How Today’s Tech Trends Translate to Talent
By Kathryn Ullrich
1. Renewed Focus on Innovation
Now more than ever, rapid advancements in digital interconnectedness, big data and other technologies mean that tech companies need executives who can innovate and envision the next generation of users and devices. We’re seeing this even from leading tech industry clients who are already innovators but realize that innovation requires constant attention and reinvention. Execs who can see beyond today to visioning the future are in high demand.
2. Strategic Nimbleness Rules
Working in Silicon Valley for early stage companies requires what I call "strategic nimbleness" – the ability to take a business model and adapt it to what the market is saying now. I’ve handled some VP Sales and General Manager searches recently where the company believes it understands the sales model and why customers are buying. But the company may need to strategically pivot a product and/or sales message based on the latest marketplace learnings. Entrepreneurial companies need executives who can strategically pinpoint new opportunities and then execute for results.
3. Emphasis on Selling Services
I’ve long specialized in finding executives who can sell services for consulting company clients who place a premium on strong skills in this area. Most tech salespeople are experienced at selling products or software applications. But as more tech firms start offering high-margin information-based services, companies are seeking sales execs who know how to sell them. It's a different animal requiring hybrid skills of a consultant who has installed services and who can communicate their value to customers. Today’s most in-demand sales execs know how to sell both products and intangibles.
4. Analytics Acumen a Must
Companies now have huge amounts of customer data available to help boost targeting and efficiency. That puts a premium on execs who truly understand analytics, and – more importantly – know how to use data-based findings to improve performance. Whether the field is general management, marketing or engineering, executives who learn how to harness data analytics will have a bigger role going forward. In my view, marketing – typically a non-tech function in the past – will become an increasingly technical role based on an explosion of marketing analytics.
5. Social Media Marketing Goes Next-Gen
Marketing executives must keep pace with the changing digital landscape of web advertising, social media, SEO/SEM, and myriad of new owned, earned and paid marketing channels and techniques. One VP Marketing tells me she reserves budget specifically for advances she doesn’t yet know about. Companies are well beyond simply trying out Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms. Now it's about turning engagement into sales. The only sure thing is that social will keep evolving.
6. Enabling Technologies Hold Sway
During the California gold rush, the suppliers – or enablers – made the most money. In similar fashion, various tools and technologies that support and amplify the Internet and social media will be the "pick axes" of our connected world. Executives understanding and producing these enabling technologies will continue to derive value rather than competing for the next generation of users.
7. Execs Embrace Gamification
A half dozen years ago, one CMO candidate distinguished himself by finding innovative ways to market through cleverly imbedded games and product placements deep within targeted search results. Now we even see companies such as Salesforce adding gamification in the form of badges for increasing sales. With millions of casual gamers and a growing percentage of those paying for games, executives who understand gamification can find ways to increase revenue through this mechanism. Who knew countless hours of game-playing could pay off?
8. More Asia/America Leadership Connections
With China’s explosive growth and Silicon Valley's already strong manufacturing relationships with Asia, I’m seeing a lot more inter-region hiring activity. Several multi-billion dollar Asian companies have engaged our firm to start or enhance Silicon Valley offices. And we’ve been hired to find Asian Americans to fill critical leadership roles in Asia for US-based firms that want US-style leadership skills infused into an Asian office. I’m already brushing up on my college Mandarin!
9. Resume Keywords Get Real
Companies look for talent by searching for resume keywords such as cloud, SaaS, Big Data, mobile applications, etc. But some candidates go overboard with job titles saying, for example, "VP Sales Cloud Computing" in 2000 – long before the term cloud computing was ever used. I find it’s better when executives list the predecessor technology they worked on. My advice is to use “software defined” language such as client server, thin client, hosted software or others. It shows me – the recruiter – that you understand the underlying business models.
10. "Value-Based" Interviewing Takes Hold
Interviewing can be subject to trends and has, itself, moved beyond behavioral and case interviewing. The trend now is toward probing the specific value a prospective candidate can bring to the company. What would the candidate do today? At the executive level, candidates should have a well-defined point of view on what skills and experiences they bring that can make a difference. Companies are asking candidates to present a 90-day business plan for the job. Candidates may weary of providing "free consulting" but that’s the new price of admission.
Kathryn Ullrich Associates' recent search work has included a VP Sales for a hosted software company, VP Sales Cloud Computing for a $35 billion technology company, Regional Sales Director Asia Pacific for an electronics distributor, and VP HR for an ecommerce company.
We are currently working on the following searches:
- CEO for an innovative technology company
- VP Sales and Marketing for software platform corporate spin-off
- Sales Manager for a communication services provider with Asian headquarters
- Sales Manager for a company targeting the legal market
- Laboratory Manager for an analytical lab
For more information, visit www.ullrichassociates.com. Kathryn Ullrich Associates, Inc. focuses on C-level, VP and Director hires across the functions of Sales, Marketing, Product Management and Consulting for technology and services companies.
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