Like the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot and other popular folklore, the legend of the “skills gap” has been permeating for quite some time. The skills gap refers to the mismatch between the abilities job seekers possess and the skills that companies (particularly tech companies) prioritize in potential employees.
As with mystical monsters and sea creatures, many technical leaders over the past couple of years have pondered: does it actually exist?
Research seems to say “yes.” By 2030, the digital skills gap will leave about 85 million jobs unfilled. The impact to the workforce could result in missed goals, increased stress and a projected loss of approximately $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenues.
This research doesn’t paint a complete or accurate picture. The “skills gap” is really a recruiting gap, where companies fail to look beyond their predetermined, limiting job qualifications or the usual candidate pools to include candidates who have not-so-traditional backgrounds that have given them desperately needed skills.
Still think you aren’t built for a job in tech? Think again. Let’s take a look at how other jobs can translate into a role in tech.
Librarians/Educators → Information Management
Both librarians and educators have extensive experience with research and getting the right information to the right audience. For librarians, teachers or other related professionals looking to make the jump into tech, information management might be the right fit. When many problems in tech are around communication and curation of correct information, rather than creating new software, these skills can be invaluable in increasing the effectiveness of a team.
Information management is the behind-the-scenes analysis and clarification of data that influence decision-making in organizations. Newly-minted information management professionals from the education sector would be able to jump right into the data, analyze and explain the information to key stakeholders and provide guidance and direction.
Sales, Marketing and Communications → User Experience (UX) Design
UX design is all about perfecting the experience users have with a product, website or app. UX designers have a hand in everything from branding to usability and functionality.
Sales, marketing and communications professionals do well in UX design because of their nuanced understanding of how audiences (often non-technical folks) are likely to interact with, use and benefit from a tool. This expertise, coupled with strong written and verbal communication skills, means they can help build more user-friendly and intuitive experiences.
‘What,’ ‘where,’ ‘how’ and ‘when’ to communicate to end users is the name of the game. The same skills used to communicate with external stakeholders can directly apply to designing the perfect user experience.
HR, Law and Civil Service → Technical Project Management
HR, law and other civil service individuals are often process-oriented. Each of these sectors is full of talent who have the ability to see the small details as they relate to the bigger picture, otherwise known as “systems thinking.” For this reason, these people make excellent technical project managers.
Project managers must deal with a lot of moving parts all at once, and adaptability and problem-solving are valued. Multitasking, people management and long-term planning skills help make lawyers, HR leaders and civil service workers transition more smoothly into technical project management.
Chemical, Civil and Mechanical Engineers → Software Engineering
Engineers tend to be process-oriented and have a knack for problem solving. Many of the skills that make great chemical, civil and mechanical engineers—systems understanding and analysis, expertise in network/interaction effects, a grip on control loops and implications of feedback and experience with safety and impact assessments—are the same for software engineering.
The ability to analyze, design and test complex systems is a key tenet of engineering in the physical and digital worlds. Current software architecture and design problems are often around scaling, resilience, and performance of complex networks, all of which can be evaluated from a background in older engineering disciplines.
Unfortunately, the skills gap will “exist” as long as we perpetuate the myth that working in technology requires a one-size-fits-all resume. And as long as the industry insists on hiring from that limited perspective, we will continue to build teams that are not as capable or responsive to the growing complexity of the needs of our users and the world. Examining what skills we need to hire for, and focusing on where else we can find those skills, will only strengthen our ability to build and release strong, reliable, needed technology.
Kathryn T. Kun is director of information security at Forter.