With the ongoing Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is now imperative to invest not just in innovations but also in people who understand the Technology of the times. With AI and Automation on the rise, developing software is just as important as understanding them. Many employees have had to reskill and rigorously upskill their abilities based on their job requirements to stay market relevant post the pandemic.
COVID-19 saw mass layoffs and many feared jobs security. While some industries were firing, some were also hiring; especially tech professionals. After the shift of a large number of businesses online, along with software developers, the cybersecurity, cloud & infrastructure, and data science fields were also hiring. Even before COVID-19, the skill requirements of major companies were also changing. The pandemic had forced employees to evaluate their business models and the skills expected by their employers for future business proposals and to accelerate digitization.
According to a recent McKinsey report, employees need certain broad skill sets that can help lay a business foundation. They are digital, cognitive, social, emotional, and adaptability, and resilience skills. The pandemic had escalated the desperate need for digital professional skill sets to help companies integrate themselves with the various technologies and platforms of today. Companies are also looking for people who can take initiatives, look at the broader picture, and sustain the business from any part of the world. Since in-person meetings are limited and remote and hybrid working has emerged as the new working culture, virtual team management is major skill organizations are looking for right now.
Many businesses have moved into the digital space, and hence, the employability of candidates with digital skills seems to be the highest. But it is not the only skill employers are looking for, they want candidates with leadership skills, creativity, innovation, tech knowledge, and adaptability. Because of the inability to conduct personal interviews, the ability to articulate and express themselves makes communication an important ability. With most of the companies now adapted to a hybrid remote-working future, these skills are most in-demand.
According to an article in Forbes, the work assigned to the employees must be as independent as possible because Work From Home does not ideally mean standard working hours, and it also needs a good connection and a WFH setup. So, the most essential skills that are required are basic technical skills, leadership, and communication skills. Digitization has increased the demand for technical skills and analytical skills, as the consumers now prefer online products and services rather than offline experiences and hence, more data is available for the analysis.
Demand for both ‘digital’ and ‘human’ factors drive growth in potential occupations. These represent, on the one hand, the adoption of emerging technologies — increasing demand for green economy jobs, leading positions in the data and AI economy, as well as new roles in engineering, cloud computing, and product growth. On the other hand, the ongoing importance of human interaction in the modern economy is also expressed in developing occupations, giving rise to greater demand for employment in the care economy; positions in marketing, sales, and content production; as well as positions at the forefront of people and culture. Indeed, the future of work highlights the need for a wide range of skills to complement these career opportunities, including both disruptive technological skills, but also advanced industry skills and core business skills.
In the post-COVID scenario, the highest-demand skills include both technological and cross-functional skills. Growing demand for high-growth careers has further driven the value of a range of distinctive skill sets which promise growth and prosperity in the new economy. While some technical clusters, such as Data, AI, Engineering and Cloud Computing, require strong expertise in digital technology, other high-growth careers place greater focus on business skills or specific industry skills. These in-demand skills can be categorized into five distinct skill clusters: Business Skills, Specialized Industry Skills, General and Soft Skills, Tech Baseline Skills, and Tech Disruptive Skills.
Almost two years back we were living in a world that seems completely different from the one that we live in today. The COVID-19 outbreak has forced us to change the lenses through which we look at companies and individuals. It is a story of one such company and one individual who had united by their altered perspectives.
In May 2019, Purple Quarter was engaged with a SaaS giant for a Tech Leadership role. The firm was almost on the verge of becoming a Unicorn, a feat they still aspire to today. We introduced them to a tech leader that in our opinion was a perfect fit for the company. He had a couple of decades of experience in product-based SaaS companies and was then working for a company valued less than 5 times the one he was applying for.
Even though the tech leader had job offers in multi-billion dollar companies overseas, staying in India was his top priority. There is no denying that the SaaS giant’s leadership position he was gunning for has one of the best tech infrastructures in the country thus, in India, was one of the biggest targets for people with similar profiles.
However, the company was on an upward trajectory and wanted people with experience in larger firms. Another reason for the mismatch of the profile was that the tech leader wanted a remote work option to stay close to his family when necessary. Hence, the tech leader stayed in the same company and the mandate for the role also died down.
Fast forward to May 2020. While most companies were struggling to find a revenue stream, this particular firm, like many other SaaS companies, saw an opportunity to expand and grow. They needed urgent leaders to run their expanding business. However, this time, they were looking at candidates with more agility, flexibility, people with hands-on experience with scale, people who are not afraid to come out of their comfort zone to try new things.
Remote working was another area where the perspective of the SaaS firm changed along with the entire world. Company functions that were never imagined previously became possible, pivot to remote roles being one such stark shift. Unlike many on-premise systems, SaaS infrastructure has profited from the work-from-home trend. SaaS solutions, which help keep connections tight, have suddenly found themselves in a unique position to benefit remote workers.
We received a mandate to close the leadership position as soon as possible. Typically, a role of such stature takes around 60 days to close. But Purple Quarter knew exactly where to go. In just 30 days of the revised mandate, we were working on onboarding the Tech Leader in the SaaS giant. It is truly commendable how quickly the SaaS major adapted to the ‘New Normal’ and got the same Tech Leader onboard in under a month. The swiftness is truly a testament to their leadership team, their TA leader, and the Tech Leader’s adaptability to the new scenario.
This is just one case study of a company changing its outlook to accommodate a post-COVID-19 worldview. Now, we have numerous such examples to attest to this post-COVID tech hiring landscape.
The line between Business and Technology is increasingly becoming blurred. Digital Innovation and adoption have left no other choice. In this evolving landscape, the roles of a Chief Information Officer (CIO) and a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) have exceedingly changed. Let’s take a closer look at how this new environment has given more power to these two highly sought-after profiles.
CTOs have a bigger role to play than ever before
If the proposition that ‘Technology is King’ is true for an organization, then it is safe to state that a CTO plays the role of ‘Kingmaker’. The fact that this position was a fringe, a decade ago, is a testament to the fact that business operations have taken a 360-degree turn today. The role of CTO has become such a key for organizations that even the White House appointed its very first CTO, Aneesh Chopra in 2009.
In most companies, a CTO runs an engineering team while also keeping the customer, end product, and revenue growth in focus. They also play a crucial role as technical evangelists. Cutting-edge technologies are ruling businesses, the SaaS companies are changing the landscape of business; at this crucial time, a Chief Technology Officer in an organization has to make sure effective incorporation of advanced technology to compete.
CIOs are no longer in the backseat
The roles of the Chief Information Officer and Chief Innovation Officer have merged. Traditionally, the role of a CIO would be to compile and interpret data on corporate technology. Once the gathered data becomes relevant information, the CIO would implement procedures on strategic planning, operational efficiency, and more. If we have to draw a strawman, a CIO would be a person who takes a backseat when it comes to running the business.
However, the modern era has changed the rulebook. Catalyzed by the fact that businesses need to grow and adapt at a faster rate than ever before, a Chief Information Officer takes on the internal role of a Chief Innovation Officer. The CIOs have to upgrade their skills, pace up to the innovative ideas of the time and also make sure that the organization is coherently evolving.
The contrast between a CIO and CTO
One of the stark differences between these two profiles is that a CIO generally plays a more introspective role within the company whereas a CTO functions from an external standpoint. A Chief Information Officer monitors the day-to-day operations; while, the Chief Technology Officer has to view the bigger picture and structure the frameworks, by incorporating the latest technologies or modifications and update the existing applications. In larger organizations, it would be safe to say that the CIO manages IT infrastructure and the CTO manages the business’s technology architecture. However, when resources are unavailable, a CTO generally absorbs the responsibilities of a CIO.
Coming to the skill requirements, the technical knowledge of the CTO should be off the charts in multiple domains. If you are building one of the world’s best tech companies, you should ideally have one of the world’s best CTOs. However, a CIO doesn’t need to be that tech-savvy. CIOs need to possess organizational skills, managerial skills.
It is often the case that CIOs are chosen to be employees with experience within the company while it is common to hire a CTO externally. And thus, it becomes imperative to hire the most suitable CTOs and Tech Leaders with not just the right acumen but mapped by the right profiling, one who is in tune with the organization’s vision, strategy and goals. With years of industry experience and singular domain focus, Purple Quarter understands the ‘hit or miss’ criticality of the right Tech Leadership hire for businesses.
We are living in uncertain times. The only certainty about the COVID-19 pandemic is that it will eventually end, and when it does, many of the changes it has brought will recede. Consumers will once more shop and socialize, supply and demand will rebalance, and markets will recover. History tells us, however, to also expect some lasting change in the wake of the crisis—such as Glass-Steagall after the Great Depression, increased suburbanization after World War II, and heightened security following 9/11. Similarly, in the wake of the turmoil, company performance and position can either shift temporarily, or permanently.
Companies that master both the transitory and the transformational response to a crisis reap long-term rewards. Transitory responses entail rapid actions that are critical for survival, including protecting employees, managing cash, and flexing supply chains to meet demand. But occupying new positions and building new advantages requires transformational moves and investment. In a crisis, when the immediate response can be all-consuming, transformational moves are harder.
How can you be ready for a Post COVID-19 World?
1. Expect change and look ahead: Organizations tend to become myopic and insular when under threat. But crises often mark strategic inflection points, and a focus on the present should not crowd out consideration of the future. The key questions become, what next, and with what consequences and opportunities?
2. Understand broader social shifts: Addressable opportunities are often born out of new customer needs and frustrations, so listening to customers is vital. However, traditional surveys tell you only about existing product and category needs and uses; consumers may not be explicitly aware of their emerging needs. Companies need to look more broadly at how social attitudes are shifting to understand which observed changes in behavior and consumption could be lasting.
3. Scrutinize high-frequency data: Aggregates, averages, and episodic statistical data will not reveal the weak signals of change. Companies need to access and analyze high-frequency data, such as data on credit card transactions, at a very granular level to spot emerging trends.
4. Identify your revealed weaknesses: The crisis will unquestionably exhibit needs for more sweeping readiness, flexibility, agility, or leanness in different parts of your company. Those weaknesses also signal opportunities to renew your products and business model and serve customers better. They may also help you understand broader customer needs since others are likely to be experiencing similar stresses.
5. Study regions further ahead in the crisis: China and Korea are many weeks ahead of Western countries in their experience of crisis and recovery. By studying what happened in these markets, leaders can better predict which changes are likely to stick or could be shaped. A geographical fast-follower strategy may be available to agile players.
6. Scan for nonconformist activity: Some companies, often smaller players on the edges of your industry, will be making bets predicated on new customer needs or behavioral patterns. Ask yourself, who are these mavericks, and which potential branches and leaves on the tree of possible shifts are they betting on? Are those bets gaining traction? What are you missing? From there, you can decide on the appropriate response to each opportunity or threat: ignore, investigate further, create an option to play, replicate and exceed, buy the maverick, or act with high priority.
7. Look at which new patterns reduce friction: Frictions are unnecessary delays, costs, complexities, mismatches with needs, or other inconveniences that a customer experiences in using a particular offering. Forced habits that entail more friction than the traditional alternative are likely to be temporary: we may be forced to eat only canned food from our pantries in a crisis, but many are likely to return promptly to consuming fresh food when it is over. On the other hand, forced habits that reduce friction are more likely to stick: how many of us relish the thought of carving out a couple of hours each day to reach our workplaces? High-friction areas are also ones where it is logical for mavericks to innovate and where they are more likely to succeed.
8. Maintain hope and growth orientation: It’s almost inevitable that we will face a deep post-crisis recession. This is not a reason to postpone innovation and investment. Counterintuitively, 14% of companies grew both their top and bottom lines during recent economic downturns, and our analysis shows they create value mainly through differential growth. This is true across all industries. The evidence is clear: the best time to grow differentially is when aggregate growth is low. Flourishers, in a downturn, do reduce costs to maintain viability, but they also innovate around new opportunities, and they reinvest in growth pillars to capture the opportunity in adversity and shape the post-crisis future.
Along with the economic fall due to COVID 19, Trump has now imposed additional restrictions on H1B and L1 visas. They are further suspended up to the end of 2020. Employees from other nations are considered a risk to the US market. This piece of news has taken major MNCs and employees who were planning to move to America by storm. Companies in the US worry that these restrictions might discourage qualified workers from coming into the country. Employees have been advised to change their status in the country and remain there. They are recommended to travel only if they are eligible for re-entry.
Yair Vardi is a co-founder and partner at Fusion LA, which accelerates the growth of startups by helping raise funds says that this news has hampered the company’s ability to build a business in the US. Other businesses also speculate that scaling up in the US market has become increasingly difficult. And the fact that it also impairs international trade. Numerous other entrepreneurs face the same predicament as Vardi.
The suspension of the visas has severely impacted the growth of startups who have been advised to not lose momentum and begin the exploration of new markets with lesser trade restrictions. Trump has been looking to restrict legal immigrants from working in America since he signed the “Buy American, Hire American” executive order. It seems like his objective is being achieved, as the restriction on visa laws may free up more than half a million jobs for the workers in the country. Experts consider this decision a power move for the upcoming presidential election in 2020.
This piece of news is going to bring a tremendous change in the Indian job market because earlier, all IIT and IIM graduates would look forward to going to the US. And given the current circumstances(Make in India drive fueled by anti-Chinese sentiments), they would have to settle here. This might be challenging in the beginning, but it might just be a boon for the Indian economy because the techies would want to start something of their own and boost the falling economy. India will have to up its technology game to start meeting the requirements of the consumers. Although, this won’t prove very difficult since many of the CEOs in American tech companies are Indian. Most companies looking to digitize are in luck, the active tech talent pool in India is at an all-time high.