Arts graduates should consider IT careers, urges testing firm

With computing graduates in perennially short supply UK software testing firm Sogeti thinks it has spotted a group of young people that might fill the gap if only they are willing to put themselves forward – arts graduates.

The Capgemini subsidiary is currently promoting its Graduate Recruitment Programme (GRP) which accepts applications from any student with a 2:1 degree or above from any educational background.

Technical knowledge? None specifically beyond having “a genuine passion for technology” and “excellent communication, innovation and collaboration skills,” a brief that could apply to any motivated graduate.

According to the company, many arts graduates don’t realise that there are a number of careers they could pursue in the field once they’ve bolstered their skills with training.

Even at a time of high unemployment, the barrier to greater take-up by arts graduates is, Sogeti believes, largely down to pigeonholing. Some IT firms stereotype arts graduates as non-technical while many arts graduates persist in seeing the field as closed to them.

An example of how arts graduates can end up with an unexpected IT career is Jenny Higgins, a recent history graduate from Brunel University who ended up on Sogeti’s GRP after a chance recommendation by a family friend.

Fourteen months after enrolling she has qualified as a certified Sogeti software tester analysing the design and operation of software products for sectors such as mobile, gaming, and retail.

“People with arts degrees would not think they have much of a chance,” she admitted. So many parts of the economy are tied into software and assessing its quality and suitability is a demanding exercise that requires a set of intellectual skills quite different from traditional coding.

“What makes a good team is having people from different backgrounds,” she said. “Different people notice different things.”

She never considered an IT career either during her degree or once graduated and had not even heard of software testing, she said. The programme included the work placement and mentoring to broaden her background.

“I was lucky. I had friends and family in IT,” she said. Without that connection she might have passed up an opportunity she simply didn’t realise existed, she said.

The field of software testing itself is in a boom of sorts driven by the increasing complexity of software and the acceptance that what was acceptable in the past will no longer cut it in an era of demanding users who expected more and more from technology.

As a 2010 survey from Sogeti found, firms are still investing in software testing although some sectors invested more than others.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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