The War for Fast Tech Skills Starts Here


I recently had the pleasure of speaking at Internapalooza, a gathering of more than 3,000 highly sought after technology interns. Chomping at the bit to change the world, these Silicon Valley technologists are in the trenches of the technology titans. But as the summer draws to a close, most of them will chase their dreams of startup stardom and won’t even consider large enterprises as a possible landing point. Why? And, what should CIOs do to improve the next generation’s negative perceptions about enterprise technology so they can benefit from this top tier talent?

Today’s up and coming technologists are on fire to use technology to make monumental things happen. They view startups as the only avenue to advance their ambitious agendas. The fact that they are overlooking enterprises altogether is a stinging reminder of just how wide the slow/fast technology divide truly is.

I refer to fast technology as the stuff that lives in startups: open source, maker community, crowd funding platforms, incubators, etc. It’s driven by people with great ideas and great execution and has fewer barriers and friction points than slow technology. Slow tech lives in the enterprise and lags for three reasons:

  • a lack of focus on learning about and filtering new technology,
  • muddled messages regarding the opportunities for top tech talent in the enterprise, and
  • myths and realities of corporate IT complexity.

The Next 10 Years—Connecting Fast Tech to the Enterprise

I don’t think that super smart tech kids (at least in the Valley) understand much of anything about enterprise tech and they don’t want to. But what they fail to realize is that the next 10 years will be a time of connecting fast tech to the enterprise and it will be an exciting place for smart techies who want exposure to lots of hard problems, many of global scale (vs. working on just one startup). Also it could be a great place to find a really hard problem you can get passionate about to solve in a startup.

CIOs should make this case to technology interns and STEM undergrads. To survive and thrive, enterprise IT will need to live and breathe the fast technology that is second nature to technology interns. Startup-minded technology talent can serve as kindling to spark a fire of discovery and disruption that enterprises are primed for in the coming years. Rather than relying on third parties to access this talent, enterprise CIOs and CTOs should pursue this type of talent with a vengeance to increase the technology quality and velocity in marketing, innovation, product development, IT and analytics.

Cultivating an environment capable of nurturing premier technology talent requires the CIO to:

  1. Accept that the negative perceptions the next generation of talent holds about enterprises technology is a problem and threatens the future of enterprises
  2. Learn about the places where fast tech lives
  3. Figure out ways to engage with fast tech hubs, which could include: participation in open source, sponsorship of incubators, VC co-investment, putting staff in residence in labs/incubators, more investment on campus STEM programs
  4. Alter innovation, solution development and talent processes to incorporate these talent pools
  5. Combat the enterprise elements that stifle change and speed by using smaller experiments and prototypes and creating agile teams to address smaller scale problems to build momentum, stories and skills
  6. Develop a clear story and tell it to anyone who will listen in the fast tech world.

Do you agree that CIOs should pursue startup technology talent? And, what should enterprise CIOs do to attract this talented group of techies?

Image shared by Rennett Stowe