The tech talent deficit is nothing new; in fact, it’s only gotten worse over recent years, compounded by COVID-19 and the mounting pressure on companies to digitize, automate and accelerate overnight. And now, of course, we are also battling the Great Resignation and talent wars.
For engineering and software delivery roles, this has never been truer. For years, it has been challenging to find professionals that embody the soft and technical skills needed to support ever-changing SDLC needs. Just think about how much the role of the QE leader has changed in recent years. Today they face an expanding set of challenges, including: creating agility at scale, getting code out faster, responding to ever-evolving market needs, becoming more data-driven… and the list goes on.
Companies cannot always wait two years for” best” when it comes to go-to-market. Instead, they need a product that meets the immediate market need and in time to be the first – or among the first – choice presented to the end user. Otherwise, there will be no market when delivered – there is no opportunity to take just one and not the other. As a result, pressure mounts for engineering leaders to support continuous integration and extensive automation — both of which require higher technical skillsets within teams. Today’s engineering professionals need to possess insight into the whole value chain, with deep understanding of:
- The things that need to get done to put quality product in the hands of ends users faster
- How to operate and contribute meaningfully in truly Agile (as opposed to Agile in name only) environments
- The developer mindset so they can improve collaboration and cooperation cross-functionally in a self-organizing team
- Mastery of emerging technologies and automation frameworks that can support a more modern paradigm
- A focus on how what they do impacts superior customer experience
So how can we as technology leaders stay ahead of the talent deficit? By focusing on a few core areas:
Form Communities of Practice
One of the things that happened as we moved to self-organizing teams is that we lost the focus on standards and commonality found in the old “Bureau” model – which means it has become harder for something that is discovered as a critical advantage in one team to disseminate throughout an entire organization. As such, one of the things we need to prioritize is the creation of Communities of Practice, which pull together groups of people of the same technical background so they can exchange ideas, learn from one another, and improve how they do their jobs.
Quality engineering in particular needs to think of itself as a specialty that has an obligation to raise the standards of the profession continually. We need to focus on staying abreast of ever-evolving development technologies while augmenting our team-member skillsets for meeting the challenge of delivering better code quicker. Technology is not standing still; It’s advancing all the time. As such, we can no longer focus on solving yesterday’s or today’s problems; instead, we need to be almost exclusively focused on preparing to solve tomorrow’s problems.
Create Space to Incubate
Emerging technology is here and is already having a profound impact on product development, go-to-market and customer experience… and that impact in many areas is only beginning to be felt. As leaders, we need to have a steady eye on the next thing and explore it in the safest ways. While we can’t bet the company on immature or unfamiliar technologies, we can and should dip our toe in with emerging technologies – especially those that have the ability to transform our organizations. To do this, all companies should be creating an “incubation center” where these technologies can be learned and applied to their specific problem space.
For example, even though the Internet of Things (IoT) is still emerging, IoT and artificial intelligence are out there and having transformational effects on business. This means we can’t wait for these technologies to get too mature before developing a game plan of incorporating them. So, as you think about how to grow and up-skill your team, ensure that you are creating space for your team to experiment and incubate with new technologies so that they remain ahead, versus falling behind.
The most innovative and resilient companies always think of their people as an investment and are willing to “grow” them over time. One of the quickest ways to do that is to pair your internal team with experts from the outside who have hyper-specialization that will not only complement the skills of your existing team, but also move your entire team forward.
When we pair our team with technical mentors and advisors, they in turn can set the pace for the rest of the organization – thus producing a “multiplier” effect. As knowledge is imparted shoulder-to-shoulder, the collective expertise of your team rises, and you are able to supplant your team’s current capabilities with a new set of special skill sets.
As we stated earlier, the talent deficit has long plagued and challenged leaders, but fortunately there are steps we can take every day to up-skill and prepare our teams for what’s next. As we look at introducing the next great initiatives within our departments, we must not lose sight of the fact that in many cases, the drivers of transformation come from individual contributors. Addressing the talent deficit therefore becomes essential.
As leaders, we have a responsibility to be raising the bar every day; this ensures that the team that made us successful in the past will be ready to ride the new wave – whatever it brings – rather than being knocked over by it.
Looking for immediate talent support within your quality engineering department? Drop us a note here; we would be happy to discuss how we could lend additional team support through our devops, emerging technology, data and testing teams.