With clients in several data-hungry sectors such as healthcare, utilities and retail, Information Control Corp. (ICC), an IT services company based in Columbus, Ohio, has a rapidly expanding data analytics and business intelligence practice.
But ICC, even with its nearly 500 IT service professionals on staff, faces a familiar problem.
“We’re always searching for talent, and we haven’t been able to fill our needs fast enough because the talent isn’t there,” says ICC President John Kratz.
So ICC decided if it couldn’t find IT and analytics talent, it would develop it.
“We began to recruit at the entry level right out of college and started our own development program,” he says. “And a high percentage of that is in the data analytics space.”
Kratz calls data analytics one of the “three hottest areas in IT today,” along with digital media and cloud computing. Among ICC’s big data clients are Nationwide, Huntington National Bank, Abbott Nutrition and NetJets.
“Dealing with lots of data from various sources that traditionally have not been dealt with before creates a lot of unique demands that most companies haven’t had to face,” Kratz says.
To keep up with the demand for big data and analytics skills, ICC has created a talent acquisition strategy not unlike an NFL team’s, developing relationships with universities in order to identify and recruit promising students.
“We’ve been working with a number of schools so we can develop ongoing relationships where we can influence their curriculum as well as position ourselves to maybe get a crack at some of their better students,” Kratz says. “So we don’t go through typical placement organizations. We work more on the academic side, with professors, keeping them informed about what the real world’s doing in terms of hiring and what kind of needs we have.”
Among the schools with which ICC has recruiting partnerships are Ohio State, Ohio University, Kent State, Bowling Green, Capital University, Case Western and Central Michigan University. ICC has collaborated on technology curricula with Ohio University and Columbus State.
Once promising new graduates are identified and hired by ICC, they go through an eight- to 12-week training period that includes a mix of classroom and online courses and working with tools such as Informatica, DataStage and Cognos.
“There’s some classroom work, a lot of self-study, team activities, they do a lot of stand-up presentations in front of their peers and senior people,” says Kratz. Recruits even get practice doing public speaking via an arrangement with a Columbus Toastmasters International club.
Once they’ve successfully completed the training program, new ICC recruits are assigned a mentor and a client project team. After that, Kratz says, “It’s almost all on-the-job training.”
ICC hires from 12 to 24 IT services professionals three times a year and will have about 60 new hires in the training program at any given time. And they’re not all computer science majors, according to ICC marketing director Theresa Hodgson.
“We hire business majors who have an interest in technology, we hire math majors who have an interest in technology, I think we even have a couple of English majors,” she says.
While quoting literature undoubtedly is a valuable skill in many contexts, ICC still gives all potential hires an SQL test to determine their basic level of tech expertise.
ICC’s college graduate recruitment and training program is doing more than giving the company new, young talent for its big data and analytics practice, it’s allowing the company to groom senior talent.
“We still have a problem finding good senior-level talent, because it just isn’t out there,” says Kratz. “What’s encouraging is a lot of the juniors learn very quickly. They can operate on a senior level in two to three years.”