3 Unlikely Industries Innovating in Tech Hiring

This article originally appeared in Venture Beat.


The Department of Labor estimates that there are currently 500,000 unfilled positions in IT fields. But it isn’t just the tech industry that desperately needs tech talent. Banks, retailers, and government agencies are aggressively trying to recruit as well. And while these may be old-school institutions, we’re seeing them adopt some pretty new-school strategies in order to compete on the hiring front.

1. Banks & Credit Unions

Banks have done a lot to assure Americans that they are a safe place for sensitive information, but in the face of frequent, more sophisticated, and more widespread cyber attacks, there are still ways to improve. Boosting security systems to the highest level of compliance and enforcing more rigid security protocols like two-factor authentication are both smart ways for financial institutions to protect people from malicious parties.

As cybersecurity grows in complexity, banks are spending millions of dollars to prevent cybercrime. They are also spending huge amounts of money on capabilities like mobile banking, which provide their customers with the seamless experiences they demand. Balancing the need for convenience with the need for security requires top technical talent, which is driving banks to reinvent their hiring practices.

Capital One created Capital One Labs to serve as an in-house incubator for new technology. This Lab strives to cultivate a startup atmosphere along with hefty salaries and perks in an effort to attract young, bright tech minds. BBVA Compass replaced traditional job descriptions with high-quality videos it posted on YouTube that feature employees talking about their work lives, and companies like Wells Fargo and Bank of America enable potential hires to apply for jobs via their mobile devices.

An increasing number of banks are integrating these cutting edge hiring platforms, social media, and events, like hackathons, into their recruiting strategy. ING recently attracted more than 700 participants for its 24H-CodeIT hackathon. These events help banks attract software engineers to the banking sector by making the age old industry exciting to potential employees.

2. Retail

Lines are blurring between online and offline commerce. Eighty-four percent of store visitors use their mobile devices before or during a shopping trip, and 80 percent of mobile users say their purchasing decisions are influenced by mobile channels. Research firm Deloitte estimates that digital influences more than $1 trillion in retail store sales. In addition, 72 percent of shoppers now “showroom,” meaning they examine merchandise in a physical store and then buy it online, and 78 percent “webroom,” meaning they research online and buy in-store. The rise of omni channel commerce is inspiring retailers of all sizes to bridge the gap between experiences in the physical world and online engagement. Brick-and-mortar retailers have to step up their tech game, which means they have to step up their tech hiring.

In 2014, Walmart unveiled plans to hire hundreds of tech workers, adding 1,000 employees to its e-commerce unit and significantly expanding its office in Silicon Valley. In an effort to find these tech workers, Walmart has submitted thousands of petitions for H-B1 visas that would enable it to hire foreign temporary workers. And similar to Capital One, Walmart also established an incubator program called @WalmartLabs to accelerate e-commerce innovation. This department has all the perks Silicon Valley employees have come to expect — games, snacks, conference rooms named after celebrities, etc. — and allows engineers to take “hack days” — days when they can work on personal projects. In addition, Walmart has made a number of acquisitions to absorb their tech talent and has hosted Hackathons on college campuses like the University of Michigan.

Another great example is Nordstrom, which boosted its tech recruiting efforts by supporting women in tech programs. Retail employees are mostly women, and the company saw an opportunity to leverage this appeal to attract female developers. Last year, Nordstrom also conducted a “flash build” event, where an engineering team picked a surprise location to build a new feature.

As online and offline commerce merge, the need for tech workers in the retail sector grows — with companies like Walmart and Nordstrom growing their recruitment efforts in the online space.

3. Government

Realizing the need to rejuvenate his ranks with the brightest minds in the country, President Obama has made several key hires and even created entirely new positions. In 2009, he created the position of Chief Technology Officer of the United States to help streamline the way government functions. These efforts kicked into overdrive following the initial shortcomings of Healthcare.gov and the realization that the government needs to take tech more seriously. Since then, the government has actively hired top tech executives to top White House positions. Facebook engineering director David Recordon became the director of White House Information Technology in March. A few months prior, the White House hired Megan Smith, the former VP of Google X, as the U.S. Chief Technology Officer. LinkedIn’s former chief security officer DJ Patil also joined the White House as chief data scientist.

The White House has recruited these high-profile people and others by emphasizing the opportunity to serve their country, have an impact on millions of lives, and solve interesting problems — something most entrepreneurs and engineers yearn for. In 2012, former CTO of the U.S. Todd Park created the Presidential Innovation Fellows program that pairs technologists and innovators with top civil servants in the government. Around 700 people applied for 18 spots, so clearly the opportunity struck a chord. Park is now tasked with recruiting top talent in Silicon Valley. Furthermore, federal, state, and local government agencies are increasingly putting on hackathons as a way to stimulate interest in government IT.

Additionally, President Obama recently unveiled the $100 million TechHire initiative, which aims to create a clear path for low-skilled individuals to pursue lucrative IT careers in high-demand fields. The initiative also aims to help industries that are not perceived as tech savvy find the employees they need to thrive.

Accomplishing this goal isn’t just about training more people with tech skills, but also about establishing innovative, data-driven hiring practices that better match skills sets to available jobs. For many businesses, this poses a significant challenge because they have the added barrier of needing to convince people to work for a bank, department store, or government agency instead of a cool tech company or startup. The companies that win the battle for tech talent will be those who think outside of the box when it comes to recruiting.

Banks, retail, and government agencies are just a few of the industries making waves in tech hiring. We can expect many more to join the race. What unexpected industries do you see thriving with tech talent in the future? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

Vivek Ravisankar is cofounder and CEO of HackerRank, a platform to help programmers hone their skills and to help companies hire great programmers.

 

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