Interview: Mobile app developer hiring
This week on RADIO IT World Canada, Lara Dodo, regional vice president at Robert Half Technology explains why finding the right skills to build and maintain your mobile app is crucial and why retention of those positions is important too.


JD Speedy: Hi there. I’m JD Speedy and this is Radio IT World Canada, a weekly 10 minute-ish interview podcast with prominent members of the IT world in Canada. Joining us this week is Lara Dodo, Regional Vice President at Robert Half Technology. I asked Lara to join me to discuss hiring in the mobile app field. Since every business needs a mobile app, every business needs a mobile app developer, right? Listen in to find out.

Welcome, everyone. Joining me on the podcast today is Lara Dodo, Regional VP of Robert Half Technology. Thanks for joining me, Lara.

Lara Dodo: You’re most welcome.

JD: The reason I wanted to speak with you today is I saw a study that came out from Robert Half about the demands that are starting to happen surrounding mobile apps and the fact that it’s becoming such a sought-after skill set since every business needs their own mobile app. Every business needs to tackle that area. What is that like for CIOs? Why has this suddenly become such a huge phenomenon?

Lara: That’s a great question. We ran a CIO survey, James, with 270 CIOs from Fortune 1000 companies across Canada. 43% of them said that they either have or they will have a mobile application in the next 12 months.

What’s pushing that increased enthusiasm or demand for a mobile app is the fact that most organizations are looking at new and innovative ways to engage or interact with their existing consumer and customer base. They’re looking for new ways to attract and on-board new customers. It’s a great way to tap into new business and ensure you’re maintaining your current business. There’s lots of hype around the area of mobility.

JD: I guess you don’t necessarily have those kinds of skill sets with your current IT staff. That doesn’t mean that if someone can work on a computer that they can necessarily build an app.

Lara: Exactly. That’s the real pain point here. From the same survey, 41% of the CIOs said that the biggest challenge they have with mobile applications is keeping the application up-to-date because you need [inaudible 02:23] points to have existing mobile developers that can continue to work on more of the updated look, feel and usability of that application.

We also know that just under 20% of CIOs have [inaudible 02:37] at finding IT professionals with the required skill set. It’s exceptionally difficult. Simply put, James, the supply of mobile developers does not meet the demand.

JD: I’m guessing that there’s also not just one skill set. For instance, if you wanted to have an Android app and an iOS app, that might not even be the same person you need.

Lara: Completely. That goes back to organizations really have to think very carefully as to the audience they want to tap into. Are they better off going the iOS route? Are they better off going the Android route? What’s their plan?

But also don’t forget that when you’re talking mobile apps, it’s not just the demand for the mobile developer that’s out there. You’ve got to think about your security. Who’s going to support the security of the mobile app data? You also need to think about help desk professionals. There’s an increased demand there in that you need someone to troubleshoot problems. We know that inevitably problems will arise at some point and your clients, customers, or users will need professionals who can solve these issues.

So with mobility being hot, there’s increased demand for mobile app developers, increased demand for IT security, as well as iMobile iDesk professionals.

JD: So those are probably the skill sets that future graduates should start looking into if they want to get into IT in Canada?

Lara: Yes, indeed. Mobile apps, web development, IT security, help desk, and I also would not leave out, James, network engineers. With so much discussion obviously on Cloud and server virtualization, network engineers are a very sought-after skill set as well.

JD: Now, for CIOs, you said the challenge is not just filling those roles, but filling those roles from rapidly declining numbers. How can they mitigate that? Where can they start looking for these types of skills?

Lara: There’s a multi-angled approach or solution that CIOs or IT hiring departments need to look at. I would actually start first with, if you currently employ a web developer or you have a mobile development team, make sure you have efforts in place to retain them. Those folks are in high demand. I would start there. Retain your current folks. Make sure they feel well-engaged, well-looked after, and well-compensated. Money does talk.

Then I would take a look at, “Are you an environment that can afford to train and on-board professionals who have maybe an underlying skill set that could be career-pathed into a development? As an example, is there an opportunity to take someone with background in .NET and career-path them into something a little bit different? Or if they’re a new grad who’s just very savvy with mobility generally and has an interest in learning, maybe C, to get out there into mobile development.

So think about retention, number one. Two, can you on-board and train people to get them to where they need to be? On that plan, you have relationships with universities and colleges and alumni groups. Then, of course, are you active in the local current community? Are you involved with user groups for these various mobile developers? Are you considered an employer of choice? Do you know who in the network that you could ask for referrals? There are lots of multi-faceted approaches, but you need to tackle all of them to make sure you are attracting and retaining top talent.

JD: I find that interesting, actually, that one of the biggest concerns, as you mentioned, is retaining that talent, partially because of the fact that one of the biggest struggling points is keeping an app up-to-date, not just initially building it. How has this become a big struggle? What’s the biggest pain point for keeping an app up-to-date? Is it just new standards or new features? What’s the biggest problem?
Lara: I think there are a couple of reasons, and different organizations would cite different examples. But generically, James, if you’re looking at a B2C, a business to consumer application, consumers are fickle. They opt to the next hot thing. We inherently want very simple, easy to use applications. So you need to make sure from a company perspective that your application is always meeting those new user experience standards. If you’re not constantly on the lookout for what other options your consumers have out there, you could get left behind.

I think, one, technology changes so quickly and that’s part of that challenge there. The other piece as well is more and more competitors are coming out with their own mobile app. Perhaps that’s also spurring along the demand for ever-evolving applications and user experience requirements.

JD: It might be partially keeping up with the curve and partially following the app reviews, for instance, and seeing where people are having their own pain points with your app and reacting to that with some sort of speed.

Lara: Absolutely. Simply put, the cliche of are you in the conversation, are you online all the time, are you constantly looking at what the new standards are, and are you asking for feedback on your applications? Because you have one, it doesn’t mean it’s the right one for your company. Make sure that you’re open to hearing [inaudible 08:08] feedback, whatever you need to do to be in that conversation organization.

JD: For CIOs, where does that responsibility usually fall, to monitor that kind of feedback and to react to it?

Lara: Every organization is set up a little bit differently. Smaller companies will have a different structure than large ones. We’ve heard about new titles of Chief Mobility Officers. They may have a whole strategy that actually looks at existing user feedback. It could be as simple as having a blogger at your company engaging in conversation with your customers and asking what they are looking for in terms of mobile apps or what they like or don’t like.

You could have surveys you’re sending out. You could literally just have a simple task force crew at your organization that is doing market research and analyzing where you weigh compared to your competitors’ applications out there.

JD: Are there any specific programming skill sets above and beyond just mobile that will be in demand in the future, or are maybe just starting to hit their peak now?

Lara: The future is wide open, but just generically outside of the mobile space, I would say .NET is exceptionally highly in demand. It’s a great starting place for anyone looking at getting into development. We continue to see a demand in PHP, and Java is not going away anytime soon.

JD: How much influence has the sudden shift to iPhone made on this kind of area?

Lara: As I said, iOS rules right now. Consumer demand for actual hardware, obviously, is going to be the underlying reason for the increased demand in the actual website mobile development space. I don’t know of anyone right now, James, who doesn’t have an Apple device of some sort, including my six and seven-year-old. The demand for iOS is not going away anytime soon.

JD: I think I’ve asked all the questions I wanted to ask. I really want to thank you, Lara, for joining me today. Thanks for joining us in the podcast.

Lara: You’re most welcome. Thanks for having me, James.

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