Opportunities and challenges abound as technology increasingly affects the economy, businesses and the job market. One reality remains constant: the technology talent gap. An article in CIO magazine found that the demand for tech talent will continue to outpace supply, and that the talent shortage has evolved from an inconvenience to a significant business problem for employers.
Beyond the current talent gap, many future jobs relating to technology don’t even exist yet. Therefore, people currently in the work force as well as the next generation of IT professionals will need to consider potential emerging technologies and what the job market will look like in two, five or even ten years. There are, however, some things candidates can do to address these challenges.
“I don’t think there’s ever time to remain static. There are a lot of people in positions now who don’t really think about how their job will evolve five years from now, based on emerging technologies. It takes planning,” said Bill Courtney, Director of Recruiting at TDK Technologies. “In order to maintain viability and job security, people need to do a little self-analysis as well as industry analysis.”
Technology jobs continue to spread into increasingly diverse industries and to places well beyond Silicon Valley. Glassdoor, a research organization focused on the labor market, indicates a growing number of employers in finance, retail, manufacturing, and other traditional industries are creating more tech roles. The report also found that changing demographics, including an aging population, will alter the workforce significantly.
One of the unfortunate realities of the technology revolution is that it attracts activity by those who want to take unfair advantage of it. That raises the need for expertise in security, including network and data security. Courtney has seen an increase in the need for people with security backgrounds that involve cybersecurity, network security, intrusion detection, and penetration testing. Industry surveys also say cloud security architecture skills are among the key IT security skills needed in coming years as companies ramp up hiring.
“Technology specialists can go out and try to get ahead of that trend. When it comes to security, a lot of companies focus on specific certifications. For example, someone who has a CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) certification is worth their weight in gold. It’s a great future for those who have that credential,” Courtney said.
Technologies gaining more widespread use include big data and predictive analytics. Role titles have evolved -- from reporting analyst to data analyst to data scientist -- where large, seemingly disparate data sets are analyzed to guide organizational paths, both short-term and into the future. Many businesses have incredible amounts of data at their fingertips, but don’t know what to do with it.
“When this technology was just emerging, we had to look for people with experience working on large data sets. But as large-scale data analytics becomes more commonplace and companies are seeing the benefit that comes from that analysis, universities are adding data science coursework in their academic programs. So, we began looking for people who have some level of education or certification in that area as well,” Courtney said. “From a conceptual standpoint, if they don’t have any practical experience in big data and predictive analytics, they may at least have foundational knowledge from academia.”
A fundamental issue in the technology employment market is that many applicants have gaps in their skillsets. Many applicants present good technology credentials; others highlight the ability to communicate clearly. Too often, it’s one or the other, but the reality is that the software development life cycle is interconnected and collaborative.
“We see people who might have great technology skills, but are lacking in their ability to communicate clearly to non-technical people, or vice versa,” Courtney said. “If a person can’t build a piece of software that works, it doesn’t matter how well they communicate. If someone can develop anything but can’t communicate effectively with their customer, they will always fall short of their desired result. For someone who has good communication skills and can also develop solid software solutions, the sky’s the limit.”
Emerging technologies also have created emerging attitudes about the workplace. Often, companies are looking for people who will come to their organization and hit the ground running. In those cases, Courtney believes applicants should think about their own ongoing development and act to address areas requiring attention to meet such expectations.
But, increasingly, companies are developing their own teams from the grass roots level, especially when the number of candidates to fill critical job functions is low. “These are the companies that want to invest in their future. It requires a certain amount of financial investment and an investment in mentors who are currently doing the jobs to help nurture new team members,” Courtney said.
Such companies are trying to hire talented people, grow them and provide a work environment that is enticing to enhance retention. That often includes a casual dress code along with amenities like gaming areas, ice cream machines, and sleeping rooms.
“These days, it is not just about compensation. Most of these skilled people can get paid whatever they want, within reason. But they are looking for a cool place to work and cool technologies to work on,” Courtney said. “The idea is to give them space, make sure they get every chance to be successful and avoid forcing them into a mold. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing them to a company with a more exciting culture and modern vision.”
Courtney added another complexity; there can be as many as four different generations in the workforce now. With such a broad age spectrum, accommodating everyone is a challenge. But he’s also reminded of a quote from Simon Sinek about motivation who said “Great companies don't hire skilled people and motivate them. They hire already motivated people and inspire them.” People are either motivated or they are not. Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you'll be stuck with whoever's left. That may be especially relevant when considering the skills gap in the tech industry.