Hiring for tech roles has its challenges, but hiring for tech roles in new and emerging fields like data science, IoT and new product development may go beyond challenging and stumble into obstructed or seem nearly impossible at times.
Being hard, however, hasn’t prevented fast-growing Indianapolis-based tech and tech-enabled companies from hiring extraordinary talent—both locally and nationally—to contribute to the next big thing coming out of the Circle City.
I was able to connect with executives from three companies known for inventing or reinventing aspect of their markets to dive into the topic of hiring for new and emerging roles.
Keri Thompson, recruiter for Rook Security, dispelled the myth that it’s easier to hire in the Bay Area or Silicon Valley. “New is new,” Keri said. “When the hiring pool has seven million people compared to the two million or so we have in Indianapolis, you probably have more options close by, but that doesn’t make it any easier to find the right person, the best person for a role no one has ever had at your company.”
Keri stressed the importance of building a robust and trusted network within the tech community. She confirmed that it takes a lot of time to attend industry events and go to specialty meetups that align with your company’s key growth areas, but there’s really no substitute for being visible and having quality relationships with thought leaders and others who could speak on your behalf or lead you to your next critical new hire.
Lori Smith, vice president of team & talent development at hc1.com, shares the view that networking is an essential part of hiring for new and emerging tech roles. “We turn to our network and seek out subject matter experts who have successfully recruited and hired for these new roles,” Lori said. “This feedback enables us to compile the right set of skills and profiles we build the job description templates around.”
After identifying a very specific set of skills and arriving at crisply defined criteria for success in the role, only then does hc1 begin the resume review process. According to Lori, this stage in the process is significantly streamlined and more efficient because of the legwork performed before ever accepting applications or searching for “the one.”
“Taking time to do the prep work for a position, especially a brand new role, helps us ensure that we’re taking a focused and strategic approach—rather than using hope as our strategy to find the right candidates,” she said.
With 25 years of experience in software development and cutting-edge technologies, Greenlight Guru Co-founder and CTO David Odmark has seen more trends and emerging technologies than most when it comes to hiring. In fact, some of the hot trends today are all too familiar to him.
“The older I get, the more convinced I am that there really aren’t any new tech roles,” David said. “I’m not saying that new tech isn’t real, but often the things that may seem brand new are actually just new ways of doing things that have been around for a while.”
The Internet of Things, for example, isn’t all that different than the peer-to-peer device networking David himself worked on in the 1990s. His advice for hiring managers is to not buy into the hype and instead go about executing a quality recruiting program based on proven best practices—he doesn’t believe in any silver bullet strategies.
“Whether it’s machine learning, artificial intelligence or any celebrated new field, when you really get down and do the work, do the research and understand not only what it is and what it does, but the historical context around it, it’s not all that different than hiring for more familiar roles,” David said. “The best thing to do is to try to re-contextualize it by peeling away the hype and breaking the role down into what it will take to be successful at it.”
Greenlight Guru invests staff time, including David’s, into building a narrative around the knowledge, skills and attributes the ideal candidate should possess. Interestingly, technologies and languages aren’t the first things to make the list; they tend to focus more on personal attributes, strengths and how the individual will fit within the company.
“If you’ll humor me a sports metaphor: if we need a point guard for our basketball team, we don’t immediately post that we need a new point guard,” David said. “First, we identify that we need an excellent ball handler who sees the whole court and who is just as concerned with getting the ball to other players who are in a position to score.”