‘The way we learn has changed enormously over the years’

5 Nov 2021

Katie Nykanen, QA. Image: Sophie Oldhamstead

Katie Nykanen, CTO of tech training company QA, discusses tech resourcing, skills development and the ongoing challenge of retaining tech talent.

Digital education is becoming more important all the time and with the Covid-19 pandemic forcing a lot of learning online at different stages in the last 18 months, the digital learning sector has had to evolve even more.

Katie Nykanen is the group CTO of QA, a UK-based digital education and tech skills provider. QA has more than 5,000 corporate clients and offers training in technology specialisms such as agile develpment, cybersecurity, cloud and DevOps.

Future Human

As CTO, Nykanen is responsible for both the systems and platforms QA uses to provide a good learning experience as well as “driving excellence” across operations, sales and marketing and back-office business systems.

Before taking up her current role in September 2021, Nykanen worked in ad delivery platform Adstream for almost a decade, her most recent role there being CTO. Before that she worked in Nokia.

She has also won CTO of the Year at the Women in IT Awards in London in 2019.

‘All businesses need to put technology at the core of what they do’

Are you spearheading any major product or IT initiatives you can tell us about?

QA has grown rapidly through acquisition in recent years, so we are working through a programme of work to bring the businesses together in terms of learner delivery and business operations while ensuring each business retains its unique proposition and the qualities for which we bought them.

Secondly, although equally as important, is data. Over the years we have gathered a huge amount of information about businesses, students, skills and jobs.

As the UK faces its biggest skills shortage in history, there is a real opportunity for QA to offer insight to the tech industry and help UK organisations to plan the future of tech resourcing and skills development.

How big is your team?

Across QA there are about 200 people working in technology development or management roles as well as the teams designing and producing the fabulous content that QA is renowned for.

We have used a team augmentation model in some areas to fill gaps in resourcing. However, we also practise what we preach wherever possible by striving to grow and develop our internal people through cross-skilling, bootcamps, apprenticeships and continuous learning.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation?

The term has become a little overused. Today, we are seeing more and more businesses that traditionally fell into ‘other’ industries such as financial services, retail and telco accepting the reality that they need to become primarily technology led.

All businesses need to put technology at the core of what they do for operational efficiency, maximising revenue opportunities and providing excellent customer experience.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world and your industry specifically?

It would be remiss not to note the need to find and retain tech talent. We know that there is still a huge deficit in young people coming through the education system with an interest in or the skills to move into a technology role. In addition, there is still a massive diversity imbalance worldwide. We are seeing this shift already, and QA is perfectly positioned to continue pushing for further change.

The way we learn has changed enormously over the years and the Covid-19 pandemic forced all classroom learning into a virtual setting overnight. While the future is likely to be more of a hybrid model, with work from home remaining common, there is still a place for human connection and group dynamics so finding the perfect mix of offering will be key to our next few years’ strategy.

In terms of security, what are your thoughts on how we can better protect data?

Times are challenging and hackers are becoming ever more sophisticated. The answer must be a combination of intelligent, self-learning monitoring that spots unusual activity, abnormal interaction as early as possible, as well as more traditional monitoring to stop and shut down interference events quickly.

Over and above all of this though, is the need for effective, enforceable data management processes and policies, as no technology can truly mitigate for human error.

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