Here at CyberCoders we speak with a lot of tech companies, established as well as startups, about the problem they face finding qualified tech talent. In fact, according to a recent survey by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), a majority of tech industry leaders anticipate challenges in finding and retaining qualified candidates over the next five years.
That challenge, and the solution, is a bit more complicated than just education and training. Shelly Palmer, CEO of the Palmer Group, recently wrote a blog post stating there’s “a war for talent unlike anything I’ve seen in my career.”
The Palmer Group builds end-to-end solutions that enable clients to use machine learning, data scientific tools and data-driven decision-making. We asked Palmer to walk us through why it’s so difficult to find qualified engineers.
Your recent post, I’d pay you $500,000 a year but you can’t do the work, shines a light on the issue companies are having finding top tech talent. What’s going on?
Simply put, it’s a seller’s market. If you have the skills to work for us, you have the skills to work for Google, Facebook, Apple, Square, Amazon, etc. or to start your own thing. Normal companies simply can’t compete. It’s not just the money, it’s the environment, the network, the work itself and the stepping stone to the next “gig.” Put all of that together and the best of the best have too many options and none of them are awesome for SMB or even Global Megacorps looking for A-list tech talent.
What makes it so difficult for companies like yours to find engineers with the specific in-demand skills sets you’re looking for?
The demand for engineers is so great, and the market is so willing to overpay, that it is very hard to find an engineer with compensation expectations that match their skill levels. People are calling themselves React engineers who have read a few blog posts about React and think they can fake it. There are some organizations where you can fake it, ours is not one of them. It boils down to supply and demand. There simply are not enough engineers to go around.
You raise some issues with how the “GitHub recruiting pipeline” works, can you explain that?
Github is one of the few true meritocracies left on the Internet. If you create code that people care about, everyone knows. Facebook, Google and other big tech companies offer all kinds of open source code on Github and they have created wonderful communities of engineers around them. As people modify and adapt (fork) open source code from big tech, the engineers at big tech can easily see which engineers are ready to become big tech employees and which still need time to train.
So once engineers learn to code with open source language used by the top-tier tech companies and share it on GitHub, they potentially get recruited?
Once you get on the radar of top tier tech, you have a very good chance of being recruited.
You write that you’ve lost “perfect candidates” to companies like Google and Facebook. Are the big tech companies where most prospective employees are looking to land?
We’ve lost great candidates to top tier tech during the interview process. But I would not reduce my answer to such a broad generalization. There are many reasons people choose to work for a company. This is just a special moment in time. In about a year, we will start to see more engineers who are well versed in React, Redux, Reason, Unity, etc. Everyone is starting to get good at it.
What can companies do to keep from losing their tech talent?
I don’t think that’s the right question. You can’t “keep” engineers. You can offer them opportunities to work with amazing people on amazing projects and hope that some super talented ones will sign-on for a while. The gig economy is real. Most of the superstars we have are on their way to founding their own companies. Some are taking a break from serial entrepreneurship. Others have “their own reasons” for wanting to be part of our team.
How will you continue your search for the “perfect candidate?”
I have truly been surprised at how focused we’ve had to become on HR and recruiting. Talent has always been an important part of our business, but I’ve never seen competition for top talent like this. It’s worse than trying to find a reasonably priced rental apartment in midtown – by the time you get to see it … they’ve already rented it to someone else.
The great news is that the reason we have so many job openings is that we are expanding at a remarkable (yet, controlled) pace. Our strategic advisory practice and our solutions group are focused on helping our clients manage their businesses in the age of exponentialism – so it makes sense that we have to deal with exponential change with our own business as well. We are very proud of our engineering team, they are awesome! Our only problem is attracting more awesome engineers.