It seems the only constant in the technology industry is change. New technologies emerge daily and companies are relentless in their search for ways to stay ahead of the curve. How can tech professionals grow their careers and secure a future in the industry amidst this continual upheaval? According to technology recruiting manager, Jeff Bond, it’s all about embracing change itself. We spoke with Jeff, who has extensive experience in the Atlanta tech market and helps companies hire tech professionals every day, about how professionals can flourish in the market today—and in the future.
Q: The tech job market has always been very competitive. How is it now compared to five years ago?
Jeff Bond: The biggest change in the last five years has been the ever-growing increase in demand for talent. In September 2018, the US unemployment rate dropped to 3.7%—the lowest in 49 years. Tech talent is especially in high demand now because technology is driving every business forward. From major companies to startups, they all need tech expertise more than ever. There are alternative schools and programs cropping up all the time to train people, but it’s still not producing enough talent fast enough. Plus, this abundance of jobs means that tech pro’s tend to be more transient—leaving jobs for better pay or flexibility. Therefore, retention has become another issue. Companies have to ask themselves: Are we providing our people with the latest technology, the pay and perks they expect, to keep them on board?
Q: What skills or stacks are you seeing the most demand for?
Q: How is the so-called “gig economy” impacting tech employment?
JB: Many hiring authorities are embracing the gig economy. They understand it can benefit their workforce strategy and that many tech professionals want this type of employment. Some employers shy away from hiring contract professionals, but we need to start shifting the way we think about the talent we bring in and allow for flexibility and balance. You can blend your traditional full-time, in-house workforce with contractors for project-based work to scale up and down responsibly. Based on market trends, employers who want to attract top talent need to be open to embracing skilled contractors as much as regular full-time employees.
Q: There has been a major push to develop more tech talent using technical schools and non-college training programs. In general, how do you feel about the outcomes of these efforts?
JB: This issue is yet another significant disruptor in the tech industry. Many employers lean toward only wanting to hire candidates with traditional degrees, usually because that’s what they’re familiar and comfortable with. They may have the impression that a candidate with only a certificate from an immersive program somehow took “the easy route.” It’s true that not all programs are created equal, and you always have to screen for quality. However, these “coding boot camps” and certificate programs are here and they’ve become a very popular alternative to what is considered a “traditional” advanced education. They’re enabling people to make career pivots, or spend significantly less money than a college degree would cost. People are asking, “Why go into significant debt for tuition if I don’t necessarily have to?”
Major companies like Google, Apple and IBM no longer require college degrees for some of their top technical positions. Once more companies embrace this philosophy, it will really disrupt higher education and we’ll see even more growth of these alternative schooling options. Look at a company like GE, which has its own internal tech skills training program. It’s investing in its own talent incubator programs, creating loyalty, and essentially competing with higher education institutions.
This has implications for management strategy as well. Once you start blending contractors and traditional employees, and individuals with varying education paths, you need to think about how to successfully manage your diverse teams, too. They all need different types of mentorship to help them further develop and successfully contribute to your vision for business growth.
Q: For companies making major infrastructure shifts, for instance from private to public cloud or mainframe to cloud, how do you see them augmenting their workforce?
JB: There is a huge emergence of companies moving to the cloud, as opposed to an on-premise infrastructure. Therefore, companies are needing professionals with bleeding-edge expertise in deploying and housing their solutions in the cloud using services like AWS and Azure. Cloud technology opens the door to many security concerns, so there is also a high demand for information security professionals. We’re seeing an increase in companies designating a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) to lead entire teams built around securing their intellectual properties and sensitive data. Things are changing rapidly in this area, so it’s another instance of tech professionals and companies trying to keep up with the fast pace of technology and resulting concerns.
Q: How are the most in-demand technology professionals staying relevant and educated?
JB: The top performers are committed to growth and lifelong learning, knowing that they never have it all figured out. They’re naturally curious and humble individuals who are committed to their professional field and passionate about always feeding their brain. Frankly, if you’re not interested in growing and learning, technology is probably not the right field for you. Things change so frequently, and remaining stagnant is a recipe for failure. Successful technology professionals are engaged in lots of networking meetings and thought-leadership groups, maybe even speaking as subject matter experts at professional events. They’re also contributing to open source projects with diverse populations of people and engaging in conversations to help mentor and learn from other technology professionals.
Beyond technical knowledge, I would advise tech pro’s to be kind, genuine, and authentic toward others. Tech is a small world, and you never know when your network will serve you in the future. The last thing you want to be remembered for is being “difficult to work with.” Approach your career with a humble, service mindset—you’re there to serve your companies, customers and help your teammates—not to always prove you’re the smartest person in the room. Share your knowledge and empower others and your career will blossom well into the future. Remember, your network will become your “net worth.”
Q: What is the importance of certifications for tech talent right now?
JB: On the infrastructure and IT support side, I see certifications as more essential for network and sysadmin roles. These candidates need specific technical knowledge of what makes their technology environments work. They also need certifications simply to stay competitive in the job market. Right now, we’re also seeing a lot of demand for cloud certifications around AWS and Azure. There is less focus on certifications on the development side right now because coding skills are in such high demand. In project management, Scrum certifications remain in demand. No matter what the skill, though, a certification adds a layer of credibility. It can set a candidate apart from others, and helps pave the way as you’re being evaluated for higher level and leadership roles.
Q: Are there any certifications in general that are always in demand?
JB: That’s a tough question because there are so many! Microsoft has many popular certifications, Cisco has CCNA, CompTIA Network+ certifications are in demand, and Scrum certifications remain popular for project and product management roles. My advice for any tech pro is to pursue knowledge in areas you’re passionate about applying in your career long term. And that doesn’t stop at certifications—take courses, join professional groups, read articles, and listen to podcasts that expand and deepen your skills and expertise. Learning should be considered a lifelong journey, not a destination.
Q: How is the need for companies to digitally transform impacting the talent demand?
JB: Almost every company out there is undergoing a digital transformation, whether on a small or huge scale. Given that upheaval, the best trait a technology professional can possess is a true commitment to innovation and learning. Constant change means tech professionals cannot be set in their ways, egotistical, or complacent. They must always be learning, growing, and teaming up with other industry professionals as technology evolves to stay ahead of the curve. Companies want to hire individuals who are familiar with the latest and greatest technology trends and can collaborate with others to make a significant difference in their business. Demand is strong amongst hiring managers for individuals who are able to leverage technology and interpersonal communication skills to streamline process and increase profitability. Furthermore, industry experience is becoming more and more of a critical factor in hiring decisions as business leaders need employees who understand the “why” behind the “what” and the “how” before releasing new platforms and applications.
About Jeff Bond
Jeff Bond is the Branch Manager for Ledgent Technology (A Roth Staffing Company) in Atlanta, and helps business leaders find and hire top talent. He believes that hiring and leading talented professionals aligned with your unique culture are the most critical factors to your business success. Jeff has helped hundreds of leaders make smart hiring decisions and professionals in navigating their career development journey. He holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from The University of Georgia and is passionate about living out his purpose of “serving others.” Outside of work, you’ll find Jeff spending meaningful time with his wife Katie and three children. Contact him by emailing jbond (at) ledgent (dot) com or at linkedin.com/in/JeffBondTechStaffing.