Kim Nash reports in the Wall Street Journal:
With technology expertise in short supply, companies are forcing each other to court over employee defections. Papa John’s fought Panera over a CIO for six months last year. The skills shortage is a growing problem as more corporate functions rely on technology and become completely digitalized. Jobs are being replaced by software. "Demand for software engineers rising, (but) I don’t see intake into computer science rising, creating a deficit for the future.”
Competing for scarce technology talent requires creative, sometimes steely tactics from chief information officers.
Sysco Corp. coaxes Houston teens to code, encouraging careers in tech. UBS Group AG has tweeted encrypted messages to attract cryptographers. Ticketmaster hires expert authors of techie books. Papa John’s International Inc. went to court over a coveted technology executive. Target Corp. plans to collaborate with Cargill Inc. to convince IT professionals to move to the cold Midwest.
The skills shortage is a growing problem as more corporate functions rely on technology and, indeed, become completely digitalized. “Distribution, manufacturing, office jobs are being replaced by software,” says Mike McNamara, Target’s chief information and digital officer. He hired 1,000 software engineers in the 18 months after joining Target in mid-2015, through a mix of tactical and long-term methods.
“I see demand for software engineers rising and what I don’t see is the intake into computer science rising,” he says. “We’re creating a deficit for the future.”
President Trump’s actions to curb immigration and tighten the H-1B visa program could shrink the labor pool, aggravating an already serious problem, some experts have said. At the same time, demand for IT professionals is expected to grow by more than 12% by 2024 to 4.4 million jobs, compared to 3.9 million in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Software developers and information security analysts are especially wanted, with the number of positions projected to rise by 17% and 18%, respectively.
Clever hiring tactics are necessary in a tight race for talent, says Oliver Bussmann, who left as CIO of UBS last year. When the bank sought cryptographers to test blockchain technology, UBS posted encrypted tweets about the job. “If you could decrypt them, you knew where to go,” says Mr. Bussmann, now a fintech consultant. Forty to 50 applicants showed up, he says.
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Wayne Shurts, global chief technology officer at Sysco, created a “university” program, in which he recruits five to 10 college graduates per year to rotate through key IT groups at the food distributor. They may code in Java, then learn Salesforce.com Inc. systems, which Sysco uses extensively. Mr. Shurts is moving away from outsourcing, doing more internal software development. “What I’m trying to do is create developers that know a bunch of different technologies,” he says.
He wants to shift skills in his 600-member IT group from older software engineering methods to Agile techniques, and hire cybersecurity experts. About 12 technology positions are open at the Houston company. A downturn in the oil business has helped. “More folks are available and less likely to get eaten up by oil companies,” he says.‘“I see demand for software engineers rising and what I don’t see is the intake into computer science rising. We’re creating a deficit for the future.”’
At Target, Mr. McNamara recruits from universities and takes interns from Genesys Works, a program for teens who want to pursue technology in college. He expanded Target’s office in Sunnyvale, Calif., to attract data scientists, hiring 40 PhDs. In 2016, he or a member of his staff attended, and often spoke at, 70 to 100 conferences, helping to promote Target as a place where IT professionals practice advanced skills.Next Mr. McNamara plans to work with Justin Kershaw, CIO at the agriculture and industrial manufacturer Cargill, and maybe other firms in Minneapolis and St. Paul, to market the area to prospective employees. “They have different needs from my needs but they are both very big needs,” he said.
With technology expertise in short supply, companies are forcing each other to court over employee defections. Papa John’s fought Panera over a CIO for six months last year. Mike Nettles, who was Panera’s vice president of architecture and IT strategy, quit the restaurant last July to be CIO at the pizza chain. Panera sued Papa John’s and Mr. Nettles, saying he had breached a contract barring him from working for a rival for one year after leaving.
Panera said that Mr. Nettles had access to “Panera’s thought processes and visions for its technology systems” as well as IT information that would give Papa John’s an unfair competitive advantage. Papa John’s maintained the two don’t compete and it isn’t after corporate secrets.
The parties settled the case in December, with each side agreeing to pay its own court costs. Mr. Nettles started at Papa John’s Feb. 1.
“We are excited about Mike joining,” a Papa John’s spokesman said. Panera declined to comment.
Jody Mulkey, CTO of Live Nation Entertainment Inc.’s Ticketmaster, has about 25 open spots on his staff of 1,200. One successful recruiting technique is wooing influential authors. In September, Ticketmaster hired Tom Bray, who co-wrote a book on building mobile apps in React, a specialized set of software components. Well-known “tribal leaders” attract other good people, Mr. Mulkey says. “We buy some attractors and fill the nest.”