At First There Was Nothing, And Then Great Tech Talent Exploded

Posted on January 8, 2014. Filed under: Career Management, Executive Job Search, Job Market Trends, Job Search Tips, Work Issues | Tags: |

tech talentIn a previous post, “Is Your Resume Ready to Face the Tech Talent War?“, I talked about the ongoing war for tech talent and discussed the finger-pointing and blame game that has been going around. I also looked at how tech candidates can position their IT resumes to take advantage of this “war.”

As a follow-up to that post, I’d like to delve a little more into some of the ways that this issue of lack of talent could be addressed better within the U.S.

1. We need to stop confusing knowing how to use a computer with “knowing computers.”

There seems to be this misconception that today’s youth “know computers” when in actuality they most often just know how to use them (meaning they know how to use software) well. As a result, we tend to think we are raising tech-savvy kids. But the kids we are raising are generally not prepared to understand how the back-end of an organization is run, much less even how to troubleshoot basic hardware problems.

High school isn’t getting them close, and college isn’t either. In my post, “Why Our Programming Skills Need an Upgrade,” I cite an article, “Sorry, College Grads, I Probably Won’t Hire You,” by Kirk McDonald, president of PubMatic, an ad tech company in Manhattan. In that article, he cites lack of knowledge of basic programming code and inability to understand the processes in place to run the organization smoothly as big factors in why our college computer science programs are falling short.

So it is clear: Using the tool and knowing how the tool is engineered and works in relation to the whole system are not the same things.

2. Talent is more than a vocabulary lesson.

As a career services professional and resume writer who specializes in working with tech clients, I can honestly say that perhaps no other area is as much enveloped in its own vocabulary as in the tech fields, from IT to engineering to medical to manufacturing.

But much like my earlier point, knowing the terms and using them are not the same thing. And I find that much like religion, a lot of people talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. As I mentioned in my post, “In 2014 Tech Job Market, Ignorance Is Not Bliss,” companies are looking more for strategic business partners than for IT firefighters. And even those that collaborate with IT can no longer claim ignorance. It’s time to move away from tossing around the vocabulary to developing real talent that can understand how technology affects business.

3. We could be suffering from a case of mistaken identity.

At a time when good jobs have been few, the tech skyline has seemed awfully bright. As a result, a lot of people are drawn to it. Unfortunately, the talent it is drawing is not prepared for what industry is demanding. As I’ve already covered, understanding of programming code and IT strategic business partnership are two big needs. The other is quite simple: Will the real techie please stand up?

Even companies are confused and not sure what “real techies” are looking for. As a result, they keep trying to woo candidates with cool, hip culture and a college-like atmosphere. As a result, top talent isn’t leaving, and the concept of “genius” is being rebranded…none of which really solves the problem.

Look. It’s  hard to solve a problem when you’re stuck in blame mode. But it is clear that to move forward, we need a more accurate assessment: The word “techie” has been hijacked by a culture that thinks that maneuvering through apps is the same thing as being able to run a network, and true talent has been painted into a picture that seems to exist only in Harvard dorm rooms.

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Is Your IT Resume Ready to Face the Tech Talent War?

Posted on December 27, 2013. Filed under: Job Market Trends, Job Search Tips, Personal Branding, Resumes | Tags: , , |

technical resumeAs we charge ahead into 2014, gone are the days when we would argue over whether a war for tech talent really existed. Now, it seems, the general consensus is that this war is very much alive and well and that it will only escalate as we move into the second half of the decade.

Unfortunately, that is generally where the agreement ends.

For although there seems to be a lot of talk about this war, you will find (as in most wars) a lot of confusion about what caused it and even less understanding about how to resolve it (but instead a whole lot of finger-pointing). Oddly enough, despite the cry for more strategic visioning on the part of tech candidates, there seems to be a severe lack of it on the hiring side as well.

If you scour long and hard enough, you can find all kinds of statistics, like how few people are graduating with computer science degrees and how current tech professionals are looking for corporate wonderlands. You will see calls for better hiring practices and for corporations to step up their benefits and “fun” meters.

You also will see blame placed at the foot of universities that haven’t adapted to the changing marketplace fast enough and at the foot of cultural dynamics because more women aren’t taking up technical careers. High schools are blamed for poor curriculum in the math and sciences, and U.S. parents are blamed for not encouraging their kids to focus on tech careers more.

As if that isn’t enough, we also have industry execs putting forth clarion calls for techie MBAs and companies filled with staff who all understand computer code (just enough to be dangerous) from the marketing department to the CEO. In other words, techies need to speak less Geek, while non-techies need to speak more of it [so they “in theory” can meet in the middle]. IT as a service provider is out (at least “in theory”), and IT as a strategic business partner is in (at least “in theory”).

In the meantime, while all this pontificating is going around, real, live tech candidates are wondering just what to do with their IT resumes.

Here are some tips for positioning your resume to meet the demands of this tech talent war:

  • Show, don’t tell, that you are a team player. And by “team player,” I mean successful in collaborating across business segments. Highlight experience that showcases instances of where you collaborated with various company operations and used your knowledge base to improve on those operations, not just to fix computer problems.
  • Don’t run away from service provider skills, but show that you are agile enough to use them in a strategic way. It’s great you can put the fire out, but what can you do with these skills to resolve the needs of business? Again, IT as a strategic business partner is hot right now. So you need to play along, and your resume should show that you have and will continue to do so.
  • Recognize that metrics matter…to leadership…if not to you. Often those with highly technical skills don’t track and give as much weight to the quantifiable results of their work. Instead, they would rather focus on how they accomplished such and such miracle. The problem is that leadership likes to communicate results, not necessarily the nitty-gritty. So candidates need to show both, the measurable results as well as the know-how.
  • Be forward-thinking. Companies don’t just want to know what you’ve done but how you will take that knowledge and use it to better their environments. So be innovative. Brainstorm ahead of time some ideas for improving business operations and prepare an “innovation” page that showcases those ideas.
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