Disrupting the Digital Norm panelists at Cavu in Tampa Heights. <span class='image-credits'>Amber Sigman</span>

Local thought leaders on job proofing your future, how to get hired in an evolving digital age

In an era of fast-paced technological advances, it can be intimidating to think about how to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow that are unheard of today. In other words, how do you future proof yourself? Your company? Or your community?

“In my mind, it doesn’t really matter what you studied. You just have to keep learning to keep up,” says Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO of Embarc Collective, a Tampa Bay startup hub launching in early 2019.

“We have to continue to improve ourselves to ensure survival,” she says. “I’ve seen jobs change. I want to make sure people can do things that they’re passionate about and make a living doing so.”

Shenoy was part of a panel discussion on talent and digital transformation Thursday, September 27, entitled “Disrupting the Digital Norm.” The panel moderated by Daniel James Scott, CEO and Executive Director of Tampa Bay Tech, included Ande Johnson, Senior Director, Digital Workforce, for Jabil; and George Keatinge, Director of Corporate Strategy and Transformation for Tech Data

Organized by nonprofit LaunchCode, the interactive event attracted about 40 to 1601 N. Franklin St., Tampa. 

During the discussion, the panel talked about how employers are being more creative as they recruit for tech positions. For example, TechData brings in students from the University of South Florida through an X-Lab program, then puts them through a strenuous boot camp.

“I personally have hired four out of that group,” points out Keatinge. “It’s actually been quite a unique way to recruit people.”
 
How do you future-proof your career in a fast-changing world? See what tech experts have to say about recruiting talent and keeping current.
Tech employers are not always looking for people with computer science degrees. Instead, seeking talent from diverse roles is the goal. Personal attributes such as a good attitude and work ethic are important.

“I think the biggest things we’re looking for are people that are willing to give it a go,” says Keatinge.

“I think we look for curiosity. We really want people who are deep down curious about whatever it is that they need to do,” adds Johnson. “If you aren’t curious about the technology you are working on, you will get left behind.”

While talent is available, attracting and training individuals are part of the challenge.

“The talent here is great, but we need more of it. So we have to raise the profile,” says Shenoy, who relocated from Chicago in February to head the collective, formerly called the Tampa Bay Innovation Hub. “In my mind, it takes years and years to be able to do that. We have to stay the course.”

Connecting hiring managers can reduce the risk for job candidates who know there are other companies that may hire them if things don’t proceed as planned.

“There’s tremendous power in having a physical hub where you can consolidate startup activity,” Shenoy says.

During a workshop session by SecureSet, R.J. Burney suggested employers should be considering millennials’ preferences when recruiting.

“You can’t throw money at these people and expect them to work 80 hours,” points out Burney, a principal in Crimson Resolve, a Ybor City-based cybersecurity firm. “They went through a recession. It changed their thought process.”

Millennials are motivated differently than prior generations.

“Millennials in general typically like to travel, have free time with friends. They like to work their 40 hours. They don’t want to work 80,” he says. “They want to be part of a community. They want to matter.”

A professional hacker, Burney notes the cybersecurity field is one where there is a real demand for talent. 

“We have a real issue. We need people,” he says. “So many people are looking for that right person when that right person is standing right next to you.” 

Because many people stay for a while to gain a new skill and then leave, he suggests emphasis should be put on hiring the “worker bees” who hang out with friends.

“They’re going to stay. They’re going to continue to grow. You can invest in those people,” he says.

Bringing together people from different backgrounds can make an organization more effective. “Perspective matters more than anything else,” he adds.

Boot camps can be a good way to build a skilled workforce.

“You can essentially train someone who is capable and willing,” he explains.

He also points out there could be huge losses to companies when older workers exit. 

“There is a huge population of people getting ready to retire. They’re the smartest, most capable, longest lasting. Basically, they made our company our company,” he says. “What we’re failing to see as companies, big companies is that these people are not giving us a brain dump with that information.”

LaunchCode trains people for jobs in the tech industry and helps them get hired. They offer free training and a paid apprenticeship program through offices in Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Miami.

“We have to think outside the box. In a world where we all need talent, the hard truth is that talent exists,” says Ingrid Harb, LaunchCode’s Community Relations Manager. “They can do the job. They simply can’t get the job.”

Read more articles by Cheryl Rogers.

Cheryl Rogers is a freelance writer and editor who enjoys writing about careers. An ebook author, she also writes Bible Camp Mystery series that shares her faith. She is publisher of New Christian Books Online Magazine and founder of the Mentor Me Career Network, a free online community, offering career consulting, coaching and career information. 
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