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CIO hits college fairs to court tech talent

Clint Boulton | Sept. 17, 2015
Textron CIO Diane Schwarz dishes details of the recruiting trail that took her to the University of Notre Dame career fair last week, where she spent three days scouting prospective IT candidates.

Lily Mok, a Gartner analyst who covers talent management, agrees. She says it’s important for traditional companies, whose IT departments are not viewed with the same credibility as technology companies, to cultivate a relationship STEM students early -- and keep the conversation going. “Talent competition is so high and finding a good school with the right talent and the right curriculum training on new technology areas… those students are hot commodities,” Mok says. “If you truly want to build your brand, you want people to know how you are using digital technologies in your particular industry.”

Dropping knowledge, via business intelligence

One way Textron is doing this is by working with university professors to advance coursework. To assist an SAP Predictive Analytics class at Notre Dame this fall, she directed Matthew Cordner, Textron director of global ERP and business intelligence, to share some of the “real-world data” the company generated from an initiative to reduce costs by consolidating product shipments. Sharing data fosters goodwill with the university leaders and gives students a glimpse of the analytics projects Textron has conducted.

That is crucial because many STEM students don’t get business technology challenges including real corporate data to work on while they’re still in school, Mok says. Getting that practical experience early on will not only benefit the future candidate, but potentially provide Textron a more stable supply of talent. “It can get the students to really know more about your company early on.”

Some CIOs, such as Choice Hotels International’s Todd Davis, prefer to invite people to come to them. Seeking new talent in mobile application development, analytics and other areas, Davis hosted a job fair at a Choice Hotel locations in Arizona in April. Emboldened by billion-dollar budgets, financial services firms such as American Express and BNY Mellon have established innovation centers in Silicon Valley to battle Google, Facebook and the long-tail of startups on their home turf.

However, that’s a battle Textron can’t win. It lacks the budget and scale to build an innovation center, let alone pay top dollar for seasoned talent for every position. That is why its executives are tapping universities, which she hopes will help her hire 50 new IT workers from across the U.S. every year. That will help infuse the company with fresh blood and replace employees lost via attrition. She estimates she’s hired as many as five recruits out of Notre Dame since she’s began recruiting at Textron. “We’re always recruiting,” she says. “It is an absolute war for talent out there.”


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