National Coding Week, plugging the digital skills gap and careers in tech: An interview with MATS CTO Richard Billington

17th Sep, 2018

Now in its fifth year, National Coding Week (or NCW) is a volunteer-led organisation set-up to inspire people to improve their digital skills and pursue a career in the digital tech space.

It’s a topic we’re all passionate about at [Netcall/MatsSoft], so we jumped at the opportunity to talk to our very own digital skills pioneer (and MATS CTO!), Richard Billington, to hear his views on why NCW is such an important initiative.

On the move? This interview is also available as a CX Appeal podcast. Listen in full here.

What advice would you give to anyone who is considering a career in digital tech?

First of all don’t specialise too early.

There are so many careers in tech, digital and so on. So my advice is, don’t limit yourself! There are also many free and cost effective online resources out there. My personal favourites are udemy.com for online courses, medium.com for tech commentary and brighttalk.com for webinars and videos.

I started out as a sys-admin as I’d always enjoyed playing with computers and got offered an apprenticeship doing a HND in Computer Science one day a week while working. That course introduced me to coding and a bit of Pascal.

I enjoyed it, so when my employer wanted a new intranet, I offered to take the build on. I don’t think they were expecting much! But this project opened doors for me to move into coding full time. The key lesson for me was, if you get an opportunity to diversify – take it!

The tech space is constantly changing which makes it an interesting industry to be part of and yet there is a digital skills gap within our communities. What impact is this having for UK businesses?

It’s huge! Digital plays a pivotal role in customer experience. Businesses look to invest in digital systems, services & processes to better serve their customers but this isn’t always possible. And if it is, not at the speed they would like.

We often hear IT teams talking about 18-month-long IT queues. By the time a project gets to the front of the queue, the market could have completely changed. As an IT leader with a remit to deliver change what do you do? Technology is helping to connect customer journeys and join up processes – but only if you can get done what you need to in an appropriate timeframe.

…And what should we be doing to plug the digital skills shortage?

It’s great to see initiatives such as National Coding Week raising awareness for one! We’ve been late to the game in the UK, other European countries introducing technical subjects to their curriculums several years ago, so they are starting to see the benefits of that.

My personal view is it has to start at grass roots level, with education in schools. That’s why I’ve been delighted to see my son’s school have put more emphasis on digital and coding education. Classes such as “we are game developers” and “we are cryptographers” have appeared on his timetable this term. I have no idea what they are, but they sound like fun to me!

Sounds positive. What can businesses do to address skills shortages within their organisations?

Well it goes without saying that I’m an advocate for Low-code! Largely because it allows so many individuals within the business to get involved. Anyone involved in tech will talk about the gap between the requirements written and what the business actually want.

MATS Low-code has a huge benefit in that regard. People who know the process, work in the department and deal with customers can be part of building the solution. You don’t need to be a coder and that’s the beauty of the solution.

Every company is trying to digitally transform, right? And they’re all trying to do it quicker and cheaper than they have before. So they need a new approach and I’ve seen first-hand how Low-code is the answer. So any businesses looking to digitise processes and improve CX should look us up…!

To join the conversation and get involved with National Coding Week, go to codingweek.org.

And to learn more about MATS Low-code visit matssoft.com.

Don’t forget you can also listen to this interview in full here.

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