Carmen Williams (Entelect General Manager, Talent Acquisition)
The IT industry continues to grow and with it, the demand for software engineering skills. But how can software engineering candidates create in an impact in a highly competitive market.
Demand for software engineering skills continues to rise. According to a report issued by The Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE Skills Survey), a University of Witwatersrand partnership with government and industry, there is ‘an immediate unsatisfied need for skills in the ICT sector…’
At the end of 2015, a paper from Empirica (empirica) indicated that, ‘the European market could absorb 756 000 ICT practitioners by 2020 if sufficient supply was available’. And in June 2016, Cisco announced that it will invest $10 million over two years in a scholarship programme to increase the pool of talent (investor.cisco). Locally, the May 2016 edition of the Career Junction Index showed that Software Development remained the most sought-after skillset on the Career Junction website and just 25% of those jobs available in December 2016 were filled (CJI Executive Summary).
The reality is that, large software engineering companies are competing for skills and resources to deliver against the business opportunities, which are being driven by traditional industries such as financial services, insurance and healthcare sectors. But the competition is tough.
Companies competing in the IT space are continuously looking for ways to set themselves apart from their competitors, which is resulting in increased demand for high-quality software engineering candidates.
This year, Entelect took on 40 of the top Computer Science and Engineering candidates in the country, up from 30 in 2016. On an average month, Entelect employ anywhere between 5-10 full-time employees, which is testament to the number of opportunities out there at the moment.
But unlike many other industries, the South African Software industry should be considered as having a supply issue, rather than a demand issue. That means the industry simply cannot fill the jobs available with the necessary skills. Computer Science and Engineering is still listed by the Department of Higher Education and training as a scarce skill (DHET scarce skills) and although graduates are increasing, it is not at the pace the industry needs.
In our view, the most sought-after skills in the industry at the moment include Java, C# and Angular, and typically, candidates with these skills are in high-demand. However, it would be wrong to assume that because there is a supply challenge, this means it is easy to get a job in software engineering. The reality is that continuous increases in security, big data and consumer lifestyles makes this industry the backbone of many other, more established industries.
Hence, this supply issue places a challenge on the companies because service standards must remain high.
Software engineers need to demonstrate technical accuracy and extremely high levels of craftsmanship in every aspect of their job. The industry moves too quickly to absorb mistakes and technical errors so candidates must demonstrate exceptional skills.
However, technical accuracy alone is not enough. Candidates are also required to demonstrate other, softer skills, which will positively impact their ability to deliver effective solutions in teams, but these are often overlooked by candidates when selling themselves in an interview.
Craftsmanship: The drive to transform what is currently a skill into an art of exceptional ability.
EQ: Self-awareness and having a deep understanding of oneself is an important skill when managing teams and clients effectively.
Articulate: The ability to express ideas clearly and with a high-energy drive efficiencies and productivity in the workplace, especially when working on tough projects with tight deadlines.
Team spirit: People who have a strong team spirit tend to be collaborative, which is critical for identifying the best solution for the project or problem.
Confidence and passion: These traits drive behaviours such as the desire to learn new skills, techniques or technologies quickly, to go above and beyond your daily tasks and to bring creative flair to their role.
Once a candidate can demonstrate that they have the exceptional skills to create an impact, the opportunities available as an employee in this industry are extensive. Apart from exposure to cutting-edge innovation, there are many other less obvious benefits that candidates will be exposed to which are, arguably, unique to this industry.
Firstly, in a new industry there are many opportunities to create new solutions and address new problems. This means that the occasion to practice autonomy is far greater than in well-established industries where there are pre-defined best practices and rules of engagement. Autonomy is a significant growth accelerator.
Secondly, there is the opportunity to become a master in your field. The competitive nature of the software industry means that companies are looking for true crafts men and women. Being exceptional is the flavour of the day.
Thirdly, purpose. Employees today are looking for purpose in their jobs. Software engineering is often considered the backbone of many industries and as such, every problem software engineering solves will ultimately better or improve the lives of others somehow.
Given this, when recruiters talk about ‘opportunities’ in software engineering, they are not just talking about the number of jobs available in the market, although this is very true. They are talking about the opportunities for growth, personal development and purpose which are presented by a relatively new industry that is at the forefront of innovation.
Undoubtedly, the future of the software industry is on an exciting trajectory. The pace of innovation means that competition will remain extremely high. Candidates that can reap the rewards of this industry are those who can offer exceptional craftsmanship and understand the value of the softer skills in the delivery of the most agile and effective services and solutions a client can employ.
It is important to consider what additional skills you can offer a software company that will help set them apart from their competitors. Understand the marketplace, and your position in it. There are many good software developers, but exceptional ones are far fewer between.