In our last IT and Technology market update Amit provided a brief overview and highlighted some of the challenges recruiting for this market — click here to read more. In part two, he goes a bit deeper and discusses the dichotomy of those with a commercial background vs those with a technical background.
In tech recruitment, particularly in the digital space where I recruit, there is a significant dichotomy in the skill sets that are often mandated by clients. If we were to put the talent on two ends of a spectrum — digital/technical people would be on one end and marketing/sales people on the other. In reality, it is seldom so clearly defined, as most roles will typically include elements of both technical and business development.
That said, the degree of crossover between roles and skills depends on the organisation. For example, in larger organisations, the roles are more defined, more mature or more established. This means they would generally look for solid expertise in a specific area. On the other hand, smaller companies would want to keep the teams small and agile so they look for a more versatile type of candidates that can work across functions.
This relates to an interesting new concept called I-Shape people or T-Shape people. I-Shape is people that have one expertise that they specialise in whereas T-Shape is where people have specific expertise in one area but implement it across different functions.
We’ve seen that more and more clients, predominantly in mainland China, would typically only look for I-Shape people. However, in Hong Kong and other smaller companies, there is more need for T-Shape or even M-Shape — that’s people with different expertise that work across different industries. But then again, because digital roles are not linear like perhaps an accountant where they most likely have one type of specific abilities, they all come in from multiple backgrounds; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a digital professional with just one type of expertise.
This diversity in talent is becoming more common, with more T-Shape people entering the workforce. With a wider skill set, we have seen people make smoother transitions between roles moving from technical to marketing (and vice versa). Although, it must be said the barriers to making the switch from one discipline to the other really depends on the type of role and degree of technical specification required. For example, if it was a Core Java backend engineer, unless you did your education in computer science it’s not exactly possible to make that switch.
However, if we take a holistic look at the skills that are more directly applicable to the role, I would actually say it is more likely marketing will find the transition easier going into a tech role, as opposed to a tech person moving into marketing. The reason for that is marketing people typically will have better consumer sense. For example, they might not know how to build a product, but they would understand what consumers want, how they interact with digital products and what are the habits; they just need to communicate this to the tech team. You can see how, for example, a product with seamless backend design can fail just because it doesn’t really represent what the consumer needs.
This is why companies are beginning to hire those with a varied skill set that can fulfil the needs of both business development but also understand the technical side. The main polarity can be seen from larger organisations vs smaller where the team structure is vastly different which is reflected in their hiring requirements.