Building a Pipeline of Diverse IT Talent

When the number of open technology jobs is 6.5 times greater than the available candidates for positions, companies have to be creative. On this month’s Subject to Talent, Executive Director of Marketplace Diversity Solutions Lauren Kolodrubetz and Senior Manager of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity and Employee Experience Deanna McBeath talk about how their company, TEKsystems Global Services, is helping to build a more diverse, inclusive technology workforce. The program they’ll discuss isn’t just about building customers’ pipeline of IT talent; it’s also centered on making a difference for individuals who haven't had the opportunity to start careers in IT in more traditional ways
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Bruce Morton: Welcome to Subject to Talent, brought to you by Allegis Global Solutions. Similar to you, we are always trying to learn more. On this podcast, we speak to workforce and talent experts from around the world, covering market trends, technology and our ever-evolving dynamic industry.

Hi. I'm Bruce Morton, the host of Allegis Global Solutions' Subject to Talent podcast. Today, I'm excited to be joined by Lauren Kolodrubetz and Deanna McBeath of TEKsystems which, similar to Allegis Global Solutions, is part of the wider Allegis Group family.

As the executive director of marketplace diversity solutions, Lauren leads TEKsystems' strategy to help clients build a more diverse and inclusive

technology workforce and innovate their corporate cultures while building in a greater sense of belonging. Deanna is the senior manager of inclusion, diversity and equity and employee experience for TEKsystems' Global Services. Deanna has a passion for creating career opportunities for entry-level professionals, and she currently leads the internal inclusion, diversity and equity initiatives for TEKsystems’ Global Services and oversees their rising talent services that we're going to be talking about today.

Welcome, both.

Deanna McBeath: Yeah. Thanks for having us.

Bruce Morton: Absolutely. Regular listeners will know we always ask the same guests the same first question. We get a double whammy today. How did you get into the workforce industry, and what was your journey to get where you are to today at TEKsystems?

Deanna McBeath: I personally fell into the workforce industry while I was going to school to be a paralegal. I started working at a legal information company, and started in their learning and development office as a training coordinator. My passion and career for workforce development grew from there. I finished my paralegal degree, but never got into that industry and kept going with the learning and development because that's where my personal satisfaction and the growth really came from that I could see. Twelve years ago, I came from that company to TEKsystems, and it is here where I really hit the accelerate button in helping individuals who wanted to enter into the technology industry, develop their skills while partnering with our clients and really building and retaining a pipeline of diverse IT talent.

Earlier this year, I transitioned into my current role as senior manager of inclusion and diversity and now, I have the opportunity of driving initiatives internally for our employees and externally for historically marginalized people.

Bruce Morton: Great. Thank you.

Lauren Kolodrubetz: I will jump in now. I've actually been with TEKsystems for 10 years. It's really hard to believe that I've been working for the same organization for so long. I found this organization through college recruiting; I was aggressively looking for jobs and was just impressed by what TEKsystems offered around the opportunity for growth. I have worked in recruiting. I have worked in sales. I have worked in sales leadership and, in every single job I've been a part of, I have really been focused on trying to make TEKsystems, as well as the customers that I was serving, more inclusive and equitable places to work.

Last year, I had the opportunity to start a new division within TEKsystems called Marketplace Diversity Solutions. Bruce mentioned a little bit about it. I was attracted to this because it really combined my passion for the customer and

selling with a focus on inclusion, diversity and equity. I have the privilege every single day of talking to buyers of technology, talent and services about how to advance their goals in this space and really how to innovate to get better results.

Bruce Morton: Great. Thank you, both. Excited to get into the topic today now we know who we're talking to. When you think about the initiative that TEKsystems has in this market space, as you say, for developing that rising talent, for those listeners that perhaps aren't fully aware of that solution, could you perhaps provide a brief overview and some of the background on why TEKsystems decided to develop this initiative in the first place?

Deanna McBeath: Sure. Our workforce development program is an upscaling program really aimed at building associate-level talent by training people in technology skills and ensuring they thrive in the workplace. We do this by attracting individuals to the program, developing their skills through education, giving them that application that they really need and retaining talent by taking a heavy relationship-focused, supportive, inclusive and really an advocacy approach.

Also, these services we are providing are not actually new. Even though demand has increased in recent years for more of that programmatic approach, TEKsystems has always provided our clients with IT talent in the DEI space. We've always provided workforce development at least for the last 20 years. More specifically in the past seven years, it's where our clients were looking for that programmatic approach, and so we took the liberty of really weaving our services together with the individual support mechanism to support a greater impact in building a pipeline of talent for our clients.

I also want to mention that, although this program is about building our clients' pipeline of IT talent, our work is really centered on making a difference for those individuals who haven't had the opportunity to start careers in IT in those more traditional ways. We want to make a difference for those humans, and everything we do is centered around how to help them thrive in our customers' environments.

Bruce Morton: Great, very noble initiative, and this sounds like it obviously benefits the workforce as well as those individuals that you were talking about with that focus on them, but how are the candidates actually recruited? How do you find them? How do they find you, and how are they chosen for the program, and what sort of investment is asked of the candidates?

Deanna McBeath: Yeah. Candidates are sourced through a variety of avenues. A lot of it is grassroots. You can't just post jobs and expect to find people. We have done a lot of work to determine who to call, how to screen, how to support people so they actually stay, and our clients see that retention. Part of who we call is having strong relationships with diverse IT organizations and associations, having partnerships with our veterans and disability communities, of course, college networks are there as well, and really knowing how to do specialized,

targeted searches. In addition, now that we have been running this for several years, we get a lot of recommendations from our past learners.

During the recruitment process, we assess people's technical aptitude, their excitement for technology, their desire to continuously learn, and do they have the grit to really work hard because it isn't easy to jump into a very intense training program and move into a technology field as a security analyst, or a developer or a scrummaster. That's all new for them, and it takes a lot of determination to do that.

In terms of candidate investment, one big problem we noticed right away is the cost for people, whether it is to invest in schooling or the inability to change careers. By our program being free for all individuals, we create the platform for historically marginalized groups to attend. From there, once the learners are selected into the program, they're asked to commit to the training and working on the job for TEKsystems and our client for a minimum of one year. We've seen that, with our training in the one year on the job, our talent rise up in the position, become more productive very quickly and can seek career advancement. I truly believe that builds up loyalty for us and the client. The one-year timeframe also allows the client to witness a consultant's progress and growth as well as the return on investment that they've made in these individuals.

Bruce Morton: Right. Just to get that straight for the audience, so there's no financial outlay from the candidate, but there's a commitment level obviously to complete the training, but then to work on behalf of TEKsystems and with a TEKsystems client. Is that correct?

Deanna McBeath: Absolutely correct.

Bruce Morton: Great. You mentioned there that grit and determination is part of the selection process. You're able to track these people past that first 12 months. Because of the screening process and the training, I'm assuming that they go on to do greater things and move up the ranks? Would that be a fair assumption?

Deanna McBeath: Yeah. Absolutely. An example that I have, for a business analyst, we had placed probably about eight to 10 business analysts. We had trained them up, placed them at one of our financial customers and, within two months, 30% of them were the sole BA on their teams, performing and doing really well. That's one of the things that we do along the program, too. We really measure the success of how each candidate is doing, so if we do see that they might be falling down or struggling or challenged in a certain area, we can help them along the way. We can get them the resources they need to really improve in some of those areas where they might be struggling.

Bruce Morton: Right. Yeah. I imagine that is incredibly valuable. Talking of success, how do you ensure that you retain those high standards for your customers as well as the

talent themselves and that level of service. Can you give some examples of perhaps case studies to bring that to life for the audience?

Lauren Kolodrubetz: Yeah. I can dig into that one a little bit more. I just want to start out by saying our success rates and everything has really grown pretty substantially, exponentially actually, over the past couple of years. Part of this is, obviously, the role that IT talent deficits are playing. IT job growth is supposed to be 13% versus 4% overall in the market, so our clients are looking for creative ways [to fill those roles]. Our success isn't just one example. It's multiple examples as we're continuing to grow.

In the last year alone, we've actually seen our number of learners quadruple through these programs.

Bruce Morton: Wow

Lauren Kolodrubetz: A lot of this, Bruce, is because... it's not just about training people, throwing them into a customer environment, hoping that they're going to succeed. It's really about recruiting for diversity goals, empowering candidates to complete the training, overcome obstacles, helping learners to stay and thrive when they face obstacles on the job site and even working to track ROI for the customer, so then they can go back and actually get further investment to be able to grow.

The learners, they love the support that they're getting. They're not just a body running through training, and the customers love that they're getting someone along the ride with them and that they can actually track results. Our retention rate for candidates is actually 89% at the one-year mark. Yeah, it's a pretty shocking number…

Bruce Morton: I was going to ask you that question. Wow. Yeah.

Lauren Kolodrubetz: Yeah. I was going to say especially, we may not all talk about this, but the average tenure for new people is typically four months. We're sitting at 89% retention versus the four months. That's the kind of results. Bruce, if it's okay, I want to share one specific example-

Bruce Morton: Yeah, please do.

Lauren Kolodrubetz: ... to actually get it a little bit more real for customers. There's a healthcare company that we work with. They serve a worldwide community. They focus in multiple disciplines and they know that technology is critical for their success as a business. As the business says, "I need more software. I need more resources," they have to ramp up their recruitment. They realized that having diversity specifically in their Java space was critical. Not to check a box, but because of the innovation of thought and ideas that having diverse teams could be and because the communities they're serving are so diverse, they want their teams to represent that.

They were really thinking about how do we get this creativity and innovation? We use university programs, but we're getting the same types of talent. It's not filling the demand that we have. We started out with the pilot. We recruited 41 people for these individuals. 97% of the individuals completed training. Of those that completed training, every single one of them was offered a consulting position with the customer, and every single one of them converted full time. So, 100% of those people that started at the year mark are still working on site.

A really cool fact that I think customers don't think about, they're like, "God, am I going to have to do all this work? Am I just going to be sitting there with people that aren't writing code?" These individuals, after a year, almost all of them are now getting coded as a mid-level engineer. They're getting promoted because they're actually contributing to the organization so that production, the innovation, the success, it's really happening, and it's about that support on both sides.

Bruce Morton: Those 40 people, I don't expect you to remember every one of their backgrounds, but just generally speaking, what were they doing before they joined the program? What sort of jobs were they in?

Lauren Kolodrubetz: It really is a wide variety. You had some people that had done college programs and just were lacking that skill to get the actual jobs. I know people in the program that had left the workforce and were raising families and had maybe done technology 15 years ago and wanted to break back into the industry. You had people that were self-studying that had a job not related to IT, that had maybe done some online programs, but they really wanted to break into the industry, and they did this bootcamp and were able to complete it. It was this wide variety of people. You had people from all over the world who were living in the United States and wanted to start their career and were able to use this to work at an amazing employer and really create that sustainable job for themselves.

Bruce Morton: I guess, in today's world of work-from-anywhere, that widens the opportunity as well for these folks. I'm guessing they weren't all going into the office every day. They can work remotely in these positions?

Lauren Kolodrubetz: No. For this program, really, we can be specific on locations based on where the customer needs it. For this program, we were looking in some of their key markets because they thought it would be really helpful, not one location, but, hey, if we do team activities, can you drive to an office once a month to come, to bring people together, but it really opens the door when we have another customer that they only do virtual because they really just want to have the widest talent pool that's available to them.

Bruce Morton: Demographically, again, I guess it's... My assumption would be that these are younger people, but that might be wrong.

Lauren Kolodrubetz: Honestly, there's plenty of younger people in the program, but that's one of those paradigms you have to get past when thinking about the program because there are a ton of career changers. People look out there and they're like, wait, there's so much job opportunity in this technology segment, and I can do a program for 12-13 weeks and change my life. I don't have to go back and spend $20,000 to get a degree. I can do it this way. We have a lot of career changers particularly when you think about veterans and people that have had other careers and are looking to do transitions.

Bruce Morton: Wow. That's cool. Yeah. I was just going to say there's some misperceptions there, I guess, people naturally jump to. When you use the term like boot camp, people think, oh, that's probably young people, but, you're right, there's chance for us Baby Boomers in here.

Lauren Kolodrubetz: It's an attractive career. Who doesn't want to work in technology right now? You look at all the supply and demand and what's going on, it's like, neat, this could be great for me, too.

Bruce Morton: Absolutely. Cool. This sounds like a no-brainer to me, but I'm sure that, as you're taking this solution to your existing clients or new prospects and you're speaking to the CIO, I guess some of them absolutely get it and snap your arm off, others that are perhaps more critical of this or they don't quite get it. I mean, can you just talk to that, maybe some examples of that?

Deanna McBeath: Yeah. Lauren, I can jump in first, and then I'll definitely hand it over to you for your thoughts. I think the biggest thing that I see is that CIOs or IT leaders may have assumptions based on past negative experiences. For example, some may believe that those who are entry level may not have the skills to be productive quickly in a role or it takes too much time on their team's part to mentor them and really get the entry-level people up to speed. From our past experience, we found that, once our learners have succeeded in our vigorous training and are placed on the job, that they are contributing very quickly and oftentimes within a few months, and they're performing at really mid-level and not so much entry-level.

Another thought I want to really express here is that, with CIOs, and you used the air quotes, if they get it or not, and those CIOs who really get it are not just trying to check the diversity box and say that they're diverse to be diverse or for the sake of being diverse. They're really trying to create teams who bring a vast amount of experiences and ideas that lead to innovation. They understand that, if they hire people who breathe, act and think the same, their creativity is going to be limited. They know their focus needs to be on better results, better teams, modernization and creativity to really make an impact.

Lauren Kolodrubetz: I agree completely, Deanna. Just another thought that I have here of CIOs that get it and leaders that get it, it's that... These sorts of programs are not something to compete with your intern or college or apprenticeship program. These are things that can fast-track your goals around diversity and talent, and it

can be a supplement to those sorts of programs, thinking about, hey, this is a way to get more diversity. This is a way to get people that have more what we call skills-based approaches, people that know how to write code, don't just have theoretical knowledge. It's a way to bring that into your organization. It really allows you to cast a wider net.

You mentioned it, Bruce, earlier. You're not just looking at the same channels you've always used. You're really thinking differently, bringing new ideas into that organization. The leaders that get it, they're like, "I want those people. I want those people that have said, 'Hey, I'm committed. I want to change my life. I want to do things differently,'" and they get that this can be something that can really add to current programs, not something that takes away from what you're already doing.

Bruce Morton: Right. As I think about the folks inside organizations that are making decisions on investing in a program, being open to a program like this, you've got the business leaders, the CIO, there's the CHO, anybody involved perhaps, there's the procurement if these are more about a contingent approach to bringing them in under that. If you are a CIO that gets it and trying to create the business case or sell the value to your CHO or your CPO, what are some of the tips you would give to those folks to help them get it across the line?

Lauren Kolodrubetz: Deanna, I can dig in on this one. I definitely have some thoughts here. Going back to what I previously said, the approach is really starting by thinking about this is not a competitive program to what you're doing internally. I use the word fast-track pretty often. It's fast-tracking diversity. It's fast-tracking talent strategies in a new and innovative way. I'm thinking about the churn that's occurring in IT, that retention is such a struggle today, and the diversity struggles that you're facing. It's saying, hey, “let's look at an innovative approach that are vendor-specific programs to solve for this.” Otherwise, we're going to keep spending the same money on senior talent, spending a lot of money, and then recycling that talent in and out of the organization every 12 to 18 months.

I'm suggesting that they think about how you can spend less money than senior talent with this nontraditional talent and thinking about these individuals focusing on lower-level tasks that can weigh down that senior talent, then have your senior talent focus on innovative work. Not only do you build your talent pipelines, save some money along the way, you can also increase the retention of your senior talent by having them do really impactful work.

I think the final thing is realizing, hey, you need a vendor to build this program. You need a partner. This isn't a staffing program, bringing some bodies in hoping it's going to work. Look for partners. Think about how you can work with a vendor just like other project-based work in the organization to really help transform workforces.

Bruce Morton: I'm sold.

Lauren Kolodrubetz: They totally work. There we go, Bruce. You're done.

Bruce Morton: Absolutely. We're seeing in this marketplace organizations like yours and others, but it is definitely, as you were saying, you've been at this for 20 years. But with the talent shortage and everything that's been going on the last few years, we've seen far more of this making headlines. How do you see these models impacting the future of workforce acquisition and management – especially in this tight labor market and historically marginalized communities finding it tough to get into technology? How do you see these programs impacting that landscape?

Lauren Kolodrubetz: Yeah, that's a really great question. I think it can go in a lot of different directions, but in a market where the number of open technology jobs is six and a half times greater than the available candidates for positions, customers have to look at new ways of doing things. It's not really a choice. We've been doing this at TEKsystems for over seven years, but, before, it felt like a choice like, "Oh, I have this unique situation." Now, everyone is in this space.

Ultimately, early career models are not something new to technology. Internships, college programs, they've been occurring for decades. But where the change is happening is really moving beyond traditional programs and really thinking about how you support candidates differently. These are not bodies that get thrown in, and you hope that they're going to survive. It's really about programs that empower individuals. It's really about thinking how people access jobs not just through a computer science program, really thinking about people that can build the skills and make a difference.

I personally think that there's an opportunity to change the approach of hiring within technology by challenging organizations to move beyond a lot of the pedigree artificial requirements like a comp-sci degree, saying, "I need five years." Why do you need five years? Why do you need a degree? Is that going to actually contribute skills to an organization, or does that person just have things you're used to hiring? This can really change workforce development not just for early talent, but really getting organizations to think more about aptitude, problem-solving, learning, skills-based hiring, so that pedigrees aren't this barrier of entry particularly from individuals from historically marginalized groups.

There is so much opportunity out there. And if you don't think differently, it's going to just keep getting worse, so I just really think about the potential that can occur for those that are underemployed to access stable careers in this space. That's only going to continue to grow.

Bruce Morton: I couldn't agree more. I think that the job spec that says must have, must have, must have, it's usually because that's what the job spec says. It's built in the ATS, and they just pull it and post it as opposed to actually thinking about it. Yeah, I think there's a massive requirement for organizations to really take a good, hard

look at what their requisitions are saying and take out the must-haves. Anyway, we could speak all day about this.

Lauren Kolodrubetz: I was going to say, Bruce, sometimes you Google it and you're like, wait, if I put all these must-haves in, I can only find five people in the country that have all the must-haves, especially as technologies come out and change every six months. It's like the innovation and the learning mindset is just so critical today – almost more than anything else.

Bruce Morton: Yeah. This is awesome. Hats off to you guys for building a phenomenal solution. As we're wrapping up here today, I do want to ask you both the question we ask everybody, and it's the crystal ball question. If you just look a few years out, where do you think, this upskilling and reskilling program, where do you think they'll be able to get to? What will they look like? How different will there be in a few years' time?

Deanna McBeath: Yeah. Absolutely. Looking into my crystal ball and using my past experience being in the learning and industry field for the past 20 years and knowing that the IT industry just continues to grow and grow and grow, I still see a need for upskilling and reskilling as a continued need. Our Gen Y and Z employees are continuous learners. I fully expect it will evolve and look differently as it does today, but really my hope is that, with the effort we are making now to build diverse pipelines across the IT industry, the makeup of our teams is really going to look different. At least we hope that it does. We see the percentage. I really want to see the percentage of our historically marginalized groups at a higher rate within the technology industry, along with helping our clients having that pipeline of talent that they need to succeed within their business.

Bruce Morton: Yeah, that's a great point investing now. Without that investment, it'll look the same, but I like that view of looking into the future. You're not just impacting people's lives today, but you're impacting at an industry level in the years to come. Thanks for that.


Lauren Kolodrubetz: My crystal magic ball, I really think there's two directions. As Deanna was talking, I was thinking a little bit more about that. Direction one, we keep playing, and I say that in air quotes, I know you can't see them, but playing in this space and piloting small programs, I think the result ends up being little change. We'll sit it at 8% representation in the Latinx or Hispanic and Black populations, 26% women in IT. Companies will feel good. They'll publish stories, but, realistically, we're not going to make an impact. I think that's if you just dabble. You say, hey, we'll try something, but you really don't try to change your workforce, or what I really, really hope will happen, like Deanna said, is that top leaders across HR, procurement, technology come together, and they make a difference. They say we're going to reevaluate our talent models for junior talent, as well as senior talent, how we hire, and we're going to be thinking constantly about reskilled and nontraditional talent as a key investment model.

We're going to train. We're going to promote. We're going to invest in the future, and then the result we're going to see is a movement towards gender and racial equality throughout technology – not just in technology making a difference, but in the larger world making a difference because you're creating opportunity in technology, one of the fastest growing fields, and access to people that don't have it today. I'm really hoping for that second one, but I put that caveat because it's going to involve thinking differently across the senior leaders in organizations.

Bruce Morton: That's fantastic. Thank you both for everything you do for marginalized communities. We truly, truly appreciate it. Thank you for joining me today. Where should our listeners go if they want to find out more about talent development and these placement opportunities through TEKsystems?

Deanna McBeath: The best place to find out more is to go to our website. You can click on workforce development and find us there. We have case studies that you can read about in many different industries, in the financial, healthcare and beyond industries, and that will definitely point you in the right direction.

Bruce Morton: Fantastic. Thank you again so much, both. I truly enjoyed the conversation.

Deanna McBeath: Thanks for having us.

Lauren Kolodrubetz: Thanks, Bruce.

Bruce Morton: To learn more about AGS, please check us out at You can also send questions for me or our guests. Just tweet us here @Allegis Global with the hashtag SubjectToTalent or email us at If you enjoyed our podcast today, please subscribe, rate us and leave a review. Until next time, cheers!