Leapfrogging technology and expertise
In developing countries, the instillation of older technologies like traditional telephone service can take a long time and
be expensive. When cell coverage became widespread and technology more affordable, many people stopped considering landlines entirely. In a similar way, companies in developing countries are transforming their IT with the cloud rather than investing in on-premises infrastructure.
Conflict in Iraq has made business difficult on every level – manifesting itself in unreliable infrastructure, frequent blackouts, and unavailable technical expertise. Years of conflict have disrupted the Iraqi educational system, leaving a void in the collective skillset, and many Iraqis with options abroad have abandoned the country. Rashid and his team have found that the cloud has made outsourcing mission-critical business software and equipment possible, helping fill the skills gap for many businesses. As a result, Iraqi business leaders have been open to the model as a stabilizing force for business.
Training staff and empowering women
In Iraq, it’s exceedingly difficult for businesses to find staff with pertinent IT experience. The disruption of war has limited educational opportunities, leaving the business community behind much of the world in terms of modernization. “You cannot find technical staff easily as technology is not being taught in schools and there is no learning center where people can go and learn that kind of thing,” Rashid said.
“For example, right now we need someone to be experienced in Windows Server and Active Directory. We’re struggling to find someone with even 2-3 years’ experience. On the other hand, in another way it’s also an advantage for us because most of our competition can’t find technical staff either. When they do, they need to pay too high a salary for them, so companies rely on outsourcing to third-party IT like us.”
One way Avesta Group is addressing its staffing problem is by recruiting women. “Our culture [in the Kurdish region of Iraq] is not like some other Middle Eastern countries. Women are freer than the other parts of Iraq and surrounding countries.” Another approach they take might sound a little old-fashioned to some: training employees through an extensive apprenticeship program.
“We’re focusing on talented young people. We bring them to the company and train them. [When] we hire someone we don’t expect production from them until [they’ve been with us for] four or five months. After that, they become more knowledgeable about the business and they are able to go assist other people that have more experience. After a year, they can [help] develop apps, code, and install servers. The process takes time. We are working with them and next year they’ll become productive staff.” said Rashid.
Rashid sees a lot of value in the training available through MPN. “We’re using the training on a regular basis. Our staff is attending online and in-class training for Azure. MPN is a good resource for that, but we also need more advanced training to develop our team,” Rashid said.
Partnering with Iraqi business
Close personal relationships and trust are important to successful engagements with many Iraqi companies. Because of this, business can be made easier with the assistance of a local partner.
Rashid says that much of Avesta Group’s business efforts focus on larger Iraqi cities that are more stable, have more business activity, and show opportunity for growth. “It’s difficult to cover the whole country. You need to focus on parts of the country and grow from there.”
Even under the challenging conditions of conflict, Avesta Group have been able to grow their business and make business possible for their clients. With training materials and support from Microsoft and MPN, Avesta Group has been able to ramp up their staff and provide their clients the support they’ve needed to grow. This has led to improving the lives of many Iraqis, and providing opportunity where it didn’t previously exist.