A tale of two employees

a tale of two employeesI was recently talking to a CIO friend of mine.  She has a really good team of people working for her and has recently gone through a hiring spell where she has six new-ish employees on her staff. All six have been at the company from anywhere between 1 month to 7 months.

While talking to this CIO, she was relating some stories of a few of these employees. She was telling me of a recent experience that has her rethinking the employment of one of these new people.

The first of these we’ll call Joe for discussion purposes. Joe’s resume is spectacular (I’ve seen it) and his experience over his career seem to be perfect for someone on the ‘fast track’ to move up through a company.  Additionally, the recommendations from previous employers are some of the best that I’ve seen.   He’s a rockstar on paper.

The CIO also told me of another employee. We’ll call him Bill for ease of discussion.  On paper, Bill is an average employee. His resume looks good and his experience over his career shows an employee who goes to work and does his job and goes home. There’s nothing that screams “high achiever” with Bill, but he’s a good employee. An average employee, but a good one.

Apparently, things came to a head over a recent holiday.  As is usual, during this holiday, there were some folks from the IT operations group on call in case something happened at the office.  That’s the life of IT operations.

During this holiday, one of the people on call got an alert about one of their systems. She dutifully logged into the VPN and started reading the logs.  Apparently, the problem was one that required a broader call-out of other team members to resolve, so she sent out there messages to the other on-call team members to start fixing this issue. Neither Joe nor Bill was as part of the on-call team members.

As the team began working through the issue, they realized that they would need to bring someone in from the development team brought to make sure some of the configuration changes they were making wouldn’t affect some of the software platforms. They reached out to the head of development and asked him who they should reach out to.

The director of development reached out to both Bill and Joe via text message to ask for some help. Within a few minutes, he had received responses from both employees. I’ve paraphrased them below.

From Bill:

Happy to help. Should I come into the office? Tell me who to reach out to.

From Joe:

Its a holiday. Why are you asking me to work?

Here we have “Joe the Rockstar” unwilling to put in a little extra time and effort and “Bill the Average” willing to do what he needs to do to get the job done.

Which of these employees has my CIO friend rethinking their employment?  A ‘rockstar’ on paper means little of that person isn’t able or willing to get the job done.


“Build” or “Buy” – The Big Data Dilemma Facing Organizations Today

8707527714_93ba2576bd_mFinding the right people has always been a problem for IT organizations for many reasons. There’s always been a “build or buy” decision for organizations – do they hire and “build” people into what they need them to be or do they just go out and “buy” employees for that particular role and/or hire consultants or outsource the work?

With big data becoming popular over the last few years, its been time for the “build or buy’ decision again. Should organizations find the right people with the right skills and bring them on to ‘do’ big data or should they ‘build’ internal folks into ‘big data’ people.

In my experience, building people is much more preferred and useful than buying people (i.e., hiring new people). By building the skill sets of the people already within your organization, you are sending a message to the people that you are willing to invest in them and their future. Additionally, you are able to give people another career path beyond what they might have signed up for when joining the company.

That said, how do you find the right people internally to build into big data professionals? Who’s the right fit? How do you identify them? Those are the key questions – and the reasons that some organizations go out and buy folks from the outside. It can be easier and faster to hire someone that already has the right experience and expertise than to train and teach employees.

If an organization does hire from the outside – they can have just as much trouble finding the right people with the right skill-sets since big data isn’t exactly a well-staffed and long-term career. There are people with the right skills out there, but they are already employed and it most likely won’t be cheap or easy to get them to come to work for you.

So…what to do? Build or buy?

My solution isn’t an “or” solution..its and “And”:

  • Determine what new roles you might need in the future related to big data. Think about the strategic and the tactical…you need people that can think/do “big picture’ as well as think/do ‘getting things done’.
  • Start a build AND buy process.
    • Start training your staff now. Find those people in your organization that like math and data. It doesn’t matter if they work in the janitorial service, finance or IT – find them and start training them in statistics and data principles.
    • Build the right recruiting practices to start looking for and hiring people with the right skill sets and interests to move into your big data practice areas.

Whether you build or buy (or build AND buy), you’ve got to start today if you haven’t already. How is your organization tackling the big data skill set problem?

Image Credit: Ron Mader on Flickr

IBMThis post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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