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After first covering the region’s key drivers of change for technology leaders, our next question for our panel of regional and global influencers was: “What skillsets will Asia-Pacific technology leaders require over the next three years, in order to keep pace with change?” In an Employee Experience (EX) world, our most important investments are clearly in our people. As such, frontline hiring advice from those in technology’s fiercely-competitive hiring conversation reveals several fascinating trends – insights around the role of logic and passion; the importance of playing to your brand strengths; and the key skills needed for modern CIOs themselves.
1. Track down the technology-business hybrids
2. Use development mapping to predict a forward-compatible match
3. Everyone must own and drive the creative process
4. Logic and passion will beat the all-product focus
5. Hire those versed in an innovation culture
6. Paint the perfect picture for your hiring team
7. Though start-ups are hot, stability is still a draw
8. Today’s CIO embraces an international vision
Ask Estee Lauder’s New York-based global CIO George Kuan about one of his hardest hiring challenges, and he’ll implore you: just bring me someone from both business and technology backgrounds. Blending the two backgrounds himself, he sees a dual business-tech exposure as a must-have for modern technology heads, yet rates the mix as an “8 out of 10” in terms of difficulty to find: “Traditional IT folks don't have that business training behind them. And it’s really difficult to get someone from the business side to switch to technology: they don't see that as career progression,” Kuan notes. “Then it’s really hard to find business people who will switch to technology.” He feels the academic world’s lack of real-world context makes the situation even harder: “I find it challenging – if you talk about new grads, it's almost impossible.”
In these days of digital transformation, companies must hire based not only on where the company is today, but on what it will look like in the near future. Then in turn, show how your training will lift each new hire to the next level, too. “Citi pays great attention to forward-compatible culture,” says Vincent Lin. “This means the talent we hire not only fitting in with current needs or requirements, but also having the potential to become top staff or leaders three-to-five years after working with us,” he notes. “We want you to change Citi, and bring in new values.” He says being future-oriented is attractive to candidates too. “They can see a clear career progress picture.”
No longer can we assume that hiring proven technology problem-solvers will be sufficient to help companies master a fast-changing market. As workplace futurist and author Alexandra Levit stresses, innovative people can only reach maximum performance when cased within an agile culture – where everyone is bought in. “I like to look at creativity now as no longer being a rarefied thing that only certain people have. It’s not true. Everyone can develop it – and everyone needs to develop it. You can’t afford to say, these people are the creatives, and it's not my job. It's everybody's job now,” she stresses. “Entrepreneurs have known this for a while – the new creative is anybody who can think in this way and develop this need to be more agile. They are the people who are exercising their creative muscles: they can be in any role, any level and any profession.”
No matter how much technical exposure to AI or IoT, Michael Page Technology’s Shinjika Shukla says for those in the discipline, over-focusing on products may lead candidates to a developmental dead-end. Instead she suggests, invest in those who can make the right connections and adapt quickly to new rules: “The backbone of all technologies is logic, and programming is primarily logic-based,” she notes. “If you have candidates whose analytical and logical skills are very strong, I’d recommend those hires over specialists in one technology.” Equally, passion and grit will help people stay the distance: “No matter how logical you are, if you’re not passionate about technology, you won’t want to adapt. Passion is very important for technical candidates.”
In a competitive and fast-paced field such as China’s Fintech market, managing the talent pool is a “never-ending task” for CIOs like Joshua Xiang of CreditEase. “We have to attract, retain or train talent from within – to deal with, embrace and sometimes hatch new technologies, so that you can bring value to the business.” As a result, he seeks those from brands he knows, with skills at handling complexity: “I would prefer talent with working experience in technology and financial companies such as Microsoft, Baidu and JP Morgan – and also experience in project management,” he says.
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Joshua Xiang of CreditEase notes that even in China’s fast-paced Fintech sector, technology leaders must spend the necessary time required to outline what their team needs in terms of their newest hires. “One of the key challenges faced by myself and other CTOs is how to define the ideal profile of your target candidate for a specific role,” he describes. In a highly competitive market for talent, a lack of time should not be an excuse for being unclear on the skillsets and project exposure needed. “You really have to provide an accurate profile and position descriptions.”
As China in particular watches the dynamic start-up sector luring many candidates, it is important to remember that risk won’t attract every candidate. As Citi’s Vincent Lin notes, many candidates view start-ups as “more interesting and challenging”, while the traditional finance space has lost some gloss due to external factors. Yet the reliability factor will still attract many job-seekers: “You need to prove yourself as a stable platform, with long-term development and rapid growth opportunities on offer,” he suggests. As Michael Page’s Shukla notes, stability is attractive for those in Technology who vividly remember lay-offs, as some brands left town: “This is always a big concern to local talent – while they’re not going to go anywhere, the company can easily move elsewhere.”
Given the demands currently for technology leaders, what key skillsets should those in hiring roles look for most? “As a Technology Head, I think soft skills are much more needed than hard skills,” says Citi’s Vincent Lin. Where banks once relied on big IT vendors, he says today’s teams can handle most issues in-house or with partners. Within this new reality, new skills emerge as key: “The requirements for CIOs in terms of soft skills have increased,” notes Lin. “Not only do you need to manage the coding and programming skills, you also have to leverage related resources, to help your company improve its competitive advantage.” Key strengths of tomorrow’s technology leader? “Be open-minded, and improve your international vision and communication skills.”
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Massive thanks to those who made Future of Technology happen: in particular those who’ve provide technology leader insights: Vincent Lin, Head of Technology Citi Taiwan, GCB; Joshua Xiang, CTO of one of China’s leading Fintech companies, Creditease; Alexandra Levit, futurist and workplace author of ‘Humanity First’ and George Kuan, Global CIO for Estee Lauder. Plus our huge thanks to PageGroup’s Technology team throughout Asia-Pacific, especially Anthony Thompson; Shinjika Shukla (Singapore); Fiona Wen (Shanghai); George Kauye (Australia), and Olga Yung (Hong Kong).
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