In our new ‘Life beyond COVID’ series, we talk to Atif Hussain, Managing Consultant for Fyte Technology & Digital looks back on challenging times for the tech sector, but also draws positives, both on individual and organisational fronts.
Here are his thoughts:
"The initial reaction was very consistent across all markets – it was one of panic. Although the words ‘unprecedented times was overused, we hadn’t seen a situation like this before. Bear in mind that coming into 2020 the tech market was very buoyant, then lockdown happened and lots of businesses pulled their jobs. The second stage is when some companies set themselves apart – these were very quick to realise that it wasn’t a case of just pausing everything as they saw that this is potentially a longer term thing. They reacted by adapting and continuing to hire, establishing processes to attract, interview and onboard people remotely. Stage two was one of pragmatism with the vast majority remaining cautious about remote hiring/onboarding while others looked at it in terms of cost cutting. The sad reality is that job loss is a difficult time, but in the tech domain many highly skilled engineers or testers have been able to find new roles.
"The really difficult period was from April to July and the beginning of August. Since then the market has picked up. Some businesses are really well placed to recruit and onboard remotely, having now had the experience of how do it. Whereas something like cultural fit would have to be ascertained in person, they have now had to adapt and find ways of engaging people – how do you sell an opportunity when you’re not able to spend time face to face? We’re on an upward curve and while not at same level of growth that we were pre-pandemic, I would hope that towards the end of the year and into 2021 we can return to those levels.
Making the effort
"Because this was not something many organisations had done, lead times between people being onboarded and background checks etc. being carried out were longer. In normal circumstances, candidates would have benefited from going into offices to drop off documents for example. You could engage more, but none of that was possible during the pandemic. However, the war for talent never stopped, so companies have had to go the extra mile to keep people engaged, whether on a Zoom call, virtual team meeting or introduction. If you’ve not had the chance to see people the whole onboarding process can feel disjointed.
Improved work-life balance
"There have been positives though. Although remote working wasn’t an alien concept prior to this, in fact many tech companies offered it, COVID helped fast track and implement remote working very quickly. CEOs saw that productivity was maintained. You can still work together as a team and be profitable – affording a lot of flexibility to people became the norm and it was acceptable to combine home and work duties. You could remain busy and productive while enhancing your work-life balance. Some organisations took stock and realised that the downtime provided a great opportunity to focus on development and upskilling staff.
Cutting costs and emissions
"Homeworking or remote working is a ‘win win’ situation. From the individual’s point of view, more flexibility equates to less time commuting and more family time. From a business perspective, the financial savings as a result of not needing huge office spaces, as the majority of the workforce prefer a hybrid model. Many organisations are also looking to reduce their carbon footprint, setting net zero targets, so everything points to a far more pragmatic approach to remote working.
"One of the best ways to learn is not by reading a training manual but sitting next to people and seeing how they work. You can’t replace that human contact fully in a remote world, you have to find a middle balance. In tech, people generally prefer working on their own, there’s the running joke that even if developers sit next each to other they prefer to communicate via Slack! While some will prefer remote, it’s naïve to think that there is no need for offices. Whether for development or mentorship and your own sanity, it’s important to have human interaction.
Upskilling during downtime
"Forecast, an Edinburgh based financial modelling boutique analytics consultancy, had to radically change its approach and way of working with its clients. They were very smart in finding that balance and taking advantage of downtime periods to encourage staff to do training courses, obtain certifications etc. They have a diverse workforce, who although Edinburgh based, come from all over the world, so whether in Spain, Italy or even India, their staff were allowed to work from their respective countries of origin and stay closer to their families without needing to take holidays. Focusing on personal development keeps people engaged, and they have other initiatives such as virtual Friday beers to keep morale up. So while there has been more of a drive to work remotely, the human element should never be fully depleted. Adopting a totally remote model would be counterproductive in many ways.
New avenues will open up
"For those who have lost their jobs, it might sound clichéd but you have to persevere. Keep sending in those applications. A few people in the Edinburgh tech market, including high profile directors, have shared their experiences of people not getting back to them etc. This has helped ease the burden and create other avenues. Eventually they all found the right opportunity. There are lots of virtual events in the tech sector, so I would encourage people to be very active on LinkedIn. We’ve been happy to connect people with businesses or nudge people in the right direction, there has to be a sense of helping out and getting the community back. If you’re struggling in your job search, be open about talking about it, you’re not the only one. Get in touch with your peers, friends and family. And don’t give up."
If you’d like to discuss your tech requirements or career options, you can reach Atif on 07931569085 or email email@example.com.