Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hiring in IT

As I told you a couple of posts ago I’m changing my career. Since then (July) I’ve been looking for a job in the field of information/data management. After almost two months I’m still looking for it and quite disappointed with the companies I’m applying to. I don’t understand why companies don’t spend the few seconds required to reply to your email saying “Thanks for applying, we really appreciate your interest in this company”. You don’t know what is happening with your application, and even after they call you to present tests and approve them they don’t call you back to tell you the final result. Why is it so difficult to give bad news? It is more important to tell the truth than just hide it.

During this process I’ve learnt a couple of things. The first is that you need two things to get a gob in IT: being an engineer (doesn’t matter if you had good or bad grades neither the university where you come from) and certifications (the ones that you can get in one week). I knew certifications were important, but not that can be more important that your academic achievements. I’ve been the best of my class, received scholarships for my academic performance and done a research Master in Systems and Organizations Management. All of this years of study, research and being at the academic elite are worthless because companies don’t want academic studies, they want certifications. In order to get a certification you pay a course that lasts a couple of weeks (maximum a month) where you memorize all the topics of the certification, after that you present the exam and voilĂ ! you got a certification. So for me there is a bit of disproportion here.

The second one is that your technical knowledge (specially the tools or programming languages you know)  is more important than your personal and cognitive skills. In other words they evaluate your skills based on the tools you might know rather than the value that you can add to the company. I can group my experience in two sets: personal and professional. In the first group (personal or human) is my experience as a volunteer, teacher, researcher and entrepreneur; which clearly show a strong personal and leadership side. Also I speak three languages (Spanish, English and French) and have strong human values like ethics, morals and compassion. In the second group (professional) I’ve been a systems administrator, software engineer and business intelligence analyst. Also I’m always reading about the latest innovations and techniques in my field; now I’m learning more and more about BI, Big Data and data management. All of this doesn’t matter because companies don’t look for people who are able to learn, unlearn and relearn (like the famous quote “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”) but for people that already know a tool/language and maybe are not willing to change it.

There is a need in the IT sector, at least in Colombia, to change the way we recruit people. If we want to build a world class sector we need to invest first in the primary resource of IT, the people. Companies need to hire people with more personal/cognitive values/skills even if they don’t have a lot of experience in the technology they will work with. People can learn, and is that differentiating factor that can build great companies or destroy them. We live in a society where people are getting used to live the easiest way possible, that’s why McDonalds, reality shows and pollution have succeeded. Nowadays people have less and less abilities to learn, unlearn and relearn; they are not willing to change their careers or learn new tools/technologies.

One of the findings of my research thesis was that software companies need to invest more in the discovery of new knowledge and the development of innovative products/services. We cannot achieve this by narrowing the selection of new personal to the tools/languages/certifications they have work with. New models of recruitment must be developed. These models have to give more importance to the human/cognitive values/skills of the engineers than the technical skills. If companies hire people that are able to learn, unlearn and relearn we will be able to build a high class IT sector.

For me this new model of Hiring in IT has to have three dimensions: human/cognitive, professional and technical. The first element should evaluate the integrity, ethics, morals, passion, communication and other human values. Also cognitive abilities, like learning or language skills, must be evaluated in this step. The weight of this evaluation must be at least 50%. The second element (professional) must evaluate the fields of your career you know the most and it must be technology/tool independent. So if you want to work in software development you should be able to solve problems algorithmically or if you want to work in BI you must be able to design a dimensional model. This should weight between 30 – 40% of your overall evaluation. The final dimension evaluates the knowledge you have in specific technologies or tools. If you know Java you should be able to demonstrate it or have a certification of it. This should be the 10 – 20% of your evaluation.

With these dimensions we can be able to select employees that will not only do the tasks they are supposed to but that can give an added value to the company. While writing this post I looked for some ideas to support it and I’ve found a very nice article written by the CEO of oDesk (the biggest online job marketplace) where he claims for new ideas to help the hiring of people. I completely agree with him and share the dimensions he proposes, although I think we need to adapt them to the IT world.

Changing this wont happen overnight, so I still need to get a bit more disappointed while looking for a job in BI, Big Data or data management :P.