An Interview With Julie Mills

Julie is the CEO of Train to and Support to, with over 25 years’ experience in the industry, she has held senior management positions at BT, MCI WorldCom and Nine Group. Since starting the company in 2013 she has been instrumental in making Train to Win the preferred training and people development partner for the channel, working with carriers, service providers and resellers of all shapes and sizes.

Talk of the telecoms skills gap is rife within the industry. With all industries noting the unceasing evolution of technologies causing a disparity in skills between varying generations within the workplace, the issue is perhaps most acute within a business landscape where technology is inherent, meaning it cannot and should not be ignored by the channel.

With today’s typical workplace changing at an unprecedented rate, we spoke to the founder and CEO of Telecoms specialist training consultancy, Train to With over 25 years in the industry, Julie Mills specialises in training and people development.

Experts have observed that the future of the workplace is going to look very different from how it looks now. What changes do you think the telecoms industry will see in the next 5 years?

If we look back over the last five years we can see the evolution of our industry speed up in a way that we could have only hoped for say 10 years ago and this pace of change is only set to increase.

The shut-down of PSTN will naturally shift everything to IP. But unfortunately, with the UK lagging behind the rest of the world in the high speed access market, as Fibre infrastructure becomes more widely available, I expect we will see a consolidation of access technologies across the UK.

In addition to this I’d anticipate that we will see widespread adoption of UC with more flexible working and remote working becoming the norm.

What impact do you think the influx of millennial employees has had on the workplace landscape?

Generally really positive. Millennials bring with them an increased digital capability, which can balance out a lack of commercial know-how.

While they are typically impatient to climb the ladder, commitment to a long term position within a single company is not something which millennials prioritise, constantly seeking the next new challenge and the value of face to face communication is something which, for a millennial, has to be learned, as many default to digital. All this means managers have had to re-assess and adapt their management styles, often for the better.

How do you think this will impact the channel?

I see this as both a huge opportunity but significant threat to the channel. The workplace is evolving, young people today are born into technology where other generations will adapt. The workforce must cater for all generations and develop skill sets where they can. I think we will see the workforce place more emphasis on integration of services and this will be down to channel partners to deliver. Currently there is so much choice to achieve the same result, channel partners need more than just the product tool kit, they need the full solution to deliver the customer experience we all hear about.

Partners need to recognise and focus on professional services, managed services and ultimately, customer needs. We all hear so much about the products and the next new acronym but how much focus is there on training end users? Developing training services that actually work for the customer both on the correct technical level and relevance to the role of the individual.

Ultimately technology power houses such as Amazon have built their reputation on providing an exceptional customer experience and unless the channel can match or exceed this then I think it is inevitable that companies like this will play a significant part in the new digital comms space.

What do you think the digital skills gap means for the UK telecoms industry?

The telecoms industry is in an interesting space when you consider the impact of the digital skill gap. For many businesses, the skills gap mostly exists within middle and upper management due to people needing to acquire new digital skills. When you look at this in contrast to the digital native, each generation presents different skills. The key challenge these digital natives face is generally a lack of understanding of how the technology relates to a business and how it is consumed within the business.

Other industries such as fintech have been quicker to embrace digital technologies and we’re starting to see a number of digital disruptors such as online banks (for example companies like N26 or Revelut) really making waves in the financial tech space.

So why is it that, in this sense telecoms seems to be lagging behind?

It seems to me in general our industry has not fully embraced a digital first approach and I believe the root cause of this is largely the digital skills gap that exists with consumers of telecoms and UC services.

What impact do you feel it could have on channel partners and their end customers?

I think the impact of the digital skills gap on the channel and their customers is potentially very significant. As the market and purchasing decision also becomes a more digital journey, it’s important that the channel adapts its go-to-market model to ensure it remains relevant. We are already seeing a more digital approach arrive from large US players and I think that the channel needs to take note and adapt accordingly.

I think another interesting change will come when we look at contractual; customer ownership. Most large US operators expect to own the customer contract, yet the model in the UK has always been the channel partner retains that. As processes become more digital and customer-centric it will be interesting to see how that change pans out.

In terms of end customers, I’m not sure that the users today are ready for a fully digital journey and learning experience. With such diverse demographics in the work place a digital only approach is never going to work and our experience to date suggests that face to face training and learning is here to stay, albeit using the necessary digital technologies to support this learning where needed.

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