A Blog by Jonathan Low


Jun 2, 2018

Corporations Now Battle Silicon Valley For Top Tech Talent

If all businesses are now tech businesses (with government and not for profit thrown in) than all employees should have tech skills.

But they don't, because there has been a lag between demand and the supply with the requisite up-to-date training in skills like AI and cybersecurity. Hence, the bidding war. JL

Lauren Weber reports in the Wall Street Journal:

Industrial giants are rethinking the way they recruit as they compete with each other and technology outfits for people with expertise in machine learning, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. Cutting-edge skills are evolving faster than universities can train people, the supply of talented workers entering these fields isn’t satisfying the demand, and worker’s willingness to uproot their life for a job in a new place has declined. Without scientists to do the research, projects can stall.(But) finding the right candidates on LinkedIn isn’t easy because “they’re tired of being found.”
The tussle over technology talent is reaching far beyond Silicon Valley.
Firms from industrial giants to car makers are rethinking the way they recruit as they compete with each other and traditional technology outfits for people with expertise in high-tech fields like machine learning, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.
For some positions that Siemens AG SIEGY 1.00% needs to fill, there may be a universe of fewer than 2,000 qualified people in the U.S., said Michael Brown, vice president of talent acquisition in the Americas for the German industrial conglomerate that makes everything from gas turbines to mammography machines.
“The question is how many of those are looking for a job?” Mr. Brown said. Finding the right potential candidates on sites like LinkedIn isn’t easy because “they’re tired of being found.”
Siemens has 377,000 employees world-wide and about 50,000 in the U.S. At the moment, it has about 1,500 open jobs across America, most of which require some software or science-related background.
Employers are handicapped by several factors, data show and recruiters say: Cutting-edge skills are evolving faster than universities can train people, the supply of talented young workers entering these fields isn’t satisfying the huge demand for them, and mobility—a worker’s willingness to uproot their life for a job in a new place—has declined. The odds of luring rare, coveted candidates away from their current job or city are long, Mr. Brown said.
At Siemens, recruiter Jillian Rozek hounds hiring managers to schedule interviews, communicate with top prospects and review resumes. She calls them on vacation and tracks them down in the hallways of the company’s Princeton, N.J., research center to make decisions. “They learn the hard way—waiting too long and losing a great candidate,” she said.
U.S. universities awarded nearly 4,000 doctorates in math and computer sciences in 2016, almost twice as many as in 1996. But in narrow subfields such as applied math or statistics, the numbers are meager compared with demand. And in 2016, 120 people received Ph.Ds in robotics, an engineering specialty so new that it wasn’t tracked until 2010.
Stanley Black & Decker SWK 1.68% needs scientists and engineers with skills in artificial intelligence and advanced analytics to help it run factories and better manage its supply chain, said Chief Executive Jim Loree.
The 175-year-old maker of wrenches, hedge trimmers and medical equipment opened an Atlanta office and hired about 100 digital experts in 2014 after studying where the right talent was already living and working. People wanted to stay there, Mr. Loree said of Atlanta.
At first those technologists reported to the firm’s headquarters in New Britain, Conn. But product executives clamored for their expertise. So Stanley eventually assigned most Atlanta-based employees to work remotely for individual business units. Now the firm is seeding the Atlanta office with another round of digital hires, Mr. Loree said. Stanley also has tried to clarify and expand its mission, partly in a bid to attract such workers, investing more in corporate social responsibility and branding itself as an engine of innovation.
Toyota Motor Corp. TM 2.61% has done something similar, taking jobs to talented workers. In 2016 it opened the Toyota Research
Institute with a mission of innovating in areas such as automated driving and robotics. TRI now employs about 300 people—half with Ph.Ds—in three locations including Los Altos, Calif., Cambridge, Mass., and Ann Arbor, Mich, said John Hanson, the Institute’s spokesman.
The locations are closely affiliated with nearby schools—Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Michigan—which allows it to attract leaders who want to maintain formal relationships with their research institutions. John Leonard, who runs TRI’s research on autonomous driving, continues to teach at MIT, where TRI has committed millions of dollars to research.
Those leaders then bring in promising talent. “Good people attract good people.” Mr. Hanson said.
Some companies say they can’t afford to get into a full-blown bidding war with the Googles of the world when trying to convince a job candidate to come onboard. Siemens aims to pay well, but “if that’s what you’re known for, people quickly figure out that it’s just about pay,” Mr. Brown said.
Even so, salary offers are up about 10% over last year for data-science jobs at Siemens. For some niche roles, offers are up as much as 25%. Failure to recruit the right people carries a price, too. Teams in Princeton work on research projects that Siemens business units bring to them, like developing a vertical farm equipped with sensors and vegetable-picking robots. Without scientists to do the research, projects can stall.
Michael Golm, the head of an “intelligent systems” research group at Siemens, said he often turns down interesting projects presented by the product side of the business. “We have to say, ’No, everyone is busy now,’” he said.
Siemens sends its scientists out to discuss their research at places like Purdue University and Carnegie Mellon University to drum up interest. In their pitch, they tell prospective candidates that in Siemens’s corporate technologies group, employees can continue to do research similar to what they’ve been pursuing in graduate school rather than in commercial-product design or development.
That is because solving theoretical problems can have real-life applications for the business years down the road, such as creating new sustainable-energy solutions and improving electric propulsion for aviation systems, according to Siemens.
Karla Kvaternik, an electrical engineer, was working as a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University in 2017 and intended to stay in academia when a Siemens job ad caught her eye. She was rejected for the first job she applied for, then hired for the next.
“I totally align with the cliché of the millennial,” said Ms. Kvaternik, 35 years old. “Siemens gave me a purpose. They’re letting me think about democratizing access to energy.” Today she works on problems like how to apply blockchain technology to the power gridso that individuals can trade energy with each other.


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