In conversation with Brian Runciman MBCS, BCS Head of Content & Insight, Richard Amafonye FBCS CIO of Wema Bank explains the three unexpected virtues needed to set yourself apart in the IT industry.

Experienced industry leader Richard Amafonye begins by airing an inconvenient truth: ‘We have become too dependent on technology - not only for business success but for our very survival. Technology does not make things happen; people do.

‘Tech,’ he says, ‘has no inherent value. Benefits from IT must be unlocked. Benefits only accrue by identifying and managing the business changes that IT enables. That underscores the importance of having the right people.

However, this is precisely why, he says, ‘there is a bright future for those seeking a career in IT.’ Brian Runciman MBCS finds out more.

General skills landscape - what’s in high demand?

Organisations no longer only want IT skills. They are looking for a broader skillset - for people who bring more to the table than just their IT skills. People who have an understanding and appreciation of business needs, as well as how IT can help to provide solutions.

People who have problem solving intelligence, the capacity to solve are who are in demand. Technology skills and technological competence is just the tip of the iceberg.

What problems do you find in attracting and retaining talent?

Keeping the skilled and talented staff in my organisation is what keeps me awake at night!

The few skills that are readily available are in such high demand that there is a talent war. The pandemic has made it possible to work remotely, so highly technical people, specialists, are sought after.

What is the importance of professionalism in your workforce?

Professionalism has become a requirement - a vital necessity. As they say: hire for character and train for skills.

Compared to more traditional professions like law or accounting, where is a body of knowledge that governs the training and skills and professional competence, we are still moving towards that in the IT profession.

It is extremely important that the people we entrust these critical [IT] systems and functions to are highly professional.

Is there enough awareness of ethics?

Unfortunately, no. There is a huge gap. I’ve advocated that ethics should become an integral part of the curriculum offered in schools. Most candidates leave schools without having that grounding for the work environment. Ethics is important and that is where organisations like BCS come into play.

The training, exposure and continuous professional development we are exposed to in a professional membership organisation, a professional body like BCS, is what makes the difference.

What about soft skills?

Technical skills are just the ticket to the game. Soft skills are what really come into play when you get to know and advance in an organisation!

What advice would you give to those wanting to advance their career in IT?

Most things in life are like sports. All sports have asset or principles that need to be followed to get results: certain tricks that help you out.

Some of the qualities that set people apart have been explained by PERL programming language founder Larry Wall. He said that a great programmer must exhibit three virtues: laziness, impatience and hubris.

Laziness can be explained as saving unnecessary effort. Why write 20 lines of code when two can achieve the same result? Why work for 10 hours when you can achieve the same results in one? As Peter Drucker said: ‘There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.’ Being outcome and solution-oriented should be the goal.

Impatience speaks to using initiative and being action-oriented. Don’t wait for permission to do what needs to be done: find ways to solve problems. Why wait for instructions from high to do what you know you have to do?

Hubris is essentially confident humility. It’s the attribute of imbibing excellence, of taking great pride in what you have done, as well as in the process that you undertook to achieve it. There is nothing wrong in admitting that you don’t know something or in asking for help. Admitting our shortcomings, or when we are wrong, makes us look professional.

Nothing looks less professional than defending failure. The key to success is constant learning.

Watch the interview as part of the ‘Starting your future career in IT’ webinar. 

Read more from Richard Amafonye on how to become an effective leader.