BT joins Vodafone in hunt for software talent

  • BT is set to almost double its digital division workforce by April 2024
  • The operator is on the hunt for tech-savvy talent located in the UK and India
  • Its job openings have a clear focus on digital transformation, with data, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud among the main areas to fill
  • It’s not the only telco seeking software engineers, as Vodafone and others are also on a digital skills hiring spree

BT Digital plans to hire 2,800 software professionals in the UK and India by April 2024, almost doubling the headcount of the UK operator’s digital division, as the company looks to speed up its transition towards becoming a digital service provider amid a highly dynamic battle for fresh talent in the industry. But it faces fierce competition to attract the best staff. 

BT Digital’s goal is to increase its headcount from 3,500 (as of 1 April 2022) to 6,300 employees, with most of the additional staff hired and on board within two years. 

Efforts will focus on filling “highly skilled and exciting roles” in numerous fields, including product management, software engineering, cloud, design, data, AI and machine learning, in addition to what BT dubs “agile delivery”.

Of the new staff sought, BT is aiming to hire approximately 1,000 new employees at the operator’s hub sites in the UK cities of Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Belfast, Ipswich and London. The remaining 1,800 new roles will be filled in India, at the company’s centres in Bengaluru and Gurugram.

The operator also stated that 400 of the openings will be offered to apprentices, graduates, women returning from maternity leave, and other people entering the digital sector. For this purpose, it has joined forces with organisations such as Code First Girls and 10,000 Black Interns.

“Diversity is a key focus in our recruitment efforts as we need a broad set of temperaments, mindsets and abilities to drive through the cultural transformation that comes hand in hand with this talent drive”, explained Harmeen Mehta, chief digital and innovation officer at BT.

Furthermore, she expects the Digital unit to accelerate BT’s innovation efforts and the operator’s return to growth.

The company also pledged to upskill and reskill its staff through “an expansive learning resource” development, so that its current staff is “at the cutting edge” of digital technology.

BT will not alter its financial outlook for the financial year 2023, it noted, assuring that “the incremental costs associated with these hiring plans are offset by a reduction in our reliance on subcontracted labour”.

The UK telco previously struck a £30m deal with tech workforce platform Distributed to work together on digital projects – a move it claims has given it another route to access “highly skilled tech talent to drive its ambitious transformation goals”.

The move is very similar to that of Vodafone, which announced late last year that it plans to add 7,000 software engineers to the 9,000 it already employs by 2025 through a mix of new hires and re-skilling of existing staff. Vodafone’s CTO Johan Wibergh noted during a recent media briefing in London that Vodafone is on course to have added 2,500 of the 7,000 total by March 2023. “Overall, software engineers are sought after in the market – there is a lot of competition,” said Wibergh, who also noted that, like BT, Vodafone is reducing its reliance on external consultants, integrators and other sub-contractors for its software development work – see Vodafone creates pan-European tech team, plans to add 7,000 software experts by 2025.

And, of course, there are many others chasing the same talent. Rakuten Symphony, for example, is another industry player seeking young, cloud-oriented software professionals to join its growing team. It won’t be easy for any of these companies to get the staff they need as the telecom sector shifts away from its hardware-oriented, static-technology legacy to a more cloud-oriented, automated, software-driven future: Attracting new talent has been repeatedly highlighted as a struggle in the telecom industry. 

BT created its Digital unit in April 2021 to “lead its digital innovation agenda” by creating and delivering products, services and platforms in areas it deems key, such as healthcare and data. So far it has struck a few big-name partnerships to advance its ambitions: one of which includes efforts to create a “cloud-first and AI-first strategy” with Google Cloud, while it is working with Google’s rival hyperscaler Amazon Web Services (AWS) for the migration of its internal applications to the cloud – see Now BT Digital taps AWS for IT efficiencies.

- Yanitsa Boyadzhieva, Deputy Editor, TelecomTV

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