George Louris, Custom Computer Specialists, Hauppauge, New York, United States
The OnSite IT Support group at Custom Computer Specialists is the first line of support for their clients. They hire about 100 technical professionals who have the competence and confidence to go onsite and work directly with clients to solve their problems. George Louris connected to the Cisco Networking Academy to nurture IT talent for his company.
PACT Connects Custom to Networking Academy Students
The Cisco Partners + Academies = Connections for Talent (PACT) program introduces Cisco partner companies to local schools and colleges that offer Networking Academy courses. George saw the benefit for his company: early access to developing talent. He also knew he had something to offer the schools: a connection to local industry hiring trends.
What does Custom look for in job candidates? “The most important quality is a commitment to customer service,” said George.“We do look for ‘A’ students, and a CCNA certification is a big plus…But finding people with the right mix of service-orientation, good communication skills, and technical skills is very challenging. Fortunately, academy instructors provide great insight into their students. I trust their recommendations on which students might fit a potential position at Custom.”
Education and Industry Work Together to Work Better
George met instructors from several different institutions and offered to organize a monthly webinar series to give them an insider’s view of today’s IT services workplace. He invited Custom’s Director of Support Services, Senior Cisco Engineers, Information Systems Directors, and other engineers.
“We give the instructors specific feedback on recent hires. Our engineers talk to them about the types of jobs they’re working on for customers, and even technology trends, so that instructors can see if they’re in sync with the practices of Cisco partner companies like Custom,” said George. “We ask them what topics they’d like us to cover in the next meeting, and what they’d like us to cover when we visit the schools.”
Instructors and engineers were so excited about the webinar series that they decided to meet in person. Custom’s hosted meetings became a popular forum for academy instructors to compare and share best practices. Six schools now attend the monthly meetings with up to 4 people, including the chair of the information systems department. According to George: “Now about half of the meetings are spent on peer-to-peer communications. They share problems and successes with their program network.”
Custom Helps Students Get Hired
Each year George and his team interview hundreds of candidates for technical positions. “We have a very good perspective on what makes students stand out from the crowd,” he said. “Academy students are incredibly well trained in theoretical and applied networking. And we add perspective on real world jobs in diverse work environments. It’s one of the advantages of being a service provider to so many different types of companies.”
In the first year, George reviewed 47 hand-picked resumes from his 6 participating Cisco PACT campuses. Of those 47 candidates, 9 are already working for Custom, and 27 are being considered for future jobs, for a 77% spot-on fit.
“The contribution that Cisco PACT makes to our business is really incalculable,” says George. “I think we could expend many times the effort in trying to find the right candidates, and still not find people as good as our local Networking Academy schools are turning out. But for us, it’s equally important that we’re an active part of the learning community. Because this is our community, as well as our business.”