January 7, 2022 – As we enter the new year, the practice of finding, attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent in technology has continued to be a challenge, and the trends that we started to see due to the necessity of a widespread virtual workforce has become a Pandora’s Box that will likely stay forever open.
Recruiting top professionals in technology is one area that has long been in flux, so adjusting to the needs of talent in this sector should be nothing new, according to Ryan Kellner, head of data science in the quantitative analytics and IT practice for Hudson Gate Partners. “However, like each year there are some very specific trends that came to light, some challenges that we continue to see,” he said. In reading the tea leaves of the technology world, said Mr. Kellner, there are certain directions that the sector is moving to which the recruitment industry must pay heed – among them: many people are never returning to the office full time.
“Growing up in Indianapolis in the 80’s and 90’s, all the tech firms were downtown, and everyone lived in the suburbs and made the commute back and forth every day,” said Mr. Kellner. “Then some companies got wise and said, ‘We can get better talent by building our headquarters in the suburbs because we will get the talent that doesn’t want the long commute!’ They were right. All the good developers flocked to solid companies that were a five- to 10-minute drive from where they lived. They could get their kids out to the bus, participate in after-school programs, and everyone’s work/life balance got a bit easier.”
This same thinking is where we are at now post-COVID, he noted. “The factor that seemingly dictates my response rate to recruiting calls and emails the most these days is not the company, it’s not the salary, it’s not the perks. It is whether the job is fully remote or not,” he said.
What You’re Up Against
The job market is so hot these days for good people in tech that candidates seem to be looking for reasons not to continue with the interview process. “I was recently working with a strong developer with an MS in computer science and five years in financial software development who was interviewing with some of my clients,” said Mr. Kellner. “I asked him where else he was actively interviewing and he listed every FANG company, Tesla, Robinhood, etc. If you want to hire some good developers in 2022, this is what you’re up against.”
To hire top talent, you will need a plan on how you and your team are going to make that person pick you over the current batch of trendy tech companies. “If you aren’t selling why your company is great in the first interview, it’s not happening,” said Mr. Kellner. “If you want to make this person complete a lengthy analytics assignment, it’s not happening. If you want to drag out the interview process to four to five weeks, it’s not happening. It may also be a good idea to look at all of your favorite current employees and just pretend they are all talking to Facebook and Tesla, too.”
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2000, there were 44,000 new computer science graduates in the U.S. In 2010 there were 43,000. And in 2020 there were roughly 48,000. In the last 20 years, this represents only a 10 percent increase in graduates from these programs, but they now have so many more options on what to do with that education.
Ryan Kellner joined Hudson Gate Partners in 2019 and is the head of the data science and quantitative analytics recruiting practice. He has five years of senior and executive level recruiting in IT and data science, working with clients that range from Fortune 500 financial institutions, nationwide non-profits, leading healthcare organizations, and high tech start-ups.
Double Edge Sword for Recruiting
“The trend that I found the past two years is that the good people who have traditional software engineering backgrounds are increasingly wanting to specialize into fields of data science, machine learning, AI, blockchain development, chat bot engineering, quant/financial engineering, cloud engineering, machine learning, IOT development, computer vision, etc.,” said Mr. Kellner. “This plethora of specialization options is a double edged sword for recruiting. On one hand, it is producing a great number of hyper-specialized individuals to fill niche roles across various industries. The other side of it, though, is that it is draining the core demographic of pure software developers.”
“I had multiple searches this year for solid .NET developers that were very hard to fill, especially when many solid, experienced candidates were looking to pivot away from this kind of role again, and were actively pursuing online education for a more niche position in the future,” said Mr. Kellner. “I had more that client this year tell me to not send them any developers who had recently completed online course work in any of the examples I listed above, because in their mind, this person was going to get in the company as a software engineer, and within the first year want to transfer to another team. I have a feeling that these comments came from experience.”
Almost every year, the industry asks for a combination of specific skills in an individual that could be summarized by a brand-new job title that doesn’t exist, at least not yet, according to Mr. Kellner. “My 2022 prediction is that we will start to see ‘alternative data’ scientists and engineers,” he said.
You Heard it Here First
“A simple Boolean text search of LinkedIn shows that around 3,000 people in the U.S. have ‘alternative data’ in their job description, and we at the same time, seeing the emergence of the term in some limited titles such as ‘director of alternative data’ and ‘head of alternative data.’ but these are extremely rare so far and largely relegated to large finance and investment companies,” said Mr. Kellner.
“However, it seemed to be a prevailing theme in my searches this year for companies to be looking for an individual that they couldn’t concisely describe, but they often came close to describing the same person: ‘Find me someone who is a bit of a Swiss Army knife in advanced analytics (master’s degree, stats heavy) and programming (usually SQL, Python) and research methodologies and data engineering…but they aren’t a quant, nor are they a traditional data scientist, nor are they a pure researcher, nor are they a data engineer. And then add in a decent amount of business and financial knowledge and have them be good at building and evaluating various data pipelines for things like transactional data, consumer forecasting, foot traffic, website click through metrics, real estate trends, etc.’ Nothing but nice, easy searches over here, folks.”
Mr. Kellner predicts that this will be the sort of person that recruiters are going to start to see in almost every industry, and that someone good at this could go into almost any industry. “There has already been an explosion of alternative data providers the past few years, but that creates the problem of having too much data, too much noise, too many avenues for observation and insight,” he said. “You may very soon be hiring someone who specializes in taking all those data pipelines and distilling down only what is valuable. In order to do that, this person is going to need to be proficient in a couple different areas, and they probably aren’t going to be ready for it right out of a master’s degree. But the ROI on a hire like that will prove very solid, especially if there are years’ worth of projects and ideas that no one has touched before.”
“You heard it here first,” said Mr. Kellner. “Get ready to hire an alternative data scientist or an alternative data engineer.”
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media