Last week, I wrote about tech positions that are notoriously hard to fill, from the perspective of an executive at a staffing and recruitment firm that specializes in IT. I thought it would be enlightening to address the same issue from the perspective of the head in-house recruiter for a Fortune 1000 technology company.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Melissa Thompson, senior director of talent acquisition and recruiting lead at Citrix Systems, the company probably best known for its application and desktop virtualization technology. I asked Thompson what positions Citrix is finding are most difficult to fill, and she had no problem coming up with a list.
“There are some really tough technology positions to fill right now, whether they require Android or iOS skills, or those in the very hot security space, or more senior-level architects,” Thompson said. “The whole niche of security—there aren’t that many people who do it. It is far and away one of the hardest jobs to fill, I don’t care what level you’re looking at.” Cloud architects, she added, are also hard to find.
Tech skills aside, Thompson said one of the things she almost always interviews for is the ability to deal with ambiguity.
“We are not in an age where there is going to be step-by-step process documentation, so people have to come into the organization with a comfort level around the fact that no one is going to give them a step-by-step map on how to get things done,” she said. “You have to be willing to deal with that ambiguity and figure some things out, regardless of whether you’re coming in straight from college or as a mid-level manager.”
Comfort with collaboration is also key, Thompson said.
“We, as a company, have collaboration as one of our core qualities, so we look for it in everyone,” she said. “It’s in part because we’re so distributed, but also in part because it’s in our DNA—we really want to make sure we’ve gotten the viewpoints in before we make decisions and move forward.”
I brought up the topic of reliance on H-1B workers to fill certain positions, and Thompson indicated that she sees that reliance declining.
“We actually do not fill a ton of jobs using H-1B workers,” she said. “When we do, it tends to be in the software engineer space. But we shy away from it some.” Thompson said that the tech sector is likely to continue to see demand for H-1Bs in the software engineering space. “But at the experienced levels, you’re much more able to find the technology talent without having to go the H-1B route,” she said.
I asked Thompson what fundamentally needs to change so that more tech skills requirements can be met by U.S. workers. She said it’s a simple matter of getting more young people to pursue careers in technology.
“It’s going to take us going into high schools and helping them understand, what is a software engineer, what do they do, why is it cool to be in that job, and steer them in that direction,” she said. “And it’s got to be a combination of men and women. Men somewhat gravitate there now, so if we’re trying to open the pool, we’ve got to get the women to gravitate in that direction, as well.”
I asked Thompson how we can attract more women and minorities into the tech sector. She said that speaking as an African-American woman, she can attest that women and minorities look for jobs in the same places that everybody else does. “We as recruiters just have to think of ways to identify them,” she said.
Thompson noted that Citrix gets involved in organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and the Society of Women Engineers. It also sponsors hack-a-thons that are focused either on women or minorities.
“Those are things that we’re doing this year that are really going to help drive that volume of diversity candidates for us,” she said.
Finally, I noted that Citrix was No. 21 on Business Insider’s list of the 25 best tech companies to work for in 2013. I asked Thompson if she could only give one piece of advice to other companies to help them make that list, what it would it be.
“Have a cool culture,” she said. “Citrix is one of those places where you have the freedom to try new things. As someone who has worked at a lot of tech companies, I can tell you that you don’t always get the freedom to not just try new things, but have the things that you do have an impact, regardless of the level you’re at in the company.”