The Fight for Talent in Tech: Are Organisations Missing a Trick?

Wed 17th Aug 2022

The Tech sector is facing multiple and complex challenges when it comes to recruitment. Yet the difficulties encountered also open up opportunities for companies to look beyond usual talent pools. The variety of roles available as well as the skills and diversity shortage demonstrate that there is a place for everyone in the Tech and AI sectors.

Three experts, including two former athletes who’ve transitioned from their professional sports careers, speak of their experience working in the Tech industry.

The UK Tech sector is booming. Since the start of the year, we’ve seen record levels of investments in UK Tech startups. In addition to London, largely recognised as a world-leading hub for Tech startups, other cities such as Bristol and Oxford are also getting ahead, being featured in the top 20 European Tech hubs for investment.

The global pandemic has accelerated digital transformation in our everyday life. More than ever, the industry is rapidly changing and growing, requiring an agile and resilient Tech workforce to sustain change. However, that’s precisely one of the main issues that Tech organisations need tackling: building this sustainable and agile talent pipeline.

We discussed those HR difficulties with experts Katharine Rooney, Senior Director of Talent Acquisition at Mimecast (specialising in cloud-based cybersecurity services for email management), Steve Rowbotham, Chief Commercial Officer at Ink Global (travel media publishing & Tech company) and Zoe Williams, Business Development at Palantir Technologies (software company specialising in big data analytics) – which revealed three areas requiring equal consideration:

  • Attracting talent in a candidate-driven job market,
  • Retaining talent, finding & building a motivated talent pipeline that lasts,
  • While, bridging the diversity gap.


The Biggest Challenge: Hiring the Right Talent for the Right Salary

The demand for candidates surpasses the supply […] London or other big cities around the world see intense competition. This means the employment offers have to be the most attractive possible, for example offering remote or hybrid working, as well as competitive salaries. Candidates want, and need, to feel wanted”, says Katharine Rooney. Steve Rowbotham confirms this trend seeing “candidates getting offers within hours of applying for jobs, not showing up for interviews and salaries are getting crazy”.


Technical VS Non-Technical: A Variety of Roles Available

"The more engineering-minded Tech folk need those who are more organised and structured, prepared to dig in when the going gets tough, and who aren't afraid to ask questions and learn quickly

Tech companies aren’t just hiring developers, engineers, or data scientists; they also require people with business, sales, and marketing expertise to support the delivery of Tech products and services, which ultimately generate revenue.

Katharina Rooney distinguishes the Research & Development (R&D) roles from the Go-To-Market (GTM) roles – requiring different skillsets and personality types. Technical skills are essential for R&D roles; the ideal candidates would combine Science, Tech, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) academic disciplines together with experience in the field. “For the GTM roles, we look for articulate, smart, and motivated candidates who are tech-savvy, want to make an impact, and with a genuine interest in cybersecurity, Mimecast as a company, as well as our mission”.

Tech organisations can only benefit from building a team with complementary skills. Zoe Williams reminds us that “there is plenty of non-Technical roles, and being resilient, hard-working, curious, and a team player is key to success. The more engineering-minded Tech folk need those who are more organised and structured, prepared to dig in when the going gets tough, and who aren't afraid to ask questions and learn quickly.”

It’s an incredibly fast-paced sector with new ideas and products being launched every day. The ability to learn, agility, and juggle multiple tasks at any given moment is essential to perform. It’s also more difficult to find individuals with commercial thinking. You can hire people who have the technical knowledge and experience you are looking for but marrying this with commercial thinking in Tech is rare”, adds Steve.


Investing in Training & Tackling Diversity: The Winning Mindset for a Long-Standing Recruitment Effect

Successful recruitments include a training and development strategy. “Hiring managers not only need to be able to recognise key traits like determination, curiosity, and ability to influence so that they can hire highly motivated talent, but also need to deploy a development plan from day one that will teach the new hire the company-specific elements that could not have been acquired elsewhere”, shares Katharina. Investing in training and upskilling is also a key tool to address diversity and inclusion challenges. A research published by Tech Talent Charter (TTC) shows that in 2021, one in four women would consider switching to a career in Tech if the training was provided as part of the role.

The Tech sector has long suffered from a lack of diversity, especially gender diversity. Deploying strategies at a corporate level to tackle those issues is a priority. Katharina shares how Mimecast has taken actions on hiring which has driven impact: “At Mimecast, we enhance our Talent Acquisition processes to attract and acquire the best talent and increase the diversity of our workforce. In 2021, 30% of our new hires were women. Initiatives include diverse candidate slates, inclusive job descriptions and job adverts, and partnerships with external organisations committed to attracting and recruiting diverse talent, are contributing to a steady overall representation of women.”

On top of that, “strong employer brand is critical to overcoming the recruitment challenges, employers have put much more emphasis on marketing and branding. Good employer branding reaches more candidates, which then drives more applicants/interest in the company and job openings”, insists Katharina. Employers can also deploy wider training strategies such as “promoting highly skilled apprenticeships to diverse talent in the short term can go some way to close some of the gaps”, or “capitalising on STEM graduate talent being readily available with career programmes”.

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The Athletes’ Unique Drive & Self-Awareness: The add-victor Effect

Candidates who have competed at a high level in sports have developed resilient capabilities that set them apart, making them a good fit to work in Tech. “They are patient, willing to learn, and believe in themselves in the long term”, mentions Steve, a former GB Olympic medal winner rower. Athletes are devoted to performing. They will thrive to stay ahead relying on their strong team mentality and resilience, as Zoe mentions: “they’re used to bounce back from failure, or disappointment. They also know how to motivate themself, and those around them, which will help drive teams forward”.

Zoe recalls her own experience, former competitive junior GB Synchronised Swimmer (2009-11): “the high rate of learning and adaptation I experienced from training and competing at a young age has enabled me to adjust to what was a pretty different environment. I've learnt a lot about Tech and software engineering, and the pace and ambiguity of Tech has never flustered me - I put that down to having to be serene above the water, whilst thrashing underneath!

Katharina’s general advice to any young talent willing to work in Tech is indeed, learning and getting experience: “grab as many internship opportunities and get that exposure as earlier as possible”.