers. Managers are about business, whilst leaders are about people. In order to run successful businesses or teams, those people at the top need to be true leaders and have a key responsibility for inspiring and developing people within organisations. 
There was an Operations Manager at one of my very first jobs who had an unbelievable work ethic; I learned a lot from him about how important people skills are. No matter what technologies or processes are in place, the success of a project comes down to people; how you lead, how you interact, how you motivate.” 
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