Tuesday, October 07, 2008


IT Talent Shortage: Should IT executives do more to create local talent instead of just complaining about the trend?

CIO magazine frequently talks about the looming IT talent shortage yet doesn't encourage any IT executives to do their part. For example, it is only thought of as a recruiting problem and not one of social responsibility. Should IT executives encourage their staff to work with community colleges to drive interest in becoming an IT professional and even provide them with paid time to make this happen?

If IT executives see that a staff shortage looms in the future they sertanly need to do their best to make sure that they can get the staff they need at the competence they need. The answer to this solution isn't simply running to Indian outsourcing as there are lower risk ways of accomplishing the same goal.

Many non-technical IT executives sabotage themselves by establishing the perception that work is going offshore, which causes those onshore to no longer care. They dig themselves even deeper by believing that the work is "low-level" and not creative. Likewise, many American's sabotage themselves by believing that they are competing against lower-paid foreign workers from India when it reality, they pose little threat but to all IT folks that suck.

Many of these perceptions have elements rooted in reality and you can see it every day in the questions on LinkedIn. If the US is going to have the kind of workforce we need to grow, we have to stop looking at IT and software as this alphabet soup of technologies that you need to know to get hired. Companies don't hire for talent anymore, and they certainly don't invest in training the way they need to.

It's a shame, but right now IT and software industries are in a vicious cycle. US-born workers are not attracted to the field which creates a shortage of workers. Companies outsource and insource foreign entry-level workers to meet demand, which continues to fuel the same reasons young people are not interested in the industry.

Difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff are often spoken about in relation to the development of those staff to take on managerial / customer facing / team development roles. Organisations can tackle this by supporting a change in culture, developing the non-technical skills sets and supporting new and existing staff to go forward within the company. This in turn may "filter through" overcoming those perceptions that a career in IT is all about learning the latest language but actually is core to the strategic development of the company.

Imagine what would happen if IT executives did more to create local talent by promoting attendance and financially supporting local computer user groups (buy pizza!), support technical speaker bureaus (INETA for example), support paid time off to attend free local conferences (MSDN Roadshows for example), and sponsor Code Camps (free conferences for software developers by software developers held on Saturdays so they don't interfere with work hours). Do you think that IT could improve or more importantly IT could delight the business by developing even higher quality valuable working software?

IT execs need to learn to hire talent and mentor talent. Instead it's sink-or-swim on day one and if you don't have the skills you're out the door. Smart developers with skills that don't fit into a neat little package of acronyms are discounted and passed over every day.

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