Apprentice bonanza

14 Aug 2014

Firms turn to school leavers

According to research from a top apprenticeship firm QA Apprentices, the number of school leavers applying for IT apprenticeships is at an all time high.

Apparently there is a 108 per cent increase in demand for IT apprenticeships from school leavers seeking a route into tech careers, aside from the traditional university route.

The research follows the latest round of 'record' A-level results in the UK - where the usual pictures of fresh faced blonde and brunette female students celebrating straight A results adorn every front page of national and often local papers and websites.

There is no doubt that this is good news for our industry, with more and more firms realising the benefits of training their own batch of apprentices and bringing in raw talent from the ground up.

As I reported at the CompTIA ChannelCon event in Arizona last week, the younger generation of workers (known as the Millennials) are obviously more tech savvy than their Generation X predecessors, and are fiercely loyal to their employers, wanting nothing more than the business to do well so they can further their careers.

QA's research also revealed that there is a 40 per cent rise in the number of employers seeking IT apprentices.

So it all points to a positive future for the apprenticeship initiative.

i was lucky enough to not have to pay for university tuition fees when I went back in the dark ages, but if I were faced with £9,000 a year fees i too would look for an alternative way into the workforce. Times are very different these days and fair play to the youngsters that just want to get straight into work and earning a wage.

Just because you have a degree, doesn't mean you are the right person for the job - experience counts just as much.

I do wonder though how many more years the A-level results will keep going up - considering I took mine nearly 22 years ago (OH MY GOD!!), I must have been really thick, because they have improved EVERY single year since then.


Lessons learned from the USA

04 Aug 2014

Friends jumping

This week I am really suffering in the name of my work by sitting writing this on my hotel room balcony in Arizona in 38-degree heat.

Well, someone has to take one for the team. It is a tough call sometimes.

I am attending this year's CompTIA ChannelCon at the Marriott Desert Ridge resort in Phoenix, and as ever with the Americans, everything is done with just that little bit more enthusiasm than anywhere else.

Since taking over the Channelnomics brand as well, I am learning quite a lot about the American approach to all things business, and it is certainly different.

While the British are reserved, self-effacing and quite often self-deprecating, the Americans are often the opposite - confident, keen to share their viewpoints, and very very positive.  I can understand their inherant desire to whoop along with things quite often. It is just an inbuilt mechanism going back to their Spring Break days - and good on them!

I have a number of meetings plumbed in while I am over here, and I am sure I am going to be drowning in positivity - but that certainly isn't a bad thing.

There seems to be more openness to actually attending face-to-face events over here, despite the considerable distances travelled to achieve that, with business leaders realising the importance of meeting up with and speaking to peers from across the country.

They are not afraid to share ideas and be vocal about their thoughts either, unlike their more reserved British cousins.

However the one thing that the UK channel still holds the trophy for is partying - no-one can party like the UK channel. My head after the UK Channel Awards is testament to that!


What a rip-off!

23 Jul 2014


We all hear the cries of 'Rip-off Britain' from various national newspapers and TV programs, but a recent Which? study into UK vs US pricing of IT goods proves this is indeed the case.

Us mugs here in the UK are ripped off left, right and centre. And the IT industry is one of the biggest culprits.

Take Apple, for example, which charges £1,499 for a 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro in one of its UK stores, but yet in the US it is the equivalent of £1,144 after tax. And we all know that iTunes is far more expensive over here than it is in the US. For the SAME service.

But let me not stop at Apple, the whole damn lot of them are at it.

And not just the tangible items either.

For example, an annual subscription to Adobe's Creative Cloud imaging software (according to the study) will cost over £200 more in the UK, and other services such as Amazon Prime and Spotify are also more expensive.

Microsoft are also guilty of charging over £150 more for a copy of Office in the UK. The list goes on.

When asked why, some of the companies told Which? that it was because of 'different operating costs in each country', or 'exchange rates', 'local import laws' and 'taxes'.

But interestingly others declined to comment, including Google.

The irony is not lost when 'tax' is cited as a reason for ripping the good people of the UK off, when some of these companies have been found sadly lacking when it comes to paying their fair share of tax in this country.

I would love to hear all of these firms' explanations for this phenomenon. I have wondered about it for years.

Countdown to Channel Awards entry deadline

13 Jun 2014

Tables of guests and industry luminaries at the 2011 CRN Channel Awards

As the 80s song goes - It's the Final Countdown!

Well not quite, but there ARE JUST DAYS until the Channel Awards deadline runs out and I really don't want anyone to miss out this year.

Now in their 21st year, the CRN Channel Awards is a firm fixture in the industry diary and an excuse for a good knees up, as well as reward and celebrate success from the past 12 months.

We have 24 categories to choose from, so there really will be something there to suit everyone whether they are a reseller, distributor or vendor.

All I would stress is to read the criteria and entry top tips carefully ( they can be found here) and when writing an entry, bear in mind that the judges will be reading thousands of words in each category, and to be in with a shortlist chance, the entry has to really stand out.

Wow them with facts, figures, testimonials; and if you are a vendor, make the entry relevant to the UK market - the judges do not want to read generic entries that have no relevance to CRN's audience.

I would also advise sticking to the word count - we really are cracking down hard on entries that go way over this year - it is not fair to those companies that do play by the rules. We will ONLY read up to 1,200 words of each entry, all the rest will be ignored.

For those entering the 'big three'  - Vendor, Reseller and Distributor of the year - be prepared if shortlisted to travel to London for the second Judging Day in October to present your case face-to-face in front of the judges.  Again, you MUST be prepared to come in on the day, or there is little point in entering.

I am always amazed when people act surprised that they have to come in on the day - it has been this way now for four years so it is nothing new.

Apart from that, lecture over! Best of luck with your entries and I look forward to reading them!

To find out more about the awards, categories and criteria - click here.





Ukuleles coming to a workplace near you?

20 May 2014


Those of you in the industry who know me, know how passionate I am about the ukulele.

I've endured the laughs, the p*** taking and the bemused expressions, but it could be that I actually will have the last laugh.

I have been playing for about 19 months now and it literally has taken over my life - the ukulele community is fantastic and is growing at a rate of knots with events all over the country. It is a really social little instrument, and great fun.

The thing that annoys me the most is when you mention a ukulele someone always mentions George Formby and cleaning windows - aarrgh! I have to restrain myself sometimes to not punch them in the eye.

I am in a local ukulele band and we have an absolute blast. And there is not a Formby song in sight. We turn up at local guitar open mic nights and by the end of it have converted a few more people to the magic of the uke! Plus the bookings are starting to trickle in so we must be doing something right.

Non-ukulele people would be surprised to hear the songs that can be played on the humble uke - in fact it can pretty much play anything. And above all else it is FUN. And that fun is contagious.

Thanks to Ant and Dec playing the instruments on one of their Saturday night shows recently, the ukulele teacher who taught them a few chords, has popped up with an idea to bring the ukulele to the corporate environment in teambuilding 'workshops' through her company Musivate.

Her theory is that people who make music together will get on - and that is absolutely true. You cannot argue when you are jamming - apart from over the song that you want to play next.

I know another group of ukulele fanatics that go around schools all over the UK teaching the kids to play the ukulele too and it is very popular.

I'm not sure how I would feel though if I were at an IT conference either in the UK or abroad, and saw industry people in suits all strumming away on ukuleles - it would be a bit of a surreal experience with two worlds colliding, and probably not in a good way!

But how can I argue with anything that promotes the ukulele and its general brilliance?

Manic months

06 May 2014

A bottle of champagne being opened

There has been so much going on behind the scenes at CRN which I cannot tell you yet, but soon!

It may (or may not) have been noticeable that I've not been the most visible person in the editorial team over the past couple of months, but that is because I've been frantically writing reports, crunching figures, judging awards and my newest venture, creating PowerPoint presentations!

And in typical CRN fashion, everything I'm working towards is happening in May. No such thing as spreading the load - why would you?

My first venture into the world of PowerPoint will be this Thursday at the CRN Channel conference on mobility.

We have conducted research of both end users and VARs to find out the appetite for mobility solutions and how firms are allocating budgets to invest in the technology.

If you have a desire to see me nervously doing my thing on the stage, please come along on Thursday in central London. More information can be found here.

I have to warn you, my presentations may differ slightly from the ones you are used to! Or they may not!

My manic month ends with CRN Fight Night on 22 May, and I will definitely be celebrating with a gin or two!

So if you have been trying to get hold of me, or need to speak to me about something, please do bear with me, it will be normal service again soon!

Alanis Morissette missed an irony

09 Apr 2014

A sheet of paper reading blah blah blah

Teenagers of the 90s will recall the famous 'Ironic' song by Alanis Morissette, where some of the points made in the song were not ironic at all.

However, I've been spending the past few days at Ingram Micro's global Cloud Summit and i cannot hold back anymore.

It has been a great event for me - plenty of networking with genuine VARs without any PR people breathing down my neck and making sure I didn't talk to anyone without their say so. Absolute bliss.

So before I launch into my latest tirade, thanks to Ingram UK for including me in proceedings like a normal human being, rather than a journalist who is going to just distort the truth and put words into people's mouths.

It is nice to feel trusted.

However, part of being able to mingle with the attendees from all over the US and Europe is the fact that I get real feedback and it affirms exactly what I make of things too.

My main gripe, is that at events like these, and ideed at CRN's own events, people get up on stage and tell channel partners that they must adapt to the to certain models (in this case the cloud) or die, change the way they do business, completely reevaluate their company structure and culture and think about their customers' needs more.

Indeed a report I wrote for CRN recently - The IT Buyers Guide - says the same thing (bar adapting the cloud model or die). Customers are more savvy and are not interested in sales people pitching products in technical speak, or trying to impress them with accreditations. They want to know how they can use IT to better their business and how much it is going to save them.

It is all about knowing your customers and treating them like human beings.

Fair play to the partners in the room, they always take it all in their stride, make notes and nod accordingly. 

However the irony starts when vendors get on stage.

It doesn't matter who the vendor is, in most instances they just go into a massive pitch for their latest product offerings and how wonderful they are and how such and such a partner is making bazillions by selling this product etc etc. Pitch, pitch, pitch.

No explanation of why this product will help partners, how it will benefit their business, what it actually means for them in terms of investment and time spent getting to know the product - just slides and slides of figures and words that don't mean much at all.

It drives me mad.

In fact I would say this shows a disrespect for partners actually. Because the same vendor that has been lecturing partners to change their business models, is actually unprepared to change their own and actually think about how they can promote their messaging to their partners in a way that actually engages them and helps them.

I don't know who is to blame for this. Over-zealous marketing teams that think nothing is more important than the company mantra, or badly informed PR decisions. 

Either way it needs addressing. And quickly.

Because the more I see this happening, the more obvious it becomes that perhaps many vendors really don't understand their own channel partners very much at all.

Now, isn't that Ironic?

OK, I've been to a women in IT thing....

07 Apr 2014

An angry man shouting at a laptop

I knew there was a reason I didn't attend any 'Women in' sessions in the UK.

So perhaps the US wasn't the best place to actually start as they tend to be a little more emotional than us Brits.

I actually had to leave the session - entitled 'Women of the Cloud', because I couldn't take any more.

I still believe that by drawing attention to the fact that you are in a 'minority' group within an industry - you stand out for the wrong reasons.

It is a fact that women were just not that interested in IT 20 years ago - so it is no wonder that they are not that prevalent in top positions in the present day.

It is changing. Slowly but surely as the younger generations begin to take more of an interest. It is not something that will happen overnight.

Then we come to some of the things that were said.

One person said women were jealous of other women in power. That is absolutely not the case in any situation I've been in.

Others said women supress their personality in the workplace, because they feel they will be penalised for it.

Only if you are an annoying idiot that everyone wants to slap should you supress your personality - in fact I can think of a few people I've met down the years that really should supress themselves more.That goes for men as well as women.

Another likened the way women in IT are treated and made to feel about progressing their career to a women in an abusive relationship. "It takes seven attempts to leave an abusive marriage, and the same amount of times to leave a job you are unhappy in."


Then we were advised to mentor a woman and help them progress in their careers. Well, if they are capable and good at their jobs, of course people are going to help them progress their careers. If you are male or female and crap at your job, nobody is going to want you around. It really doesn't matter what gender you are. 

I went in there, really hoping that my mind would be changed about this whole subject, when in fact my biggest fears were reaffirmed.

Women are not doing themselves any favours by having these closed sessions.....

I just don't want to attend one again.



Views - both channel related and everyday life observations - from CRN Editor Sara Yirrell. If you have any gossip that you would like to share with me please do get in touch and also we would love to see your comments at the end of the blog.

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