Frankly Speaking - Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships
Episode 01 – Building Tech Talent for the Long Term
Episode 01 – Building Tech Talent for the Long Term
Angie Voght, HR Manager, Black Knight Inc., discusses the strategic imperative of the company’s IBM Z Apprenticeship program with our host, Cable Rose, Franklin Apprenticeships Success Coach. Angie shares her experiences supporting apprentices and managers throughout their apprenticeship journey, the challenges of recruiting and retaining tech talent, and the importance of professional skills.
Angie Voght holds over a decade of experience in the HR field in both private and public sectors. In her current role as an HR Manager at Black Knight Inc (BKI), she focuses on talent and leadership coaching and development, transforming workplace culture, and workforce and career planning. Combing key guiding principles from her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and dual master’s degree in Administration and Human Resources Management, Angie has found a unique perspective to guide organizations through change, conflict management, and executing business strategies that result in employee-centric outcomes.
Angie serves as a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion roundtable, partners with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida as a Big Sister mentor and serves as a board member of the St. Johns Council School District IT Career Academy Advisory Council. Angie facilitates Black Knight’s partnership with Franklin, connects with all BKI apprentices to ensure a positive employee experience, and coordinates an ongoing apprentice group check-in meeting to foster an environment of learning and connection.
Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles, such as cybersecurity, help desk, IBM Z, network engineering and software engineering.
Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leaving a review and telling a friend about our show. And don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes.
Angie: You just wouldn’t think that somebody who’s been a daycare worker most of her life is going to make the pivot and transition to just take a leap of faith, join an apprenticeship program and love her career in tech.
Speaker: Welcome to Frankly Speaking, the podcast that explores how tech apprenticeships really work.
As a Franklin Apprenticeship Professional Success Coach, our host Cable Rose gives us an insider’s view from the real people and businesses who are using tech apprenticeship programs to develop the technical skills that the American economy so desperately needs.
Cable: I’m pleased to introduce our first guest, Angie Voght, HR Manager for Black Knight Incorporated. Black Knight is a part of the inaugural group of IBM Enterprise Computing clients to participate in the US IBM Z Apprenticeship Accelerator Program. Franklin is proud to deliver this program with IBM for their clients. Angie comes to us from a background of HR management and consulting, has been a wonderful partner, helping to change the lives and launch careers of several IBM Z apprentices. Angie, please tell us a bit about your background and what you do at Black Knight.
Angie: Good morning. Thank you so much for having me. My name is Angie Voght. I’m a HR manager, like you said, with Black Knight Financial Services. I’ve been with the organization for about three years. We’re the premier provider of innovative high-performance software data and analytics for mortgage and home equity lending and servicing. We’re known for client focus and product home equity and lending servicing. We deliver innovative, seamlessly integrated solutions with urgency. I support the technology, infrastructure, and operations in a segment of our servicing technology product and innovation teams.
Cable: Okay. One, I didn’t realize when I got myself into a tech realm that there were so many different tech realms because when I think of computers, I’m very simplistic. Yours is both tech as well as financial as well as home lending, is that what I heard, right? Home lending.
Angie: Yes, and data and analytics. When we go to realtor.com, all of these estimates that you see and all of that data, we’re supplying that data as well. Even if you are a realtor, for example, we’re also supplying data for realtors. We’re helping innovate their business as well and helping it make them easier to do their job. We really have our hands in the entire mortgage industry.
Cable: Wow. Okay. Then let’s connect all those dots, Angie, because what I heard there was finances, real estate, data, tech, but this is not as if you were just trying to get a job working for a computer company or working for– How does it look? You’re an HR manager. You’re bringing people into this realm. How do you find tech talent to encompass someone that can take on all of that challenge?
Angie: Sure. That’s a great question. We’re probably not going to find somebody who has experience in everything. We’re really looking for subject matter experts or people who have an interest in one of those areas. Maybe you have somebody who is interested in finance and so you’re going to find somebody for the corporate divisions or somebody who has an interest or has experience in the technology field. They’re pretty siloed. We probably wouldn’t have somebody who has experience in every one of our divisions perhaps, and they would be a unicorn and we’d try very hard to recruit them but most likely, we won’t have somebody who has these ones and everything.
Cable: Then let’s talk about that. Now, what are your pain points? What are your business challenges? How do you find tech talent to come into one of those realms? You talked about subject matter experts and you’re absolutely right. We’d love to find those unicorns out there. What challenges have you seen in the tech realm trying to bring talent into it?
Angie: That’s been a challenge. I’ll say specifically in our mainframe space. The mainframe is a core to our company’s tech stack, but unfortunately, we found Gen Y and Gen Z have not been over overly eager to learn this technology. They’re not understanding the mainframe’s not going to be going anywhere, and that’s causing a significant impact to our ability to backfill when employees are retiring or leaving the organization. It creates incredible competition for our mainframe talent that when we’re going out to market, individuals can pretty much have their pick up these mainframe roles. We have to be creative. We have to be creative in the way that we’re marketing where we’re marketing our benefit packages and just the way that we’re going out to market because it is really competitive out there. That’s really for all positions, but specifically in those initial roles.
Cable: Those initial roles such as mainframe. Mainframe is right– Again, PC, Google, Apple, everybody talks about like the new sexy. These are the new things nobody talks about. IBM mainframe is the new sexy, but really it’s not. It’s literally the greatest one because it’s been there forever and it’s never going anywhere. I like the fact, you’re absolutely right, Gen Y, Gen Z. You talked about some generations weren’t where their focus were. They were going to newer tech. How did you come across something like an apprenticeship with Franklin Apprenticeships or anything out there? How did you make that alignment that there is a struggle, there is a real-world desire for those mainframe roles to be filled? How did you find apprenticeships as one of your options for bringing tech on?
Angie: Sure. Actually, to step back a little bit. Before we partnered with Franklin, we had a COBOL Cadet program. Just doing the same thing where we typically had between 11 to 12 cadets every session focused on mainframe COBOL programming, but just from an internal structural program, we just weren’t able to maintain it. When the partnership with Franklin came all along, it really met that need. We were able to outsource it and have the same results. It was really a win-win for us. It’s been a great partnership because we were able to get the training and the talent that we needed, but we didn’t have to use internal resources. We’re often very lean in the technology industry, so to be able to still fill those gaps has been fantastic.
Cable: That’s awesome. I do know of a few of the apprentices who both came on board with us who then were partnered with you, who then are now full-time graduates of us, and now obviously full-time employees with you. What was that like to then outsource? Again, you had a cadet program, you had that pipeline, but it was, again, taxing, there was resources. What was it like when you saw what Franklin does and went, I think we want to try that now? Where did that thought come from?
Angie: Sure. It was really a seamless process. The first step is really having the buy-in from your senior leadership. We did have a gap of a few years where we didn’t have our COBOL Cadet program. Then that pipeline dries up. When you’re not able to recruit externally, or at least not fast enough for the need that we had internally, and then you’re not training internally with those COBOL cadets, then all of a sudden you don’t have the talent you need. It was a lot easier to get that buy-in from a senior leadership perspective. We had several meetings with the Franklin leadership group and our senior leaders. Then from there it really took off working with your recruiting team, nailing down what positions, how many positions, and then your recruiting team did a fantastic job sourcing candidates and really took off from there.
Cable: I don’t want to spend too much specific time on any particular candidates, but I do love, of course, Anthony and Yasmin, their story. Their timeline as military veterans coming out and wanting to be able to place the timeline where she came on board first as the military spouse, if I’m correct, make sure I get this right. Then Anthony, as he finished up and completed his contract with the military, he came right out and he started behind her. Both of them going through the program, what a unique experience to make the alignment, to make the needs filled, to have both of them successfully obviously operate into this new realm, and then become valid member or valued members into the realm of the IBM support that they’re working on with that mainframe. It’s fantastic to see those individual stories specifically with you guys.
I love the Black Knight story. It was always a fun one for us as we saw what they were doing and how you guys were utilizing their strengths along that program. As an HR manager, this is what you do, right? You look for the diamonds out there, you look for the– You said unicorn earlier. I love it. You look for those talented people that are out there that are coming from a different pathway. Whatever that looks like. Do you have any advice for other HR managers who are looking to also try to understand how to bring tech talent into their roles? What other comments or thoughts do you have about apprenticeships for them?
Angie: Yes, absolutely. I think that’s one of the biggest takeaways that I have from the Franklin Apprentice program. I can only speak from my experience but what I found that sets the apprentices apart from other employees early in their tech career is they’re coming in very eager to learn and they’re truly excited to be part of our organization. For me as a HR professional, it’s important to level set with potential hiring managers upfront. about apprentices’ capacities, especially in the first few months since about half their time is spent training. I want to be really thoughtful about who’s going to be a good fit from a manager perspective and supporting their growth and their development. I think it’s also important for HR professionals to know that Franklin apprentices receive soft skill training that I believe really sets them apart from other similar skilled candidates, and it sets them up for success. When you’re combining those technical skills with refined soft skills and the professionalism, it’s really a HR manager’s dream. We’ve had apprentices recognized for their contributions from executives, and I hear all the time from our first-level managers how much they enjoy having apprentices as part of their team. They work so hard and it’s so good to see.
Cable: That’s awesome and very good feedback for anyone else who’s listening to see that. Okay. They have that aptitude, they have that eagerness. I like the word, tenacity. I’m a big tenacity guy. They come in, they’re hungry, and they want to do this, and they want to learn and they want to work, and they’re like, “Hey, let’s rock and roll. Give me more, more, more, more. Give me more.” That’s awesome, Angie. I think what a great perspective to see it. Again, we talked earlier before the show, you’re like, “Human resources isn’t necessarily everybody’s warm, fuzzy word.” Right?
Angie: A cup of tea. [chuckles]
Cable: Yes, a cup of tea. It’s that desire that an HR manager has that you’ve got. You said it, partner with a online manager who’s looking for the talent to support their role and their career and it’s a good fit when it does align, and that’s what your role is in that. You listen to the manager, you listen to the apprentice, that’s a good fit, let’s bring them on. Then I really appreciate the shout-out for how Franklin does that. We have both technical programs we’re delivering through their apprenticeship, but we also come on with their soft skills, their personal development.
As a success coach here myself, to deliver the best version of that apprentice at the end of their apprenticeship is my goal. Whatever that looks like. If it’s technical, if it’s professional, if it’s both, if it’s the whole package, whatever their growth is, is how we do that, and that’s what success coaches do. What has your experience been with Franklin success coaches in the process of, like you said, bringing them on, but what’s your experience been with those success coaches?
Angie: In my role, I didn’t work overly close with success coaches, but I’ll say as a HR professional, I hope every employee has the opportunity to be coached at every stage in their career, and I really believe that coaching is a critical component of the apprentice experience. I believe that being newer to the industry, having a success coach to encourage you, to motivate you, to keep you on track, and having that space to ask questions that they may not feel comfortable asking a colleague or manager is, again, setting the course for success. I believe that coaching can be leveraged for feedback for soft skills. Again, the unspoken rules regarding company culture, it can be less threatening I think, than having that feedback from a manager sometimes, despite the manager’s best efforts. It’s just a different power dynamic. I think it’s really important. From my understanding too, success coaches work really closely with the apprentices’ managers so that feedback loop is really consistent. From my perspective, it’s working great.
Cable: Good. Angie, I appreciate that because you’re absolutely right. The success coach not only works closely with the apprentice, they work with the managers as well. I do this thing where I have to take my hat off sometimes like, “Am I talking to the manager as a success coach? Am I just talking to him as a colleague? Am I giving feedback that was– Apprentice, do I give your feedback or should I–?” What we’ve done here as the success coach, we really try to understand those dynamics on their team, and then we work again with those soft skills. We work with that apprentice. The way we like to say it is we get them to advocate for themselves. If they have an issue or a concern, or they have an idea and they want to share it, maybe they don’t know if this is the right place to share it. They can bounce it off of us, and then we can help guide them in what is the strongest way to do this, what’s the best way to approach this? We don’t do it for them. We get them to advocate for themselves, building on their confidence, their communications, building on that relationship, and setting that whole dynamic up, like you just said, it’s a win-win from each of those points along the line and then we’re looking for the best results out of that. I think that’s awesome, Angie. You’re in HR.
Cable: You are always looking for– Again, for many, many years in tech and for many, many years of a requirement, there were requirements for such as a four-year degree or maybe some of that background, and with apprenticeships, we’re allowing people to come on that have no background. They’re not from a particular realm or any kind of background like that and they’re coming on. Maybe they were a single mother who’d been out of the workforce for a few years, or a single father who’d been out of the workforce for a few years and they’re coming on to say, “Hey, I want to get back into this realm,” and they’ve got this aptitude, they’ve got this tenacity, this eagerness, and they come on. What have you seen as diversity, inclusion, equity as part of that realm that we’re looking for to make a workforce as strong as it can? What have you seen apprenticeships have allowed for to bring other backgrounds into this type of tech world?
Angie: Yes, I think that’s a great question. I want to say at Black Knight, we have a dedicated diversity, equity, and inclusion team, but it really takes all of us to create the culture that we are striving for. Partnering with Franklin is one of the ways that we achieve our diversity and inclusion goals. Franklin does a fantastic job finding individuals who are looking for new careers, or they’re providing skilled candidates that are being diverse. We have a lot of female apprentices and a lot of them have already graduated the program, which is so great to see. We are featuring four of them on the 14th when it’s Women in Apprenticeship Day. They’re going to be featured on our social media page, which we’re so excited about. You guys have [unintelligible 00:16:27] so many people of color who have been fantastic candidates, veterans, people who are reporting, having disabilities, and so on. We’re helping just build that pool, and it’s really important for us to have a culture and organization that is an employer of choice for people of all demographics. We’re really excited about that partnership.
Cable: I love that because, as myself, I was a military dependent. My father was in the service. Thank you for your service. You said your father was in?
Angie: My father as well.
Cable: Yes. Oh, I appreciate that as well. You and I both know you probably grew up moving around, right?
Angie: Yes, a little bit. [chuckles]
Cable: We moved around. We were always in a new place. We always were around new people. We were always around new cultures, new backgrounds, new everything. When I go into the workforce, I love the fact that we have the abilities to just bring everybody on board. I’m really excited to see apprenticeships do that. My car broke down in front of the Air Force Recruiter’s office, which is how I joined the Air Force. It wasn’t like I knew that I was going into that path, but 25 years ago, if this had existed in my time, I would’ve been an apprentice from day one. I think this is an amazing program–
Cable: –that I wouldn’t have had to have gone into another pathway or something that I thought I had to do. This was like, “Hey, I want to do tech.” I want to do whatever that apprenticeship is, and just go in and learn it. I think this is such an opportunity that in today’s day, in today’s market and today’s shift of how the world is, is being perceived and the perspective of everything this is going to be it, Angie. I love the fact that we’ve got partners such as Black Knight, and we’ve got partners that are out there who see not only that there’s tech talent out there, but they know how to then identify, let’s get everybody into this and let’s bring it all forward. I really enjoy the fact that we’ve got this partnership with you and with the companies who see the value in this. Obviously, you’ve got your own perspectives from your client side of the house, your employer side of the house, but you like, “Apprenticeships work. Let’s get them, let’s break– Oh, those were great. Well, let’s come back in. Let’s do more.” Let’s get more of that type of, and I always say, bring me more Anthony’s or bring me more Yasmin’s or bring me more whatever. I think that’s always a good way to do it. Go ahead.
Angie: I’ll share with you too. This individual is typically more private, so I’m not going to share her name, but she was a healthcare worker. She had no tech background, and she is knocking it out of the park. She’s a COBOL programmer now. She loves her team. She’s graduated from the program. You just wouldn’t think that somebody who’s been a daycare worker most of her life is going to make the pivot and transition to just take a leap of faith, join an apprentice program, and love her career in tech. I think that it just shows, once again, that it can really work. As an employer finding that talent, and again, looking at the aptitude and looking beyond the resume sometimes and seeing the passion that they have, and understanding that we have to be more broad in our thinking.
Cable: I love it. You gave me absolute chill bumps right there to say exactly that. You’re right. They were in a particular career for years, and they pivoted. What a great word to pivot into something completely new, and they’re the rockstar. They’re knocking out of the park. That is fantastic news. Thank you for sharing with us both those personal stories along the line of the realm of what you do, but then the big picture of how that’s going to make an impact into both apprentices’ lives as well as the employers who are bringing them on. I appreciate that. As I wrap up our focus here, we’re a branded company that likes a good tagline. We have a great branded tagline called Potential Unlocked. I was wondering if I were to ask you as an HR manager, how else would you give advice or what advice would you give to anyone who’s listening or watching me in the podcast to say early in a career or early in a tech career, what advice would you give to say, “Hey, let’s unlock that potential.”
Angie: That is such a great question. My advice would be a literary quote is, start with the end in mind. What is your dream job and what do you want to work towards? I think once you have identified your career goals, really begin mapping out those short and long-term goals and how you’re going to achieve that dream job. I think it’s so easy to get comfortable in what you’re doing and before you know it, years can go by and you haven’t made any progress toward what you ultimately want to do in life.
I feel like if you have those goals in front of you and you’re actively working toward them, you can stay motivated and you can stay on track. Like I said with the example before, sometimes you have to pivot. You might need to ask for help and that’s okay, but as long as you’re working towards that job or that role or career that will bring you joy, you’re headed in the right direction. Even if it gets tough, I encourage you to keep going because, in the end, it will be worth it.
Cable: Man, what a great wrap to this podcast. Think about it. I asked her the question, what advice would you give and she says, start with the end in mind. Make your goals, lay out your roadmap, and work towards those. Even if you got to pivot, you may got to ask for help. You still got those laid out and you’re still moving towards that final goal. Thank you, Angie. That is great first episode. I’m like super uber excited, but what a great way to wrap that up is by literally just that frame of what you said. I got to stop talking because that’s what I get told to do, is stop talking. I don’t want to take away from what you just said, but I do want to thank you, Angie, for being here. Thank you for being on Frankly Speaking. Again, as we go into future realms of apprenticeships and future realms of changing people’s family trees, changing lives, I want to say thank you to both you and to Black Knight for being a part of that journey. Thank you.
Angie: Thank you so much for having me.
Cable: You’re welcome. To everybody else out there in TV land or podcast land now, we appreciate y’all coming on to the show and we will see you guys for the next episode from Cable Rose. This is Frankly Speaking. Thanks.
Speaker: Thank you for listening to Frankly Speaking, Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships. This podcast was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles such as cybersecurity, help desk, IBM Z, network engineering, and software engineering. Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leaving a review and telling a friend about our show. Don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes.
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