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Some Tech Firm Perspectives on Hiring

29 December 2017

I recently attended a meeting with local tech companies to discuss the talent pipeline in this region, how they were approaching hiring, and what they saw as needs and opportunities .  There were about 30 companies and a handful of recruiting agencies represented at the meeting.  Several points of the discussion jumped out at me:

Describing the tech landscape – One of the technical recruiters, who worked for a large technical placement and services firm, offered his version of tech hiring, essentially lumping all the tech jobs into three categories:

  • Mobile/Web – and this was mostly about mobile
  • Analytics – which included big data and data science topics
  • Operations/production/support/infrastructure

I was interested in the absence of any mention of application systems and, in particular, back end processing, in this view of talent needs.  Similarly, one of the large consulting services firms was present, and in discussing what they wanted from recent graduates there were two items that clearly dominated what they want: Agile methods and Web and mobile development.

Overall, I was pleased at how these perspectives line up well with our current degree programs and intended directions at Drexel, but I was surprised at how strong these trends showed in hiring.

Valuing open source software knowledge – I mentioned my interest in teaching students about open source and having them participate in HFOSS communities.  I was pleased that this was well-received by those present and people from a number of organizations made a point of discussing this further with me during the day.  They clearly saw open source knowledge as valuable both for product familiarity and for the process and tools knowledge that comes from FLOSS communities.

Hiring entry-level employees – Many of the companies are only hiring experienced people.  While I can understand that impulse, and know that it’s difficult to do anything else for small companies, I was surprised at some of the larger companies still in that mode.  For example, one company that has about 650 employees admitted that they still never hire recent graduates.  That seemed very short sighted both in terms of supporting local talent development, and in keeping new ideas and perspectives flowing into the company.  Unsurprisingly, this same company also mentioned concern that the average age of their IT staff was higher than they wanted.

Opening city offices to appeal to younger workers – Several companies mentioned using offices in the city as part of a strategy to attract younger workers.  One company had specifically opened a city office for this purpose.  This seems like a smart move, especially for companies with most of their operations in the outer suburbs.  It also provides a clear demonstration of the significant difficulty companies are having hiring enough tech talent.

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