What a Year for IT!
The IT industry is booming. 2018 wasn’t just a good year for the IT industry; it was a great year for IT professionals and innovation. It’s no wonder IDC predicted 2018 would bump IT spending to nearly $5 trillion globally and CompTIA believed 2018 revenue growth would be around 5 percent across the global tech sector. While the 2018 numbers are still out, every indication is that these estimates were spot on.
Growth, of course, brings opportunities as well as challenges. With IT projects skyrocketing, the need for IT talent with specific skills becomes a priority. Demand often increases faster than supply, creating a talent shortage that threatens to stunt that growth.
We sat down with Jeff Anderson, CEO at Zilker Partners, and Nicole Zwiener, Senior Director of People Operations at Zilker Partners, to ask them what they’re seeing in the industry and where they believe the IT trends are headed in 2019.
Q: What are some of the industry trends you saw in 2018 and IT staffing, IT project management, and IT consulting?
Jeff: For IT staffing, there was continued movement towards data-driven roles, specifically with machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), and data science roles. In addition, there was a steady flow of full-stack development, back-end development, and front-end development roles.
Companies continue to hire to improve their efficiency in managing development, operations, and infrastructure. In 2018, the highest demand roles related to this were in Test Automation (SDET), DevOps, and Cloud Architecture.
Cloud architecture is officially the norm. Besides the highly regulated industries and companies, most have finally adopted the cloud. Between the agility, cost savings and tools like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Microsoft Azure offer, we continue to see organizations flee to the cloud model, requiring them to hire the talent to support the new infrastructure and tooling.
When it comes to IT projects, technology advances and efficiencies are playing a huge role. Standard Agile teams are changing their structure. In the past, the development team was a single team or maybe two teams divided between Mobile and Web. In 2018, we saw the emergence of Data Science teams, ML teams and/or AI teams.
The big Internet of Things (IoT) push is still the rage, but it has become less of just a cool thing to talk about and more about actually connecting devices, homes, and offices to solve real-world problems. People are demanding connectivity and organizations are trying to meet that demand in the most logical way.
An interesting trend to note: marketing organizations and development organizations used to be completely separate entities. With the evolvement of technology and the funnel, this area is getting cloudy and we are seeing increasingly more overlap among these organizations. This is a good thing as marketing can help drive development and as products and services are developed, they inspire marketing to create excitement and more demand around those products. This symbiotic relationship is exciting and where real innovation will come from.
Q: Both the Austin area and the Denver market are seeing rapid growth in the IT sector. What are you seeing in these areas and how have things changed over the past five years?
Jeff: Both Denver and Austin continue to experience heavy growth with new companies moving or starting up every day. Denver and Austin are also attracting great talent for the quality of life as much as the plentiful job opportunities.
For the junior and mid-level technology jobs, there seems to be a decent balance of supply and demand, however, for the senior-level tech jobs, there is still a shortage of qualified talent. With the big push into ML, AI, and data science, many strong full-stack and back-end engineers are transitioning into this space, creating a gap of development-experienced talent.
Q: There’s always this problem of not having enough skills to fill all of the available positions. Are you seeing that gap narrowing or widening and why do you think that’s happening?
Nicole: The gap continues to widen as more companies move to Austin to take advantage of the lower cost of living, tax incentives, talent pool, and other elements. Companies like Amazon, Charles Schwab, Indeed, the U.S. Army Futures Command and General Motors have added thousands of new jobs to the Austin-area market.
Q: How do you foresee all of these jobs in Austin and Denver will be filled, given the gap?
Jeff: We aren’t trying to self-promote, but working with an IT recruiting firm is a great way to get open positions filled with the best talent out there. So much is at stake when you bring someone on board. You want to be sure you get the best talent you can afford. That means you have to attract people with your culture; a modern technology stack; and a competitive salary with benefits, bonuses and long-term incentives. This may require recruiting out of town or state, if needed. We often partner with universities and coding schools to fill a pipeline of talent from which we can recruit.
Nicole: With each passing year, the Austin tech market gets more competitive. Recruiters have to constantly network and build relationships with tech talent and hiring managers. The war for talent is not going away in the Austin or Denver markets, so we must continue to look for creative and innovating ways to engage.
Q: Looking ahead to 2019, where do you see the demand and what do you predict will drive it?
Jeff: Definitely in the data-driven roles and projects for AI, ML and data science. The driver is that companies are looking at either their data or their customers in a new light, coming up with fresh ways to monetize and evolve their solutions in the market through AI and ML.
In 2019, I believe DevOps and Cloud Architecture will continue to grow. I foresee DevOps as a managed service to become a hot trend. The demand for AWS, GCP, and Azure will continue to evolve. Any startup who builds software will go the cloud route 99 percent of the time.
Blockchain technology is also being recognized by companies for different uses besides cryptocurrencies. Security use cases and the problems blockchain technology can solve will push it to the forefront.
Finally, virtual reality and augmented reality will move beyond gaming and be leveraged by companies as well for training, safety, and simulation, among other things. Of course, these technologies will continue to drive gaming and entertainment.
Q: What do you think the biggest challenge will be for companies looking to innovate?
Jeff: Companies have a lot of data and legacy technology. Trying to figure out how to leverage this data to generate new revenue streams, product categories, or incremental value to existing products will be a challenge.
With the continued evolvement of cloud infrastructure, continuous integration, and test automation, engineering teams can realistically get to a daily release CI/CD model. This puts pressure on the upfront process of software development that includes planning, product backlog, and product strategy. Companies will have to evolve their Agile process, teams, and tools to squeeze out as much value as possible.
Q: Does Zilker Partners have any new initiatives you’ll be rolling out in 2019?
Jeff: Our customers are solving complex problems, not just hiring top tech talent. We continue to sharpen our sword through different offerings and strategic partnerships to be a one-stop-shop for our customers. Oftentimes, it makes more sense to outsource specific initiatives instead of hiring for it. We will continue to build out our strategic footprint, allowing us to offer the best solution for our customers. In addition, we may or may not be expanding to new markets…