3 Lessons from Tech Leadership on Skill Development

Jessica mitsch By Jessica Mitsch ● February 16, 2021
Tech lead­er­ship is con­cerned with updat­ing lega­cy sys­tems, strength­en­ing cyber­se­cu­ri­ty and fos­ter­ing diversity.

This arti­cle first appeared on BuiltIn​.com for tech lead­er­ship on Feb­ru­ary 4th2021.

Three years ago we launched Momen­tum to help peo­ple invest in high-demand pro­fes­sion­al skills and build a more inclu­sive tech work­force. Part of how we stay ahead is mak­ing the time to per­son­al­ly meet with tech lead­er­ship to under­stand the evolv­ing tal­ent chal­lenges they are fac­ing year over year. 

With the aim to bet­ter plan stu­dent pro­grams for the next year, at the end of 2020, we set an ambi­tious goal for our team: Meet with 50 com­pa­nies in 50 days. We spoke with chief tech­nol­o­gy offi­cers, chief peo­ple offi­cers, and oth­er tech­nol­o­gy and HR lead­ers at For­tune 500 com­pa­nies to under­stand the gaps in their cur­rent work­force and what they need­ed for long-term success. 

Here’s what we heard.

1. Bridge The Tech Gap

Big cor­po­ra­tions need tal­ent that can bridge the gap between lega­cy sys­tems and inte­grat­ing new solu­tions. Dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies are help­ing com­pa­nies save mon­ey, increase effi­cien­cies and enhance secu­ri­ty, but lega­cy sys­tems don’t always coop­er­ate when you want to inte­grate a new sys­tem or solu­tion. What’s more, the gen­er­a­tion that built these sys­tems is retir­ing and only makes up 25 per­cent of the cur­rent workforce. 

If every­one could start with a clean slate by build­ing a brand new plat­form — they would. But many com­pa­nies have spent decades and often mil­lions (or bil­lions) of dol­lars build­ing cus­tomized plat­forms, hence the lega­cy systems. 

In order to effec­tive­ly com­pete in the next decade, com­pa­nies need to be able to secure­ly inte­grate new IT solu­tions that fit with the dig­i­tal econ­o­my. This includes replac­ing hard­ware, doc­u­ment­ing old­er sys­tems and migrat­ing soft­ware to the cloud. To do this suc­cess­ful­ly, they need tech­nol­o­gists who under­stand old­er servers and lega­cy sys­tems, but who can help to vet and inte­grate new sys­tems. This is why it’s essen­tial to not only invest in recruit­ment and new tal­ent but to build pro­grams that upskill your cur­rent work­force. The insti­tu­tion­al knowl­edge of old­er work­ers is often invaluable. 

2. Offense is The Best Defense

In research that came out well over a decade ago, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Maryland’s Clark School of Engi­neer­ing con­clud­ed that hack­ers, on aver­age, attack every 39 sec­onds. Today, it’s esti­mat­ed that the num­ber of pass­words used by humans and machines world­wide is now 300 bil­lion. Accord­ing to a study by IBM, the aver­age time to iden­ti­fy and con­tain a data breach is 280 days, and the aver­age cost to a com­pa­ny in the event of a breach is $3.86 million. 

And yet, 63 per­cent of tech lead­er­ship in North Amer­i­ca say they have a short­age of cyber­se­cu­ri­ty-savvy IT pro­fes­sion­als, accord­ing to a 2018 (ISC)² Cyber­se­cu­ri­ty Work­force Study. Com­pa­nies need to quick­ly upskill their exist­ing tal­ent while hir­ing the best and bright­est devel­op­ers and infor­ma­tion secu­ri­ty experts, tru­ly help­ing their tech oper­a­tions to piv­ot from defense to offense. 

3. Diverse Teams are the Strongest Teams

Every sin­gle com­pa­ny we met with is pri­or­i­tiz­ing diver­si­ty and inclu­sion efforts, from the board­room to the hir­ing teams. Why? There are so many rea­sons, includ­ing that diverse teams per­form bet­ter and are an over­all indi­ca­tor of success. 

McKinsey’s 2019 analy­sis found that com­pa­nies whose exec­u­tive teams ranked in the top quar­tile for gen­der diver­si­ty were 25 per­cent more like­ly to have above-aver­age prof­itabil­i­ty than com­pa­nies in the fourth quar­tile.” And, clear­ly, gen­der diver­si­ty is becom­ing even more vital over time: These com­pa­nies were also 21 per­cent more like­ly to achieve this prof­itabil­i­ty in 2017, up from 15 per­cent in 2014

The good news is that there is con­tin­ued recog­ni­tion by tech lead­er­ship for this trend. The bad news is we have yet to see a sig­nif­i­cant shift in the tech sec­tor. Women tech­nol­o­gists make up 28.8 per­cent of the tech work­force today, which is an increase from past years. But data from AnitaB​.org shows that, if num­bers con­tin­ue to grow at the cur­rent pace, it could take 12 years before women see equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion in tech. 

What’s mak­ing it hard­er is that, due to cul­ture,” 50 per­cent of women in tech leave by age 35, accord­ing to a new study by Accen­ture and Girls Who Code. And 37 per­cent cite issues relat­ed to inclu­siv­i­ty” as their pri­ma­ry rea­son for leav­ing. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the num­bers only get worse when sur­vey­ing les­bian, bisex­u­al, trans­gen­der women and women of col­or. For instance, accord­ing to the study, just 67 per­cent of women of col­or see a clear path­way from study­ing tech, engi­neer­ing or math to a relat­ed career.” And in com­pa­nies that are less inclu­sive,” only 35 per­cent of les­bian, bisex­u­al and trans­gen­der women are like­ly to say they love their jobs.”

Tech lead­er­ship needs to address this by not only active­ly recruit­ing diverse tal­ent but build­ing an inclu­sive work­force where diverse tal­ent comes — and stays.

So What’s the Takeaway?

While inte­grat­ing lega­cy sys­tems, thwart­ing hack­ers and increas­ing diver­si­ty may seem like a daunt­ing to-do list. But invest­ing in the right tal­ent, upskilling your work­force and fos­ter­ing a tru­ly inclu­sive cul­ture that invites every­one to bring their real selves” to work each day are all goals that every­one at an orga­ni­za­tion can work toward achieving. 

Com­pa­nies can do this by:
  • Upskilling their cur­rent work­force with an empha­sis on pro­grams for old­er workers.
  • Adopt­ing new tech­nolo­gies to enhance cybersecurity.
  • Invest­ing in experts who have deep exper­tise with per­son­al­ized cyber­se­cu­ri­ty programs.
  • Plac­ing an empha­sis on retain­ing man­agers who lead with human­i­ty and empathy.
  • Empow­er­ing work­ers to take greater con­trol of their careers while bal­anc­ing their per­son­al lives.
While sev­er­al exec­u­tives shared that these are chal­lenges that keep them up at night, the good news is, lead­ers who take these steps are well posi­tioned to build a work­force that is hap­py, pro­duc­tive and ready to tack­le the chal­lenges of tomorrow.

Looking to learn about options for tech leadership to upskill your talent? Let's talk.

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