Three reasons not to love the new TEKsystems Community App

Unhappy Emoji on iPhone

I contracted through TEKsystems at Rentalcars.com (now Booking.com) for all of 2018 and 2019 and had a great experience working with Olivia Dean. At some stage, my email has made its way onto a TEKsystems distribution list and this week, I received an email from TEKsystems about their new community app.

Apparently there are three reasons to love it! Let’s take a look:

  1. Search all open job opportunities
  2. Stay current and up-to-date
  3. Access career resources and guidance

Searching all open job opportunities

The first feature of the app is described as follows:

“Search thousands of job opportunities. Customise your job search filters to find exactly what you’re looking for. Save jobs or apply directly from your phone, so you’ll never miss an opportunity.”

Sounds good, what’s the problem?

The issue here is that TEKsystems don’t have a monopoly on the job market. I’ve been contracting in Manchester and London since 2012 and working as a developer with clients from all over the world since 2008. In that time, I’ve maybe dealt with them a handful of times via email/telephone. The contract with Rentalcars was my first and only face-to-face interaction with them, my only interview in a TEKsystems role and the only position in which I’ve contracted for them.

Logging into the app this evening and searching for contracts within 50 miles of Manchester I can see…2 jobs that contain the search term “developer”. One is for a UX development role in Chester, the other for an Android development role in Sheffield.

Speaking of UX, I attempted to tap the job to learn more about it but have sent it to my consultant…that wasn’t what I wanted to do!

What about searching for jobs on Indeed?

Comparatively, I just searched Indeed without downloading an app, without logging in and, using the same search term, found 22 contract roles containing the word “developer” within 50 miles of Manchester. I even filtered job postings to just those listed in the past 2 weeks.

Why would I use the app to find work when the listings are so limited?

Stay current and up-to-date

So, this feature is described as follows:

Upload your CV, and update your profile with new skills, interests whilst on the move. Each and every update helps us match you to new opportunities while highlighting your value to our clients.

OK, maybe this is more-appealing in other lines of work but for engineers in tech roles, the positives here are pretty limited. Any interview I’ve attended in the past 8 years or so has basically been an opportunity to review my skills, check that I’m probably not a complete nightmare to work with and to talk briefly about a recent project.

Maybe if your C.V. has a load of soft skills that are hard to quantify then this makes more sense but I’d guess for most roles employers just want to know what you can do and how long you’ve been doing it.

  • I’ve been a KS3 teacher working in state schools since 2013.
  • I’ve been a chartered engineer since 2012, specialising in high-frequency damping.
  • I’ve been an orthopaedic surgeon, specialising in upper-limb trauma since 2010.
  • I’ve been an estate agent, specialising in commercial lettings in Greater Manchester since 1994.
  • While we’re on the subject, here’s what I’ve been doing since then that shows I play well with others…

You get the idea. If I learn a new skill, being able to add it to my C.V. on the go seems like a real fringe benefit and I honestly don’t recall ever being asked about my interests at a job interview.

What about a recruiter matching me with a role?

Well, we’ve already identified that TEK Systems don’t have a monopoly on the job market so the recruiter is already limited by the jobs they have available.

Additionally, they’re incentivised to place people in a role so it’s in their best interest to do this for the candidate as opposed to putting the onus on the candidate to figure out what the hell some nameless hiring manager at a “market-leading company” that the recruiter “can’t name from the time being” wants from their next hire.

Again, this doesn’t strike me as much of a benefit at all.

Access career resources and guidance

Feature #3 is described as:

Help land your dream job by exploring our career resources hub and find all of the information you need about careers, interviewing, jobs and more.

Hmmm…this is all a bit vague. Let’s take a look at the app to see what’s actually going on.

* A few minutes pass while I log in to the app, get an error message for some reason and then have to login again…

Right. In fairness, this section was actually pretty good but let’s be honest it’s just a link to the TEK Systems blog. There’s some good content on there, but it’s not especially clear who the audience is. There’s content for hiring managers, for people wanting to get into tech roles, for industry journalists (I assume they exist and that they’d be the only people who might want to know that TEK Systems is now operating in Sweden…), content for people within organisations responsible for making them more Agile (usually called something glitzy like Digital Transformation Architect).

So…will I be back to read any of this? Personally, I won’t. I’ve got a limited amount of attention and while there might be some gold in here, it’s too deeply buried.

The bit of the app that is actually quite useful

In spite of the three issues above being highlighted as the main selling points of the app, the one useful thing it does is present all of the information about my current contract on the home screen.

Now, my contract with them ended back in January 2020 but it displays that along with three key contacts at TEK should I need to get hold of them. I can see their names, their profile pictures (I like this a lot myself), their emails and their phone numbers. TEK has made this really easy and I’m happy to give them credit for it.

However, did it need to be in an app? What if I haven’t downloaded it? Shouldn’t I still be able to access this information easily? Furthermore, why wasn’t *this* promoted in the email you sent out?

What problem does the app actually solve?

My aim with this article wasn’t to rubbish TEK Systems. I had a good experience working with them, especially Olivia, and as recruiters go I’d recommend them both to hiring managers and candidates.

My issue is just with this app. I feel like it’s really missed the mark personally.

I work with app developers and have been known to build websites that occasionally function as mobile apps. Building anything that can be downloaded from the Apple/Play Store is not cheap. Given that the UX of the app is actually pretty smooth, I’d be surprised if this cost anything less than £50K to build and I’d guess that true cost could easily be much closer to £100K.

What do we have for that?

  • A limited job search function that I can get for free on Indeed/LinkedIn
  • The ability to update my C.V. (but only the one that TEK have) on the go
  • Access to the TEK systems blog which I can get to via their website
  • Contact info that while useful, I’d probably already have in my phone or email address book.

My biggest gripe though is why this had to go into an app. What aspect of the UX requires that it exist in an app an not just be available through your website?

What would have been more useful?

Let’s assume TEK got away incredibly lightly and this app cost them £50K to build and launch. What would have happened if they’d spent that on market insights instead?

Spending a bit of time and money on researching the market could have told them that there were certain trends that could be capitalised on. For example, there’s an increasing need for data scientists as companies start to figure out how to mine their customer data and use machine learning to provide a better experience for their customers.

In my own experience, there’s a huge demand for testers, user researchers, UX designers, Agile coaches and DevOps wizards. There’s also a shift away from dedicated web apps and towards progressive web apps that allow websites to function like apps but for the experience to be relatively seamless across devices, browsers and operating systems.

TEK could have helped nudge candidates towards some of these expanding technologies by providing them with market insights that they probably already have access to.

What might market insights from TEK Systems have looked like?

  • “We’ve seen a sharp decline in the number of PHP roles in the past 5 years…”
  • “React has been on the up since 2015 and has become the dominant JavaScript framework. It isn’t going anywhere for the time being…”
  • “Java developers remain the top earners, typically seeing rates of over £700/day with some of our banking clients but Python developers have seen their rates climbing steadily in recent years”

Why are market insights valuable to a developer?

This kind of information is like gold dust to me as a contractor as it helps me to steer my learning in the direction that the market is going. I only have a limited amount of time and attention so it helps to be told from industry experts that I don’t need to worry about a flashy new framework and can instead focus on getting really good at one I already know.

Could market insights be valuable to a hiring manager?

As a hiring manager, I imagine it would help to know that React developers are more in-demand (and therefore more expensive) than Angular developers but that it’s worth paying the premium because React is more widely-used and therefore easier to support.

What else could TEK have spent their cash on?

An email autoresponder sending out monthly market insights would have been a hell of a lot cheaper than £50K. So let me throw some additional ideas out there:

  • Donating a big chunk of it to charity. Great publicity and a good cause.
  • Setting up a grant to fund minorities in tech. More great publicity and another good cause. Tech isn’t completely overrun by white men with degrees but I’d say we make up the majority.
  • Educating smaller companies on how they can use contractors as an ad-hoc workforce. More jobs, more productivity, more income for candidates, more commission for recruiters.
  • Paying for tech meetups that aren’t obvious recruitment fairs. COVID has put the brakes on this kind of thing but I stand by the concept. A Java meetup night where you fund the beer and pizza can generate a lot of goodwill and expand your roster of candidates and hiring managers.
  • Paying your candidates to upskill. Maybe a bit controversial but if you know you can more-easily place a React developer than a JavaScript developer, why not help them to upskill and reap the rewards of a hefty commission when you do?
  • Smaller commissions when you place a candidate. More money for the candidate, which makes you more appealing, or a lower cost to the end client which makes you more competitive.
  • Better-training for your recruitment agents. I’ve had recruiters ask me if I can use JavaScript because I’d abbreviated it to JS on my C.V. I’ve also had them ask if I can write HTML, or if I knew how to use CSS as well as SASS. I’ve had some that didn’t know that WordPress was written in PHP and some that have asked if I could write JavaScript or just React. It gets a bit tiring sometimes.

Is your agency launching an app?

If so…best of luck! I’m sure there’s probably a business case for some fringe cases but as explained, I think TEK Systems have missed the mark with theirs and the money could have been better spent elsewhere.

Apologies to the team that grafted to get the app launched. I hope I’m the one that’s way off the mark and that it’s a raging success for you 🙂