Navigating a Post-Pandemic IT Hiring Boom
Navigating a Post-Pandemic IT Hiring Boom: How to Get Hired and Sustain a Career in Tech
Job markets in general are experiencing significant turbulence, but for many reasons, the ride for IT job seekers may be less bumpy. This is due to the tech sector’s resiliency compared to other industries. According to CBRE Labor Analytics, “Tech companies entered the pandemic with strong balance sheets and record levels of investment. This favorable financial positioning combined with the greater adaptability of tech companies to remote work and, in some cases, an increase in business demand directly resulting from the pandemic have helped to buffer the tech industry from some of the harsher impacts seen in other sectors of the American economy.”
Even with sustained high demand for skilled tech workers across many industry sectors, job seekers should be aware of several shifts in the job market, including the following:
- Accelerated turnover is expected in 2021 as the baby boomer generation moves in large numbers into retirement.
- The pandemic forced workers and employers nationwide into an ad hoc work-from-home experiment. The outcome of this trial is that hiring managers are now willing to consider talent from a much wider geographic area.
- Because hiring managers will be looking for talent from new and expanding geographies, they will, according to CBRE Labor Analytics, have a “focus on an objective, skill-based selection criteria powered by virtual assessment tools.”
How to Begin a Post-Pandemic Career in Tech
To gain insights about how to begin a career in tech, we spoke with Brett Greene, founder of New Tech Northwest, a community of more than 60,000 technologists. Greene suggests: “People who are looking for a career in tech should try to find an area that interests them — it may be blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality or robotics — and look for the companies you think you would want to work for. Go look at the job positions from those companies. Know the skill sets they’re looking for. Find a college that offers classes in which you can learn those specific skills. That is how you can create an opportunity for yourself. With focus and determination, you can write your own ticket. The good news is that there’s always going to be lots of opportunities and openings in the tech field, where it seems to continually be a job seeker’s market. There is so much demand if you have the right skill set.”
Holly Saultman, a technical recruiter with Seattle-based Prime Team Partners, says, “Smaller SaaS software companies will hire graduates or those who have completed technical certifications in areas such as software testing or UX design as a sales development representative. This is a great way to learn about the company’s products and services and the market for them. If you want to eventually transition into a technical position, get the skills and technical certifications that fit with what is in demand at the company.”
While competition for senior-level engineers is always hot, those wanting to enter the tech field will find opportunities in the areas of help desk and desktop support. As an article on the CIO website notes, “For customer-facing businesses, the help desk is an important part of running an efficient business. As the first line of defense for customer service and troubleshooting, help desk workers need to have the right technical and soft skills for the job. Robert Half Technology breaks out the role of help desk technician into three tiers [see list below], given that the job description and requirements can vary significantly based on the business.”
Skills and experience hiring managers look for:
- Tier 1: for entry-level positions that require less than two years of experience, an associate degree or coursework at a technical school
- Tier 2: for positions requiring two to four years of experience, a two-year or bachelor’s degree, and relevant work experience
- Tier 3: four or more years of experience in a help desk setting, bachelor’s degree in a related field and professional certifications
Don’t Overlook Tech Careers With Non-Tech Companies
Anyone searching for a tech position should not overlook the high demand for skilled tech workers in non-tech companies. Alan Guarino, vice chairman at Korn Ferry, stated in an interview with the International Monetary Fund, “Technology is the thread that runs across every aspect of business.” The article goes on to state, “There is high demand for data scientists, software engineers, programmers, and cloud computing experts, not just at software firms and traditional tech powerhouses like IBM and Cisco, but also in retail companies and financial firms, leading companies and municipalities to become increasingly aggressive in how they recruit new workers.”
According to Indeed Hiring Lab, “Retailers are employing more web programmers to build ecommerce sites, banks are staffing up with data scientists for auditing, and utilities are hiring computer hardware engineers to build systems to monitor energy use.”
With automation and AI continuing to be significant areas of investment and focus for business, it is important to note where those technologies are being deployed. According to “The Future of Work After COVID-19,” a report by McKinsey & Company, “Many companies deployed automation and AI in warehouses, grocery stores, call centers, and manufacturing plants to reduce workplace density and cope with surges in demand.”
When Interviewing for a Tech Position, Don’t Forget to Bring Your Soft Skills
It may come as a surprise to many job seekers — especially those who have worked diligently to develop their hard skills — that their soft skills will undergo as much scrutiny by a hiring manager as their coding capabilities. Soft skills are indeed substantive skills that are essential for team collaboration, effective communication and good leadership. A McKinsey & Company Quarterly Report reveals that “HR professionals report difficulty recruiting candidates who have the necessary soft skills for an automating world.” This presents an unexpected causation: An increasingly automated world is fueling an increase in the demand for soft skills.
Why are soft skills so important? According to Jack Phillips, Ph.D., chairman of ROI Institute, “Soft skills are critical to innovation. Just because you’ve hired a group of technically astute engineers and scientists doesn’t mean your company will be innovative and succeed in developing something groundbreaking. You must provide an environment that encourages people at all levels of the organization to openly communicate, brainstorm, collaborate, generate new ideas and make suggestions that improve your systems. A lack of soft skills among key team members can stifle innovation and reduce organizational efficiencies.”
Choosing a Career in Tech Requires a Commitment to Continuous Learning
Workplace skills are generally said to have a shelf life of about five years. Technical skills are much more perishable, with a shelf life of a mere two-and-a-half years. Because tech skills diminish more rapidly, employees must upskill regularly to stay ahead of the constant onslaught of innovation and change. To keep their companies at the forefront of innovation, many tech firms provide their employees with formal learning opportunities, which are structured in terms of learning objectives, duration, content, method and assessment. Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon tech workers to manage and anticipate their own learning needs.
Brett Greene adds, “The thing that anyone who wants to work in the tech industry must realize is you’re signing up for lifelong education. It is essential to keep your skill sets sharp. You must continue to learn and acquire new skills that will keep you current with the latest and emerging technologies. To stay current, you must take continuing education classes, so be ready for that. The community colleges here in Washington are a great place to get a tech degree or a technical certificate. They also have the continuing education classes that will keep your skills current. This is because in many cases the colleges have developed partnerships with tech companies to understand the skills they are looking for. That is part of their mission.”
For more information on technical degree programs, continuing education classes and IT certificates at the 34 Washington State Community Colleges, please contact Brianna Rockenstire, director of the Center of Excellence for Information & Computing Technology:
About the Centers of Excellence
Washington’s 11 Centers of Excellence serve as statewide liaisons to business, industry, labor and the state’s education systems for the purpose of creating a highly skilled and readily available workforce critical to the success of the industries driving the state’s economy. Each Center focuses on a targeted industry that drives the state’s economy and is built upon a reputation for fast, flexible, quality education and training programs.
Learn more at https://www.coewa.com
About the Washington State Community College System
The Washington State Community College System comprises 34 schools across the state, serving approximately 337,000 students who train for the workforce, prepare to transfer to a university, gain basic math and English skills, or pursue continuing education. The Washington state system, considered among the strongest in the country, is often cited for its excellence: In 2013, Walla Walla Community College won the Aspen Institute Prize for Community College Excellence, and Pierce College recently won the Leah Meyer Austin Award for making significant changes to the way it approaches education.
Learn more about the Washington State Community College System.