The technology sector has been uniquely affected by the Covid crisis. On one hand, engineers accustomed to the WFH mode have found it easy to settle in and adapt to 2020’s demands. Conversely, there have also been sweeping job cuts with some reports claiming the bulk of the layoffs were from VC-backed tech startups and bootstrapped companies.
Now, at the fag end of 2020, as economies open up and companies start hiring again, it is inevitable that we ask ourselves: what now? No switch can flick us back to our old world order; and the new normal is still shrouded in some uncertainty. The Empire’s engineers rebuilding the Death Star probably had it easier than those of us looking to build tech teams for the future. At the very least, they had schematics.
The answer to the ‘what now’ differs for all of us, but there are some aspects which remain the same. Here’s my attempt at unraveling this conundrum.
Finding Alignment While Sourcing
Isaac Hepworth, Principal Group Manager at Microsoft, says that engineers from his team are actively involved in sourcing and recruiting. Any initial inhibitions they had about the ask disappeared upon realizing how it increased the quality of their hires.
Sourcing is no longer a recruiter-only job. If you want the best hires, you need to be involved. If you are worried about the diversity in your team or your organization, don’t wait for recruiters to increase the talent pool – dive in and look for how you can affect a change as a hiring manager. We have found hackathons to be a great way of increasing the diversity pipeline. Organizations across the globe have started initiatives to encourage women in tech, such as the Tech Women London meetup, in a proactive attempt to tackle bias.
Takeaway: It is not enough for hiring managers to provide their recruiting team with a checklist. Keeping communication lines open, and staying aware of the end-to-end latency in the talent pipeline needs to become a habit. Many tech teams also use their V2MOM (Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, and Measures) document to align their internal demand with recruiting efforts. The key lies in effective and frequent communication to attract the right hires.
Bettering Your Assessments and Interviews
Developer assessments and interviews are notoriously fraught with subjectivity. Many engineering heads tell me that the biggest discordance in the recruiting funnel occurs when trying to create assessments customized to a given role. A developer may be great at drawing inverted binary trees on paper, but are they able to quash the bugs roaming your coding hallways? The only way to find out is by ensuring your assessments capture real-world scenarios as much as possible, and help you select developers with the right skills for interviews.
Talking of interviews, we have known for years that whiteboards do not work. Yet, they have stayed around. With Covid, remote interviews have become a given and organizations have been forced to accept that there are better alternatives to whiteboarding – like pair programming tools which simulate a developer’s real-life coding environment.
Takeaway: Engineering assessments and interviews are known to be fairly intensive, and while it’s not wrong to have a long process, it is only fair that both the interviewer and the candidate have the same end-goal in mind. Processes not compatible with your on-ground needs affect the quality of your hire, lower candidate experience, and invite social criticism for your brand. Generalized processes are futility multiplied by inefficacy squared, and have no place in our changed world.
Understanding That ‘Now’ Is Not ‘This Instant’ Anymore
Productivity was a huge buzzword in tech circles before Covid. It remains a priority but with it, we have added others to our dictionary. We have learned to ask our colleagues how they are and mean it. Be more cognizant of their lunch hour breaks, or their carer’s leave, or if we are sacrificing minority attention for majority decisions.
Tech needs empathetic leaders who would rather prioritize their team’s long-term wellbeing over short-term deadlines, and who think it’s perfectly alright to not have instant replies to every Slack or mail. You can always smell the roses as you wait.
Takeaway: 2020 has been a quicksand of a year, and work has been the sole piece of concrete for many. Teams are more engaged, communication has shifted from hallways to hangouts, and burn-out is a real beast. Tools cannot replace human empathy, but this is where the process change I spoke of at the start can help. The conversations around mental health and overall wellness sparked by Covid need to remain alive even when normalcy returns. As does the respect and understanding that we have been asked to display for our co-workers, if we are to truly create sustainable, equal, and healthy tech teams in 2021, and even after.