CEO, New Age Consulting

These days, it seems there are many efforts to pinpoint where the IT job market is headed — but it’s still difficult to find comprehensive information on the topic.

Deloitte last month released its FAST 500 survey, an annual poll of more than 150 Canadian and U.S. CEOs of companies on Deloitte’s list of fastest-growing tech companies in North America. Ninety-five per cent of Canadian and U.S. tech companies surveyed said they planned to boost their headcounts this year.

Such studies give us some clues as to what is going on in the technology hiring space, but they don’t tell the whole story. What does the job market look like from the perspective of a recruiter who is trying to fill positions for companies looking for help with IT projects?

ComputerWorld Canada department editor Patricia Pickett discussed this and more with Sathish Bala, president and CEO of Toronto-based New Age Consulting, a company that, depending on its client’s needs, will either take on the customer’s IT project or recruit people into positions that need to be filled before a project can be completed. Excerpts from the interview follow:

I find companies are not looking to hire the greatest techie people, but those who can relate to these new business owners on a new level.Sathish Bala>As both a management consulting and recruitment firm, what are some of the IT hiring trends you see in companies today, and how do they compare with a few years ago?

Today’s enterprises are not looking at IT as a tool by itself. The big trend we’re seeing more and more is that business people are starting to get more involved in IT decisions. A lot of the questions we used to get would be very tech-heavy. (For example) a lot of IT managers would be calling us about a particular technology or tool. But now, they call us and say ‘I have a business issue – can you find someone to fix it?’ I find companies are not looking to hire the greatest techie people, but those who can relate to these new business owners on a new level.

What do you think of Deloitte’s survey results, and how do you think these IT hiring trends will play out?

I would say that on the personnel side, technology companies have a new choice that none of us have really looked at seriously until the last few years — that’s outsourcing. There will still be a percentage (of hiring) that comes from the local market, but for a competitive edge, technology companies will look to India and China to see what the labour force is out there.

Canadian technology firms have to outsource to stay competitive. You already have Polaris Software Labs, an outsourcing company (from Chennai, India) that has an office on Bay Street (in Toronto). Tata Consultancy Services (based in Mumbai, India) is already here. They’re coming in with big money. Canadian tech companies have to look at that as a strategic threat and come up with a game plan.

Also with hiring, there is a significant labour force looking to come into [Canada]. We might as well figure out how to embrace that or else we will get stepped on. When it comes to hiring, we will see good growth in the local market, but we will see hiring from other countries where we can get different skills. For more face-to-face roles, tech companies will hire locally, but for the repetitive stuff, that can be given to a labour force that can be brought in.

How easy do you think it will it be to get an IT-related job in the next year?

Overall, the signs look good. Because there have been a lot of technology shakeups, a lot of acquisitions and mergers, it slows the pace somewhat. The ERP space, for example, is very confusing to get into. Customers don’t know what they should or shouldn’t get….Some of them might be wondering, “Maybe it’s the right time to switch from Oracle to SAP.” When that happens, the first thing is for them to hold off on making any hiring decisions.

However, with budget season coming to an end, the next three or four months will be good for contract hiring. Execution plans that were on hold are getting called up again. Permanent positions are a little bit harder to find than they could be, but they’re also there. September and October are also usually good times (to find work) because companies with extra budget dollars left over will want to squeeze them out.

What quality is most sought-after by technology companies in job candidates?

In today’s competitive world, the type of people sought after are the ones with a real business focus from the technological perspective. [They] don’t care if you know how to code or not. [They are] looking for the true hybrid version of [an] individual that has business experience in a specific vertical, who can converse with clients and lead to connections, lead to that technical conversation that will happen later. As a tech company I can send the tech people in later to close the deal, but the door-openers are very different. Unfortunately that hybrid group of people is very hard to find. They’re usually the ones who are entrepreneurs. That’s their personality – they are a breed of people that have ventured out on their own because traditionally they did not fit anywhere else….don’t just focus on building technical skills. Focus on where you can fit in the industry.Text

What skills or qualities are enterprises seeking the most in IT workers?

The biggest request that we continue to hear is for (vertical) industry knowledge. People are looking for IT employees who can connect to the business side of the organization. When someone calls me up with a recruitment request, I first look at who understands that particular vertical. Second to that is technology; if they know 50 or 60 per cent of that, they can start with that.

So I would suggest to anyone looking for a job out there that they don’t just focus on building technical skills. Focus on where you can fit in the industry. For example, if you want to work as an IT person in retail, join the Retail Council of Canada. Learn about the business issues, and learn about what technologies can apply to that. But just going out there and getting certified in a particular technology is not going to be enough to sustain any industry.

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