What does it take to build a future-ready tech workforce? Experts weigh in
The pandemic accelerated the need for digitisation as companies struggled to reinvent strategies for a future-ready workforce. Employees who could adapt, upskill, and collaborate became as critical as technology.
At YourStory’s Future of Work 2022, Arun Viswanathan, Head of Engineering, Atlassian; Geetika Goel, Head of Technology, Hero Vired; and Manikandan Thangarathnam, Senior Director - Mobility and Platforms, Uber discussed the challenges and opportunities organisations are facing while building a future-ready tech workforce.
Being resilient to change
The post-pandemic world saw the blurring of various functions such as DevOps, data scientists, data analysts, product managers, designers, etc. Therefore, it is imperative that employees are upskilled and trained for the future so that they can do these jobs more fluidly, believes Arun. “Digital assistants are changing the way we work; so getting comfortable with the fact that these assistants will be pervasive in the workforce and will change the way we work, is going to be super important,” he said.
Echoing similar sentiments, Geetika said that even though the pandemic brought along a new wave of volatility and uncertainty, the workforce delivered on their business promises in a commendable manner. “I'm not just talking about tech-enabled businesses, but the resilience of human beings which has brought us where we are today. Resilience is the topmost quality that will make our people future-ready,” she noted.
Manikandan stressed on the need to focus on two aspects - innovation and precision. Elaborating on innovation, he said that the pandemic exposed hurdles and those came with the opportunity to innovate. “The software is not the only differentiator, the differentiator is what is the business problem we are trying to solve? How are you able to innovate on the business point? How are you able to innovate on the customer experience?” he said. On precision, he noted that the scale in which businesses operate today is enormous. Organisations need to deliver the best optimal solutions to customers.
Leveraging inclusivity to walk ahead
Inclusivity has emerged as a critical tool for success. Atlassian endeavours towards ensuring there's representation of women at all levels and functions within the company, Arun specified. “This has to be done only through sustained initiatives. Senior women in the organisation mentor other women; we also have structured programmes that help with the mentorship,” he revealed. Atlassian’s ‘distributed work’ model gives employees the freedom to work from home or the office, or both based on what their preference is. Its ‘Team Central’ is a central repository where all projects are tracked and project owners can make updates on a weekly basis.
“When fresh graduates notice a woman leader, who is heading technology at a company, they feel motivated. Having role models is important,” added Geetika. Hero Vired follows a 50:50 ratio in leadership – 50 percent women and 50 percent men where women have 33 percent representation across the company. The company also aims to provide an inclusive environment outside the office. While STEM studies are valued, a certain gap exists, noted Geetika. “And that's what we are trying to set right at Hero Vired. We are targeting Tier II and Tier III cities and colleges to identify the gaps, and we tell them we will supplement or replace that knowledge for you. After that, we approach large businesses and if they are hiring freshers, we train them,” she said. Apart from professional upskilling, Hero Vired is equally invested in a student’s personal growth by imparting soft skills.
Manikandan insisted on the need for a diverse workforce. Customer patterns are so varied when organisations operate on a global scale that it becomes imperative to have a diverse workforce. “If we have one model in our HQ which is successful for one specific country, and we try to apply the same model in all other cases, that's not going to work. You need to have a very inclusive culture so that you really listen to people and understand them,” he said. Uber has made significant progress in three categories - helping people gain the right set of skills, helping team members grow within the system with training programmes, and helping people attain the senior leadership by creating opportunities and investing in those opportunities.
Maintaining a work-life balance
One of the major challenges in today’s hybrid, flexible work environment is to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Geetika believes it is harder for women as they end up multitasking more than men. “The definition of a good employee has to change, it is not about the number of hours he is investing in the company, but about how much rigour is atually put into the job,” she explained. But rigour comes with time to oneself. Geetika claimed that to become more mindful, people need to switch off.
Manikandan felt that several factors contribute to stress - right from not knowing what to say in a meeting to their desire for recognition at work. A company’s focus should be on providing an environment which is transparent, unbiased, and where one can work freely with a growth mindset. “When you create that transparency, this topic of work-life balance won’t kick in,” he said.
Arun shared how his use of the Eisenhower Matrix, also referred to as the Urgent-Important Matrix, gives him a good understanding of what is important and urgent, helping him prioritise his work and delegate when needed. He added that it is important to say no to things at work or at home. He suggested an app called Clockwise which helps the user manage their calendar,.
Future of tech
Manikandan focused on getting the skill sets right. “Be a master in what you're doing and leverage these opportunities from companies. The demand for talent is so high and it's going to continue the same way,” he advised.
Arun added that at Atlassian, they are focused on enabling teamwork and collaboration. But what stands out for him are the Metaverse and the power of AI - set to further shape how we collaborate and do work.
Agreeing with both Manikandan and Arun, Geetika said we are caught in the middle of technological innovation. “This is such a beautiful time for people to be in the tech world and be a part of all the revolutionary work that is happening,” she explained, adding, “AI is making technology pervasive. So there is no running away from it. Whether you are a software engineer or a data scientist, AI is going to be necessary for both of you, and hence the upskilling requirement.”