The art of engaging quality IT staff - getting direct advice from Tony Kesby, CIO, Veda Advantage

by Marco Tapia

in management-it-consulting,

April 15, 2011

The art of engaging quality IT staff

April 15, 2011

Tony Kesby

Recruiting and retaining quality IT staff has been a longstanding challenge for CIOs. Talent shortages, rapid changes in technology, and increased demands on IT from business leaders are ongoing issues. PicNet’s Marco Tapia speaks to Tony Kesby, CIO of Veda Advantage, on how to find and keep the right people for the job.

The growth over the last decade of IT providers has seen IT workers increasingly looking towards traditional corporations and businesses for opportunity. One example is the finance sector, which is investing more than $4 billion upgrading systems, absorbing much of the talent available. Additionally, studying IT appears to have gone somewhat out of fashion and there are diverging views as to the success of the skilled migration program for IT-related industries.

To make matters worse, lots of good technical people do not want to move into more senior managerial positions as they love the technology they work with.

I decided to talk to a CIO who could provide some ideas on models and methodologies on how to best employ quality IT people at different levels and for different types of organisations.

Tony Kesby is a CIO with some 25 years of experience nationally and abroad, who has employed hundreds of IT staff over the years. Tony is currently CIO of Veda Advantage.

Veda Advantage ( provides vital information services to assist businesses of all sizes make decisions on credit provision, risk management, fraud prevention, customer acquisition and management.

MT: Tell me Tony, what is the secret to engaging quality IT people to either stay as technical staff or progress into management within the organisation?

TK: Broadly, there are three key elements that form my methodology. One is skill (technical/experience/knowledge). Secondly, attitude (customer focus, business and commercial acumen, communication skills, ambition). Finally, qualifications (University degree, certifications, courses and the like).

When employing technical experts, I look first at skills, then attitude and then qualifications. When employing managers, I look more at attitude, then skills then qualifications. With the latter, qualification in soft skills and business subjects will be very relevant if the person comes originally from a technical background. For me the MBA course helped me take my own ”technical blinkers off” and move into a CIO role.

MT: This is a great model, but when you don’t know a person, how do you assess their attitude and skills?

TK: In addition to detailed interviews and reference checks , I like to dig deeper using psychometric tests and also technical tests where expert skills are important.

The broader the role in the organisation, the more we need to understand their attitude and the more relevant a psychometric test becomes. The more technical the role, the more stringent the questioning by experts needs to be. Where possible, technical tests can also play a major role in clearly understanding an individual’s technical abilities..

MT: What skills are in short supply?

TK: Definitely good project managers and business analysts with strong business acumen and commercial understanding are hard to find. Essentially, those who can communicate with business leaders and with external customers, in addition to doing their technical work are in short supply. They are closely followed by good technical people in the areas of .NET and Java.

Because we are a technology company, i.e. technology is used to deliver solutions to our customers; we need people with superior attitude unless they are to be relegated to simply delivering technology day in day out.

MT: What value do you place on Vendor’s certifications such as Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, VM Ware, etc?

TK: For our technical staff we find these certifications of paramount importance. In a company where technology excellence is less important perhaps these certifications might not be as relevant.

In addition, certifications help us remain current and up to date with the latest skills and technologies.

When it comes to Project Managers and BAs, business acumen i.e. attitude, becomes hugely more important than certifications.

MT: Do you find the IT recruiters help you with your requirements and understand your methodology and business?

TK: Definitely some people within those organisations do and therefore we establish long term relationships with those who can deliver resources to us based on our methodology, business practices and culture.

MT: What about employing contractors?

TK: Sometimes we prefer employing contractors directly or via third parties rather than engaging the wrong person on a permanent basis. Using contractors initially and converting them later to a permanent role is often a suitable strategy – and you buy time to assess the person against our culture and criteria.

MT: How important is a comprehensive induction process?

TK: Very important. For managers it must be broad and include business, commercial, strategic and technical induction. For technical people, it must include sound and robust induction on internal standards, security controls, practices and technical methodologies used by the organisation.

Marco Tapia is PicNet’s Managing Director ( He is a former CIO with broad national and international experience and an enthusiastic supporter of Australian IT innovation.

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