Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

With the rise of the ecommerce industry, mobile apps, and artificial intelligence (AI), more and more companies are looking for tech talents to onboard and grow their business. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the IT field or not, chances are you’ll probably need a tech support guy.

But there have been countless reports stating that there is a gap between the supply and demand of tech talents. While technology continues to progress, it seems that the available talent pool is yet to keep up with the times. 

Hence, it’s now even more important to find and hold onto hidden tech talents. 

To learn more about the landscape and what to look out for, we attended Startup Week Malaysia’s roundtable discussion with industry experts, namely:

Ooi Boon Han, Manager in Business Development at 42KL (a tuition-free computer science school with a peer-to-peer learning environment)
Eason Chai, alumni of 42KL and founder of ELVTD (a Web3 development services brand)
Ir Dr Bernard Lim, Vice President of Operations at Appscard Group AS (a company working on biometric smartcards)
Daren Tan, founder of Developer Kaki (a local Facebook group for discussions on technologies with over 38K members)
Anisha Sasheendran, founder of One People Team (an advisory firm that help brands build and lead companies through bespoke people strategies)
Rong Liew, CEO and co-founder of Showwcase (a network built for coders to connect, share knowledge, and find new opportunities) 
Ts. Fatin Fatihah Z., Cloud Solution Architect at Microsoft

The panel speakers and the attendees of the roundtable session to discuss bridging the tech talent gap in Malaysia during Startup Week Malaysia / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

There, we learnt five key insights that every startup should know when hiring for new tech talents in Malaysia:

1. Don’t just seek university qualifications, look beyond that

When hiring, it’s common practice to look at a candidate’s qualifications to filter through applications. And in Malaysia, one factor that still strongly determines a candidate’s feasibility is their university credentials.

But the reality nowadays is that tertiary institutions are not the only places to gain such career skills. In the digital tech field, there are plenty of academies and bootcamps offering professional training and certifications like 42KL, NEXT Academy, Iverson

Speaking candidly, Eason who studied tech in university and bootcamps shared that his experience at 42KL had benefited his career more. In his own words, he said that what was learnt in university didn’t apply much to the job. He even credited his experience at 42KL to what eventually led to him starting ELVTD.

Hence, it would be a shame to limit your company’s capabilities to just university graduates. Because many talents join tech academies and bootcamps instead due to the lower time and financial commitment required.

2. You have to really understand your hiring goal

In Rong’s experience, he shared that understanding basic tech fundamentals is very important because they are needed for innovation. This knowledge is more commonly taught at universities as the curriculum covers a broader scope of topics.

On the other hand, bootcamps focus on specific niches and emphasise intensive skills development. As Dr Bernard Lim explained, bootcamps train their students on getting the minimum viable solution, which helps candidates enter the job market as soon as possible.

Dictionary time: Minimum viable solution is the simplest and least expensive solution that nevertheless contains all the core components that are identified as necessary, and can therefore be piloted effectively.

Source: Humanitarian Innovation Guide

Ts. Fatin Fatihah Z. sharing some insights on what it’s like nurturing tech talents at Microsoft / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

Candidates coming from either of these backgrounds have their own advantages and can help the business grow in their own ways. But as the employer, you need to determine what specific goal you’re trying to achieve and work backwards from there.

For example, if your goal is to have someone on the team with good user interface skills, then you should be looking for front-end developers instead of backend ones.

3. Having technical skills alone will never be enough

Speaking from years of experience in the HR field, Anisha stated that candidates with technical skills are a dime a dozen. Looking for people possessing them has never really been a problem. 

Instead, she explained that with technology changing so far, other aspects of a candidate’s profile need to be looked into. Some examples she gave were: 

Can they learn fast enough? “Because technology is going to change again next week,” Anisha stated. The ability to learn quickly and adapt to the current demands is vital for the company’s success.
Can they problem-solve? As a software engineer, the critical-thinking skills need to be there so that solutions are not created just because “I was told to do so”.
Can they conceptualise and communicate their ideas? The ability to create solutions is important but the skills to translate complex technical concepts into understandable terms ensures that they meet a client’s expectations.

These are just a few questions that you should keep in mind when looking for new talents, along with other requirements linked to the position, such as leadership skills.  

4. You have to invest in consistently upskilling your tech team

“The industry changes so quickly that you have to learn by yourself.” This is one sentiment that all the panellists echoed repeatedly during the roundtable discussion. It’s a fact that studies support, with Euronews Business reporting that the tech industry is growing at 5% to 6% per annum.

As such, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Anisha’s company made one interesting observation—new tech talents are actually requesting more structured learning opportunities.

While there are many courses available outside, they don’t come cheap. Not to mention, they require extra time and effort on top of the general 40-hour work week. So a workaround is to provide periodical in-house training with curated experts, provide learning allowances, or both.

To emphasise, this is an additional benefit to include aside from the usual in-house training and mentor-mentee programme, because keeping up with the latest innovations means learning from external sources.

5. Not everything has to be internal, you can outsource parts of the work

Rong Liew sharing his experience on what it’s like working with developers / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

Despite living in the digital age, there’s still the idea that anything related to the company and its details should be kept private. It’s understandable as data privacy and security is a large concern.

But when it comes to technology, employers need to bear in mind that not everything has to be built from scratch. If there are parts of the work already available elsewhere, you can source it from there.

Alternatively, if you’re working on a project where your tech team doesn’t have the skills for some parts of it, you could also outsource that development to a third party.

That said, Rong advised that there should still be at least one person in your team that understands the technicalities to avoid getting scammed.

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All in all, it seems that looking for people with the right technical skills isn’t too hard. But the challenge lies in how a company approaches the hiring process and nurtures the talents for future rainy days.

With these insights, though, we believe that employers would have a better understanding of what needs to be kept in mind and looked out for.

Read articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Vulcan Post

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