Young IT Talent Petras Šlekys: “Youth Opportunities in the IT Sector are Limitless”

In January, IT courses organized by the National LGBT rights organization LGL started, which will help young people under the age of 29 who are not studying and cannot find a job for a long period of time to find employment in the IT sector. The courses are implemented as part of the project “Direction Employment”, funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment. The courses are facilitated by Code Academy. Today, with one of the course lecturers, Petras Šlekys, who cooperates with international IT companies around the world, we talk about the prospects of young Lithuanian people in the IT sector. The interviewee reveals how young people with fewer opportunities might achieve success in the professional field.

Could you tell us about your IT experience and work with Microsoft, Google, Mozilla and IBM?

My professional career in large corporations began at Microsoft Lithuania, where I was a student partner. I had to communicate with educational institutions and young companies to introduce the latest Microsoft technologies and advise on their implementation. Here I got acquainted with the pioneers of the IT community in Lithuania at that time and professionals in the field – they generously shared advice and joined the activities of the first Lithuanian IT start-ups. Later, I represented Mozilla in the Baltics for a long time and went abroad to contribute to the company’s innovation department. The company relies heavily on volunteer work, with both programmers and translators contributing to joint projects such as Firefox. This is a great opportunity not only for self-taught talents to gain experience, but also to find like-minded people or to find a job – I started my career at Mozilla as a volunteer.

I currently coordinate IT teams in one of the oldest and largest IT corporations, IBM. Although I work abroad, I often have to collaborate with colleagues from IBM’s headquarters in Lithuania, who with their programming skills contribute to large-scale global projects – from autonomous shipbuilding to the deployment of artificial intelligence in mobile devices. Just a week ago, colleagues in Lithuania developed and introduced a new car purchase system for the giant Audi, and team members in the United States improved the platform for tennis tournaments, which generates and displays the ball’s projection in real-time on the computer screen.

© Mantas Reimeris photos

What do you think are Lithuania’s prospects in the IT sector?

Lithuanian IT services are characterized by high quality, its talent – by diligence, so we have established working relationships all over the world and plan to further develop it. The IT sector is one of those industries that is not geographically limited. Therefore, taking into account the current situation in the world and the fact that the IT sector has not been affected by mobility constraints, Lithuania’s prospects in the IT sector are extremely favorable. We are energetic and although our country is small, a number of international companies are considering opening an IT department in Lithuania. Both the largest organizations and various projects often take into account Lithuanian talents. Every year, we observe the rapid growth of the industry, so looking to the future, we plan to look for new colleagues who will have the opportunity to contribute to both local and global projects.

What career opportunities do young people have in the IT sector?

– One of the advantages of the IT sector is that with a relatively small investment, everyone can create significant added value for business and the community. With little investment, young people can create interesting and widely used products. This opens up unlimited opportunities to create your own companies, systems and products, to develop and evolve ideas, and to join the well-developed IT community in Lithuania. Although this community is not particularly large, it is well known in the world. Starting to work in it opens wide opportunities to work in Lithuanian and foreign companies. I am convinced that a large number of young people who are now starting in the field of IT will have great opportunities both to develop their own projects and to join other projects under development.

What qualities do young people need in order to establish themselves in the IT sector? What is the significance of education, motivation, portfolio of work examples?

– Probably, as with any job, the key recipe for success is enthusiasm. It is a desire to learn, improve and create added value. IT often has no traditional limitations – the importance of higher education is lower than in traditional industries. People with both higher education and self-acquired skills can work in IT. Therefore, the most important thing is to be motivated, to learn and to be able to develop ideas. A portfolio of work examples helps to assess this. Motivation is also revealed by a proactively demonstrated desire to work in a particular company, an understanding of its work and goals, and attentiveness.

What is your experience with equal opportunities practices in IT companies? How do IT companies seek to involve minority employees?

– All the IT companies I have to work for provide equal opportunities to individuals, regardless of their individual characteristics. IT companies invest heavily in enabling all employees to work without discrimination and unleash their potential. Also, companies often invest in educational programs, giving the general public the opportunity to learn, providing resources such as computers, and also opening the door to internships impartially. This is an active aim to ensure equal opportunities for development and to contribute to the activities of companies for all people.

Frequent IT work methodologies point to one of the guarantees of a company’s success – diversified teams, which employ individuals with different experiences and attitudes. IT companies are working hard to involve people from different groups in society with different experiences, different ways of thinking. In this way, we seek to expand our approach, discover new ways to solve problems. Even in the old days of working for Microsoft, the team was led by a medic, F-1 broadcast commentator Kristijonas Kaikaris, and half of the team consisted of women. In the current team, we have colleagues from 6 very different countries with a wide range of hobbies and activities. Most companies in the field of IT make a determined effort to invest in diversity, create equal opportunities for talent to join and develop a supportive and tolerant culture at work.

EEA-and-Norway_grants@4xThe project “Direction Employment” is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment.