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The IT Talent Shortage Debate
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mpochan156
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mpochan156,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 11:05:54 AM
on the IT Talent shortage, I vote for "botched Hiring Process"
I know there are multiple factors with complex interdepencies in all this, but other than 25 years of anti-STEM activity ( pushing the arts, 'do what feels good' and 'follow your passion' ) in our K-12 schools, I believe that #1 problem is the Hiring Process. 

And I believe that entrusting most of the process to Human Resources ( HR ) is part of the problem. Most techies I know hate that standardized pyscho crap. 

Forge a new collaborative process by partnering IT and HR and customize it to the unique techie mindset.

Ike

 

p.s. I did live this problem in our software company
JakeL642
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JakeL642,
User Rank: Strategist
11/4/2014 | 9:59:46 AM
Re: Poor IT Management, Lazy HR
Indeed, too low a salary offered, that's certainly one smoking gun.

In the Bay Area many non-tech jobs are paying around six figures.  Police officer in San Fran, starts at 90k + Pension + (best benefits in the world) + Job Security, education requirement (only a 2-year degree).

Engineer - (6-year Masters typically required (for reasons elaborated below)), no-pension, no help-with 401k, no benefits, no job security.

So companies fill the lower-payed jobs with contractors on an H-1b.  It's easy, companies are bringing in benched workers all the time in the Bay Area.  In India, people will pay the recruiter to get them an H-1b visa and a chance to look for a job in the U.S.

And that's the reason for the bloated requirements on jobs, and the reason for the huge demand for H-1b workers.  Companies are unwilling to pay mid-level salaries that are around 100k, when they can get a contractor in for less than 30$/hour basically a person on an H-1b (who will pay them for a job).

The problem is that with all mid-level (and starting) jobs going to people who are tethered to a recruiter, Outsourcing companies, or Body-shop.  Is that these companies don't sponsor people for Green Cards, and the workers must leave at some point, and they take their 6 years of on-the-job-training with them.

The biggest users of H-1b visas are companies with huge offshore worker contingents.  Managers are tempted by their own existing stock of workers, and have no interest in hiring U.S. citizens.  Those temptations do include bribes and payola.  HR is given the easy excuse of cheaper, indentured labor, and the avid insider sell of the applicant.

And more than half of all H-1b visas are used by Offshore Outsourcing companies.  Companies that don't sponsor employees for Green Cards.  Companies whose sole business is to remove jobs from the United States.

It is documented, in court papers, that Senior management at InfoSys told a recruiter that "Americans don't know (expletive)".  When the recruiter was about to present the resumes of several qualified American candidates.  The recruiter was then directed to only look people of Indian descent for jobs on U.S. soil.

InfoSys is the 2nd biggest user of H-1b visas.

If Offshore Outsourcing companies were barred from using the H-1b Federal Government program, we would never have seen a year, since inception where we ran out of H-1b visas.
shawn.anderson
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shawn.anderson,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/4/2014 | 9:20:30 AM
We finally learned how to hire awesome developers
Loved the article. A lot of truth. After weeding through countless unqualified resumes for wannabe IT (developers and sys admins) we finally found the solution.
  1. Web form to start the process (eliminates bots and the merely curious)
  2. Code assignment done from home (their choice of language). Takes 1-2 hrs. (eliminates 95% of the unqualified and the somewhat curious)
  3. If passed the code submission, ask for resume. 
  4. Schedule 4-6 hr. interview whcih includes coding, round-table interview, lunch, and mingling with every person in the company.

Using this method we would review 5 or so resumes instead of the 70+ that would come in from job post submissions. 

Conclusion: every person we've hired was already working. All were intriqued by our process. All are awesome in IT (different fields). We no longer waste time on candidates who can't even string together a simple if/then statement.
CliffBerg
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CliffBerg,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/4/2014 | 7:05:01 AM
The disconnect is between IT leadership and project leadershp
I agree with many of the posters here that HR managers look for the wrong things, and project managers are too anxious to have people "up to speed" from day one.

Recently there was a discussion on this topic in the LinkedIn group "Chief Information Officer (CIO) Network - The Group for CIOs". The discussion was titled "IT Skills Gap". The overwhelming consensus seemed to be that IT leaders want to hire "natural learners" rather than hire for specific skills. Yet, project managers are too anxious to do that: they want people to have zero learning curve.

Thus, I think the disconnect is between IT leadership and project level leadership. Agile projects in particular: there is so much pressure to start producing immediately (team "velocity" is measured continuously).

The reality is - as many here have stated - that no one can stay on top of the changes in IT anymore. Change is constant. If a project is using tools X, Y, Z today, odds are that a year from now they will be using tools X, Q, R. And that means that the last thing you should do is hire a cheap college grad with recent practice in tools X, Y, Z, because next year, much of what they created will be "legacy". Instead, if you hire seasoned programmers who know how to create maintainable systems, they will know better than to wire everything so that it depends on tools X, Y, Z. Young college grads don't know that.

 
JDUBOW201
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JDUBOW201,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/4/2014 | 6:33:49 AM
Self-Serving nature of IT shortage allegations.
Saying there is a shortage serves a corporate interest in hiring younger, cheaper programmers, especially on h1-b visas, the modern equivalent of indentured servitude. In an era of "lowest cost, technically acceptable" government contracting policy there is no premium put on quality. What is clear is that programmers and developers are hurting and having lots of trouble finding work. 

If the Administration can go into Defcon 5 with full deployment of an army of lawyers every time a woman or minority feels aggreived or insulted,  they ought to be responsible enough to investigate the labor practices for the vitally important IT programmers and developers. I'm not holding my breath. 
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 4:51:56 AM
Re: Oddly specific
@David: Often, what contributes to this extreme specification is overly by-the-numbers HR people pressuring supervisors/executives for clearly defined, to-the-digit specifications.  (Non-recruiters usually just want "someone who can do the job" and with whom they can get along.)

And then, of course, there is the issue of overreliance on keyword-scanning HR software.
Joe Stanganelli
IW Pick
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 4:45:49 AM
Purple Squirrel
I'm really glad you pointed out the "Purple Squirrel Hunt" tactic.  This is directly tied to the shortage of women in IT.  Studies indicate that women are far less likely than their male counterparts to "stretch" to submit themselves for job listings that seek qualifications exceeding what they possess.
fullstackdavid
IW Pick
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fullstackdavid,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/4/2014 | 1:03:08 AM
Talent's out there for companies that are looking
 

Hi Laurianne - really enjoyed your article, I like the wide swath of companies you talked to (I've worked previously at Gilt and really admire their IT hiring practices) and the fair opinions you got from both sides.  As a founder of a coding bootcamp, Fullstack Academy, I get to work with lots of great companies who hire our students.  The companies that are out there doing the hard work of connecting their engineers with the engineering community are getting great returns on their work.  The company doesn't have to be innovative - just do basic events like hackathons, meetups, talks, big speakers.  These things connect engineers to engineers and that's where you'll really find good talent that matches well with your company's needs.

The problem comes from when a company no longer views hiring as the role of the engineering manager and outsources it to HR.  I've worked with great HR people, but it's hard for them to filter out technical things and so they rely on heuristics that give both false positives and false negatives.  I believe companies get to some scale and they believe this to be a fact of life - from what I've seen of really well run engineering organizations, those that continue interacting with outside engineers are those that continue to find, recruit, retain and grow great talent.

Finally, schools like ours are working as hard as we can to get more talent onto the market.  We've had students from all walks of life come and in three months learn CS fundamentals and enough practical skills to get great engineering roles.  
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/3/2014 | 5:02:05 PM
Re: I hear you, but...
You're not alone in that opinion re. salaries and talent supply/demand. The point that wages should be rising if there is a "shortage" is a point that both Ron Hira and Norman Matloff point to in their analysis of the shortage as "imaginary."
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
11/3/2014 | 4:45:17 PM
Re: Poor IT Management, Lazy HR
The reason why companies are often so stringent on hiring is because they have been burned in the past by not-so-great hires. Those cost companies a lot of money, and as a result risk has to be reduced.

It does make one wonder whether or not the shortages being reported are actually real or just a risk-reducing tactic by companies. It is hard to tell. 
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