Jenny Hyslop, joined The Bridge in 2019 after making a career change. Prior to joining us she worked for British Gas for around 12 years, starting off in their call centre and working her way up. When Jen realised that she wanted a change of scene, The Bridge were able to support her into a role in tech recruitment. Jen now works across all the UK tech architecture market, placing solutions architects, data architects and more recently moving into transformation work with clients. We spoke to tech recruiter Jen about how teaching digital skills in schools is essential to bridge the tech skills gap and the UK’s digital divide.
How do you find working in tech recruitment and having a young family, do you find it easy to maintain a good work life balance?
Jenny: I do, I think The Bridge were already quite flexible, but I think everyone’s gone more digital since the pandemic. We didn’t have any choice but to work remotely, and I think with being in tech anyway, there was space for us to embrace working from home. It’s proven productive, the platforms that we’ve got, like Zoom, Microsoft teams etc have made it quite easy to engage with clients and candidates and our customers.
It’s your own time management, to be honest, your trust in your organisation and their trust in you. If I know I’m going to pick my kids up at three for half an hour I might have a shorter lunch, for example. Or when I come home, the kids entertain themselves for a while, which allows me to sit down and work. Sometimes I’ll work when they’ve gone to bed. As long as I keep track of what I’m doing I’m able to prioritise the kids when they need me.
Recruitment quite often works better if you can speak to candidates out of hours. A lot of people are working as well, they’re in similar situations to you, trying to balance work and family and life, so if you can be flexible with when and how you get in touch it can really be a benefit.
Would you consider encouraging your children to go into the tech or the recruitment route?
Jenny: At the minute my eldest wants to create a game for PlayStation, which is tech. There’s a shortage in skilled areas, we struggle for DevOps or developers.
Teaching children from a young age that we’re stepping into more of a digital environment is going to be crucial in addressing those skills shortage. My eight-year-old came home and his homework was the build a game on Scratch, which is a coding platform for children and schools. It was like a breath of fresh air. I think it’s good that schools are introducing tech skills at such a young age, because I never had that when I was growing up. We had IT, but it was all about learning how to use an Excel spreadsheet and which pretty boring compared to ‘Let’s make our own game on scratch’
I think schools are doing a great job at lifting the lid and showing children that there’s a person behind the scenes that’s created their favourite game and that is something that they could do as a job in future.
In Leeds, there’s over 45,000 households that don’t have access to Wi-Fi and many across the city are starting to feel isolated due to their lack of digital skills. What are your thoughts on the digital divide the impact on the tech industry?
Jenny: Going back to the pandemic, I saw the divide then. Some children didn’t have access to laptops and families couldn’t afford wi-fi for them to access their school work from home.
Everything’s online. Even something called Reading Plus, that my eldest is doing, is online. There have been school competitions across Yorkshire that some kids will have had full access to, and some won’t. It’s incredibly important because, if kids don’t have access to these things now then they’re going to really struggle in the jobs market when they grow up. So many jobs require digital skills, so it’s bigger than just the tech industry.
It would be brilliant if schools and government could have something in place where children who don’t have access to digital devices at home, can come into school out of hours to practice their digital skills. Another option could be if businesses opened their offices at the weekend for kids to have coding clubs. Having something like that in an organisation where the students can see real life benefits would have a huge impact.
The Bridge could do more on that front, we could be going into schools and colleges and speaking to student. I’m keen on demonstrating the wide range of careers in tech. When I was in college, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and I didn’t know anything about the tech industry. There might be students who are interested in IT, tech, coding, gaming, but they end up doing something else, because they didn’t know what opportunities were available, or how to get started in the industry.
I think we’re starting to do that with Morson Group, but there’s always more that you can do. Maybe we could do an open day with a local school or it could be that clients come in with their children and we can explain what’s out there for them, what they could be doing and how to get there.
And finally, what are your aspirations for the future? Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Jenny: Oh, to be a millionaire and own my own island. I’m joking! To be honest, I just want to be a successful recruiter. I’ve got one person on my team already, but I’d like to manage a few more people.
I think lots of people like to have one goal , something tangible that represents where they want to get to. For me, in the next 5 to 6 years I want to take the boys to Orlando to Disneyland. And everyone knows that’s not cheap! So that’s my aim, to be successful enough to be able to take my children on the holiday of a lifetime, that’s where I’d like to be.
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