Manifest Solutions Corp. Discusses IT Staffing and Training Programs
Nancy Matijasich - Central Ohio Tech Power Player Honoree
Founder and CEO
Manifest Solutions Corp.
Founder and President
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Founder and CEO of Manifest Solutions Corp., Nancy Matijasich, discusses IT staffing and training programs.
Hello and welcome to the comSpark podcast where you will get to meet today's technology thought leaders. To learn more, visit comspark.tech.
BK: All right. We are here today with Nancy Matijasich, who is the Founder and CEO at Manifest Solutions. Manifest Solutions is an organization based in Columbus, Ohio, and they do IT consulting, staffing, education, and IT support. My name is Bryan Kaiser. I'm the Founder and President of Vernovis, and also part of the executive host committee of comSpark, and I will be your guest moderator today. So, let's get started. Nancy, good to see you. I'm just going to open up with a general question here. You've been doing this for 24 years, started your own company. What's keeping your clients up at night today?
NM: Well, there's a few things. Security is definitely one, and not just from a standpoint from a network, but even for application security. There's a lot that they are facing when it comes to outside threats, internal threats, and even just lack of awareness, I think at times. And so, we need to be on the front end of making sure that we're educating our consultants and also our clients on how they can just really shore up their, you know, their processes and their networks.
BK: That's great. What else? Is there anything else that you hear that like, just here recently in the last couple of years, security obviously is a big one. Data analytics seems to be a big thing.
BK: What else are you hearing that’s really troubling them or if they're challenged with. What about staffing?
NM: There is always an issue with staffing. It's always trying to find qualified people. I think the talent pool – especially in Columbus – we've become one of the hotspots of technology, right? Ranking higher and higher as a technology hub, and it's been difficult for clients to find good talent, so, we have tried to deal with that by starting to raise our own talent. Seven and a half years ago, we started a program to take college graduates of any age. They're not just in their 20-somethings. We also have folks in their thirties and forties who are in second careers, and we're helping them take that college education and make it valuable to the client, day one.
BK: How do you guys do that? So, so tell me about that program a little bit.
NM: It's a six-week program. It's bringing together – we have two versions of it. One is a Java-based version teaching folks the agile methodology, the Java full stack, and also teaching them ATDD. So, pretty much what we're doing is we're going through the software engineering cycle. We're not just taking one vertical of just programming, we're trying to teach them how to create software, and we also have a .net version of that program as well that deals with agile technology, or agile methodologies, excuse me, and the ATDD cycle of testing.
BL: So, you say this is a six-week course. Tell me, tell me about the course. What's that look like? Who are the, who are the educators and teachers?
NM:Sure. All of our educators…it was founded by my partner and CTO, Chris Judd. He is a Java Champion, which, there's only 200 in the world. He's the only one in Ohio, so that is a very prestigious honor. He created the program 7 and a half years ago when he came to me and said, “Look, I want to try to do something different.” Unlike code schools, we actually hire our folks on full time. They are employees day one. They are paid to train. Their job is to learn, and they go through six weeks, eight hours a day of training. They have technical books that they need to complete, and they are trained by practitioners. We have a couple dozen trainers that are actually in the field training, and we customize their schedule of the class around our trainer’s ability to take time off of billing to come in and train them. So, it's all real world. There's no theory. It's all right in the trenches.
BK: Good. So, a lot of this is classroom learning during the six weeks or is there part of that, you know, they're doing projects and actually getting in the weeds and some of your clients are giving them opportunities to, to prove themselves – what does that look like?
NM: So, it's a live code base that they're using. It's not one that is from our clients. It's an internal code base of a product that we are developing.
NM: So, it is real. They are doing this in a paired programming or agile methodology. So, it is lecture, programming, pairing, and they're also, work on their own as a team with cards that they need to follow through the agile methodology. So, it's all hands on with a lot of instruction.
BK: Great. And you've been doing this for seven and a half years now.
BK: Many of which, when they're done with the program, you're hiring them on full time to your team?
NM: Yeah, they are ours, day one.
BK: How many people have graduated from this program?
BK: Wow, that's incredible. How many classes do you guys do a year? Typically?
NM: Usually three, but again, now that we've got the.net version, there's different ones. We'll do Java and then .net. It pings back and forth depending on market demand.
BK: How many people generally are in a class?
NM: Usually about five to seven, because we go through about 300 to 400 resumes even just to get those five to seven to qualify.
BK: Right. That's fantastic. And of those 147 folks, how many of them are still with you, and if they're not with you, where do they go? Do they go to your clients?
NM: Yes.What's interesting is, most of our clients try to hide them away from us, so…and we've had some – it's interesting, we've had some leave and then come back. We've had that, that ricochet situation. We've had quite a few. We have one of our graduates that works for Google now, one works for Amazon. Um, so, they've gone all over the country, so we've got about 30 percent of them still with us.
BK: That's great.
BK: That's not a bad thing to have alumni in the field, because you hope if they had a great experience with you and you gave them an opportunity that they're going to turn around when they need some more Java developers or .net people, you're hoping you get the call.
NM: We do, and we also foster. They are a community in and of themselves, so we get them together once a year as a reunion, regardless of whether they work for us still or not, because we want those relationships to keep going. We're trying to build careers, so there's additional training to the boot camp afterwards where we take them to the next level of consulting two or three years after they've been in the field to teach them, now, the next level of understanding the business side, understanding budgets and project management and English 110. We're still trying to help them with the spelling and noun/verb stuff
NM: I tease them a lot about that, but they're good. They're good folks.
BK: Well, that's great. So, so I have one last question for you.
BK: There's clearly a big gap with the IT, the amount of IT jobs out there and the amount of people that are available for those jobs.
BK: What is, what do you think the biggest constraint is, or why is there such a big gap?
NM: I think the industry goes through cycles. I know that there's been a lot of outsourcing, but I think that's starting to balance itself out, where there's, there's onshore and offshore balancing now. And I do think it tends to be regional. I know we're having a tough time here, but I do think, you know, my daughter's in high school, and I can tell you that there's really not as many kids interested in the high school level in IT as I would have thought. You know, as many as are always playing with the devices, right? But they're not that interested necessarily in going in and doing the development. So, I think we need to do a better job reaching out earlier. Um, I know my partner goes out and talks to early college students before we're even ready to hire them, to see about IT. I think we might have to go in and be ambassadors in the high schools. One of my trainers wants us to go into middle school and elementary school. I said “No, they at least need to kind of drive or have a work permit before I want to go after that.” But I do that we do need to have a better outreach in IT.
BK: I agree, that that's a good point. And I do think that, you know, IT also is much broader than software development and programming anymore.
NM: That’s exactly it.
BK: That used to be all – “I don't like programming, I don't like software development.” But gosh, IT is so broad now.
NM: It is.
BK: You know, you've got cyber, you’ve got data analytics, you have project management and QA and BA, and there's just so many different avenues you can go. And I think we need to do a better job of, of championing that message.
NM: They're excited and it’s so much more social. I'm a product or the eighties – when I started in my career, we were in the floor-to-ceiling cubicles. Nobody spoke, you know, dark rooms. That's not that way anymore. It's much more social. There's a lot more to it. I think that we just need to have that outreach.
BK: I'm seeing some of the coolest environments within companies and IT departments.
BK: Uh, I see hip things going on and music being played and video game tournaments and pizza and beer and wear whatever you want. And it's just really cool, posters up all over the place of Star Wars and baseball and everything. So, uh, it seems to me that they're having a good time in a lot of IT departments.
NM: They are. It’s that, uh, work hard, play hard – if you can get that right combination, you can get a lot done.
BK: Well, Nancy, thank you for your time. Uh, this is Bryan Kaiser and Nancy Matijasich. To learn more about us, visit comspark.tech, and goodbye, until next time.
NM: Thank you very much.
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