Tracy Kirby, Head of Customer Strategy and Operations, shares her experiences of the telecoms industry and how rapid change is presenting many development opportunities

The telecoms sector evolves at a rapid pace, with new technology emerging every year that advances what’s possible via networks. How do employees in the industry keep up with this pace of change? And what are the needs of the workforce here in the Isle of Man. 

How has your role changed since you first started working in the industry, 24 years ago?

One of the biggest changes I’ve seen is the way that people are able to, and want to, interact with organisations. When I first joined the telecoms sector, most customers wanted to discuss their issue face-to-face. Now, that has shifted and emails, social media and web chat are all far more popular. Customers expect to have the information at their fingertips to be able to make choices and changes to their accounts and services without having to contact someone to do it for them.

How has the pandemic affected the Isle of Man’s telecoms industry?

I agree with the general consensus that the pandemic has forced society to advance in the digital arena by years, if not decades, in just 12 months. Adoption is more rapid and widespread and many businesses and customers are coming to fully appreciate the benefits that technology can bring, whether that’s to enhance productivity or how we interact with friends and family in different ways.

The pandemic has of course presented challenges to our industry, as it has to all sectors, and the whole economy may feel the impact of a potential skills gap for young people, whose learning and development will have been affected over the last two years. Pre-covid there had been some growth in academy programmes, internships and training schemes for young people in the island, so I am hopeful that businesses will step up and offer the relevant training for young people to aid their development and give them the skills they need to succeed.

How do you expect a gender re-balance in these traditionally male dominated industries to take place?

One of the main challenges I’ve personally faced is the lack of female mentorship in the early years of my career, mainly down to there being fewer women in senior roles.  That’s not to say I didn’t have good support from both male and female colleagues along the way, but I would undoubtedly have benefited from having female mentorship in the early stages of career development.

We are making positive strides in the Isle of Man to ensure opportunities are available to everyone - no matter their background. I’m proud to support Sure’s women in STEM bursary as a mentor as one example. Our Sure Academy also hires, trains and often provides full-time employment to young people, and those who want to retrain and learn a new industry, in the Isle of Man each year.

Addressing this issue isn’t an overnight fix but good progress on diversity in the workplace is clear to see. I think it will take some time yet and there has been considerable change to provide opportunities much earlier. Our education system has changed massively since my time, with STEM opportunities available to everyone and additional opportunities provided by many local charities and institutions.  While all of this is very positive, we may not see the full benefit in our industry for several years, certainly at the senior level as today’s young people advance to more senior roles in their careers.   

While education in schools is critical, education is an ongoing opportunity, if you’re willing to embrace it or decide at a later point you wish to pursue something else.  I have completed further education as an adult on numerous occasions, most recently completing an MBA at the local business school; this has complemented my working experience and knowledge and provided me additional opportunities and I would encourage anyone to consider the benefits of engaging with education as an adult.

If you’re interested in taking your first step, you can read about our programmes here.

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