How to Steal All the Tech Grads

A few weeks ago, I read about a plan IBM had for providing free technology training to students in Hong Kong. Free is definitely intriguing, but what was more interesting was the follow-on offer:

“…would award graduates an associate degree and put them first in line for positions at the tech giant, could be a potential game changer with industries complaining of local students starting job-specific training much later than their overseas counterparts.”

The P-TECH program, now in place in 100 schools from the US to Singapore, will train a new generation of tech workers. And IBM will be first in line to scoop up these newly minted tech grads.

It is an ingenious approach to the tech talent war. Why fight the battle for ever more scarce and costly programming talent when you can grow your own. Seed enough of these free programs across the globe, and for a minimal investment, you have ready made developers that can be productive day one.

OK, so the programme is a lot less sinister as I am making it out to be. Turns out that IBM partners with other companies and no student is compelled to join IBM. It is truly a collaborative and well-intentioned effort to extend opportunities and advance tech education in schools.

But who wouldn’t think about joining IBM, especially in Hong Kong where the value of university degrees and brand name companies holds significant sway. While in the US, companies are dropping college degrees as a hiring requirement, that won’t be happening any time soon in Hong Kong or anywhere else in Asia for that matter.

The tech talent war is real however. In high-cost regions that was not always the case. With inner source picking up and more startups emerging however, places like Hong Kong and Singapore are facing a much tougher hiring environment for qualified developers. In hot areas like DevOps, data science, and machine learning, most of the talent is being imported.

So how exactly are you going to compete for talent? Not many companies have the ability to pull off IBM’s playbook. That being said, there are some easy ways you can hit your hiring goals including six recruiting ideas I suggested in this post.

One strategy that I am very supportive of in particular is supporting and hosting events. It can be difficult to separate the high value from low value ones, but when you find them, it is worth doubling down.

For example, Credit Suisse is doing this in Asia through their sponsorship of the YOW! Conferences in Singapore and Hong Kong, hosting the events in their impressive offices. While hiring is one objective, the long-term objective is allowing their own employees to see Credit Suisse as a developer friendly culture that invests in the interests and future of their developers.

The important point to note is that these cannot be one-off activities. Building an employer brand is an ongoing effort, otherwise developers will see right through your efforts as disingenuous. While perks and pay are important, they also want to work for a company that has a supportive developer culture.

If your motivations are in the right place, conferences, meetups, hackathons, and other events can immediately bolster recruiting efforts. In a crowded online world, meeting face-to-face and getting to know people on a personal level creates a more memorable experience. In the grand scheme of things, that’s a lot less costly and spammy than the usual tactics to hire developers.

What have you found to be a winning strategy for recruiting top developers? Are there events you have attended that were really valuable for developers?

I don’t know my nationality. How can I visit Denmark?

Very interesting case of a person that is stateless…

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