Skill Management at Deutsche Telekom: Are you “Norbert”?

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"Are you a Norbert?" This is a question we've asked many of our colleagues in IT over the past few weeks. Norbert? That's what we called one of our skill profiles: It stands for employees who used to develop software and whose skills can be brought up to date through further training. Whether modern programming languages, the development of microservices or dealing with interfaces - all Norberts, and of course Norbertinas, are given exactly the skills they need to help us shape the Deutsche Telekom of tomorrow.

Continuous change always requires new employees Skills

Continuous change always requires new employee skills

New value creation requires new employee skills

What may sound funny at first glance has a serious background: digitization accelerates change, creates new competitors, changes customer behavior and value creation. In the telecommunications industry, for example, the virtualization of networks and an increased demand for digital services are profoundly changing business models and value creation. As a result, employee qualifications and the way we work must adapt to these changes - as quickly as possible. The demand for concepts such as continuous integration and development, DevOps and agile working methods is increasing.  In order to meet all these requirements, many companies ask themselves the question: Hire or train?

Ecosystem for Lifelong Learning

But why either or? Instead of choosing between new hires and internal training, we and our customer team have combined the advantages of both approaches to create a comprehensive, holistic skill transformation concept for Deutsche Telekom:

  1. With the help of a detailed bottom-up analysis, we assess the current status and the necessary changes in employee skills across
  2. Training opportunities allow employees to refresh their skills and gain new skills
  3. From new employees we expect a fresh breeze and new skills
  4. We want to retain employees with important skills
  5. One-off training sessions are not enough: Participation in an "ecosystem for lifelong learning" forms the core of our approach - on the part of the company and the employees
  6. For all those who wish to take a different route, alternative vocational guidance services are provided

What skills do we need?

In cooperation with our team leaders we have worked out

  • what capabilities and roles the Group has
  • which we will need in the future
  • where and how it is possible to further develop employees

Conclusion: for our technology and innovation area we need software developers, experts for agile project management and DevOps engineers. But also so-called data analysts. Methodical knowledge such as Agile, Scrum or Kanban will also be indispensable for almost every job at Deutsche Telekom in the future.

The academies: the path to becoming a developer

And what does all this mean for Norbert and Norbertina? The two are taking part in one of twelve training initiatives - the so-called academies. Their task is to prepare employees for a new role needed in the Group and to ensure that they are integrated into a new job at the end of their training.

The future software engineers

The future software engineers of Deutsche Telekom – Norbertina and Norbert

This is also true for Norbert and Norbertina: as software developers they want to help shape the future of Deutsche Telekom. To this end, they have left their old jobs behind and registered for the Developer Academy. Together with 10 other "classmates", the two of them will now spend around 16 weeks at school. But what should a Deutsche Telekom software developer be able to do? What sounds like an experiment is a well-thought-out concept that we developed together with colleagues from Deutsche Telekom IT under the responsibility of Sabine Abecker and Thilo Mosch. Because there is no such thing as the software developer and an off-the-shelve Java training is not enough here. Should a software developer develop mobile applications? Is he an all-rounder or database specialist? Which programming languages, which tools should he know? In coordination with current IT trends, the strategic corporate goals and the feedback from the teams, we developed a modular training portfolio for developers. Each learning path consists of two periods: a 4-week "classroom phase" in which basic knowledge is acquired, and a 12-week "on-the-job phase" in which, in addition to the acquisition of advanced knowledge, integration into the new job already begins. Norbert, Norbertina and their allies thus form a new team for one of our development projects, which showed a need for developers and, as in an internal pitch, vie for the Academy participants. The team is supported by a Scrum Master and an experienced developer as mentor. In project sprints Norbert, Norbertina and their team members are able to apply the newly learned knowledge to real problems from the new project during the training and establish themselves in the new project.
What began with a small pilot group at our Bremen location in September 2019 has now become a matter of course: numerous locations throughout Germany have applied for the Developer Academy. This has not only enabled us to train many of our Norberts and Norbertinas as developers, but also to strengthen many locations with their own software development skills.

But not only Norbert and Norbertina are part of the journey: in addition to the Developer Academy, there are also numerous other orientations such as the Artificial Intelligence / Data Analytics Academy for further, urgently needed roles and skill profiles. Like Persona "Jannes", for example, who may never have written a line of code before, but still wants to start a career as a junior software developer.

Fresh wind in the Group

But in addition to the further development of existing colleagues, new colleagues from outside are also needed. No easy task, because talent is rare. To get them excited about Deutsche Telekom, they need to perceive the company as an attractive employer. In other words, we need an environment that meets their needs and can keep up with competitors such as Facebook or Google. In addition to compensation, this primarily means we need to offer an inspiring corporate culture, a company's reputation in the field of technology and career opportunities as an expert within the company. To not only attract these talents, but also to retain them, we create an environment that combines the agile spirit of a tech start-up with the latest technology structures and opportunities of a telecommunications group. 

Lifelong learning becomes the new norm.

Lifelong learning becomes the new norm.

Lifelong learning - the new routine:

We are well aware of the fact that the sought-after skills change, this is as much an evergreen as the attempt to remain competitive through training and new hires. In the long term, every employee must therefore see lifelong learning as the new norm. We as a Group must also create an environment that demands, promotes and rewards this. Whether through training courses, learning in communities or e-learning offerings.

Not all employees who have been successful with a particular skill set for a long time are also prepared to adapt their skills to new needs. Important in such situations: communicate openly, act fairly, give orientation - and support the employee with coaching or in the search for a new task.

The topic is also a concern for you and your company? Share your experiences with us - we are very interested!
Our advice: Start small but start! Find one or two challenges where you have nothing to lose - with us it was the topic of software development - and get started. Because every day counts!

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