The technology industry has been living with a perpetual talent shortage for as long as anyone can remember. InteropITX is an annual conference that brings together resources from across the industry, from vendors to practitioners in every sector, and across all company sizes. It is one of the last remaining independent conferences (vendors are there, but the conference isn’t put on by one specific company).
This year’s conference vibe included a palpable sense of urgency around the talent challenge, and for good reason. We know that by 2020, 1.3 million individuals will retire and exit the talent pool. Computer science programs at the post-secondary level will only produce 400,000 new graduates during that time period. That leaves us with nearly a million person shortage, and that is only if technology staffing remains at current levels, which it is not expected to do.
Through keynotes and conference sessions, networking events and hallway conversations, the thread of the discussion returned again and again to one topic. How do we bring more people into our industry? How do we create an environment where tech becomes the destination of choice for everyone, across all vectors of our diverse workforce?
One of the most obvious (and well-known) challenges in the technology workforce is also one of the most visible. In a session with 100 attendees, only 8 were women. Despite tremendous efforts from organizations such as Women in Linux, Girls Who Code, WITI and others, women are still astoundingly under-represented in the field as a whole. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that the commitment to change exists. It was visible in the number of women leading conference sessions and speaking on panels. It was also clear from the keynote on building an equitable workplace, which focused on ways we can use technology to remove bias from hiring processes.
There is no doubt that the IT industry and its talent challenges represent an opportunity to bring more diversity to the table and to create pathways for youth, particularly economically disadvantaged youth, to access career opportunities. Several panels and sessions addressed the question of the talent shortage by widening the net that recruiters cast, focusing beyond the college recruiting pipeline, and developing relationships with community groups, including veterans, youth programs and other talent pools.
But beyond fishing in new pools for talent, another topic came up time and time again in conversations around the talent challenge in tech: perception. While the emphasis on coding, and particularly introducing girls to coding at an early age is intended to bring more women into the field, it has an unintended consequence. It gives the impression that everyone in tech is a coder. This is simply not the case.
The diversity of roles and opportunities in technology goes far beyond coding. I spent a decade in the industry and never wrote a line of code. Technology encompasses a broad swath of activities, including support, design, product development, project management and beyond. Every skillset can find a home somewhere in this diverse ecosystem. As an industry, IT needs to do a better job of communicating the variety of ways to succeed in the field.
The technology industry expects a talent shortage of nearly one million people by 2020. The question on everyone's mind at #InteropITX 2018 was how to solve that crisis by encouraging greater #diversity https://hubs.ly/H0cNKdD0