The technology industry is made up of just 26% women, compared to a nearly equal split at 49% across the total workforce. Most notably, that number hasn’t done much besides decrease over the past 30 years, hovering around the same percentage and dipping slightly in recent years.

But the lack of women in tech is a deeper issue that stems all the way back to childhood — with gender stereotypes that have historically, and inaccurately, suggested that women and girls are less skilled at math, science, and technology. Unfortunately, that persistent bias has grown into a self-fulfilling prophecy over the years, creating a systemic issue where girls and women aren’t well represented in STEM, and therefore don’t feel empowered or encouraged to pursue it as a career path.

“For a certain period of time in your life when you’re in middle school, your interest in STEM as a girl or as a non-binary learner can be impacted by the lack of representation that you see. You can have a spark, or you can have an interest, but if you don’t see yourself represented, you will not necessarily start taking those courses for high school, which will in fact impact your ability to participate in post-secondary, which will impact your ability to get a career in STEM later in your life,” says Rebecca Hazell, interim executive director of Hackergal.

To close the gender gap for women in STEM careers, girls need to be encouraged to maintain an interest in STEM during elementary, middle, and high school. And that’s the core of Hackergal’s mission — to create opportunities for young girls to engage with STEM education and to consider STEM careers as a potential option.

Fostering the talent pipeline in middle school

Hackergal works with middle school and high school aged girls, as well as nonbinary students, directly through educators and school districts. Learners connect with Hackergal through classrooms, community centers, homeschooling programs, summer school, hackathon events, and coding clubs across Canada. And each year, Hackergal hosts a hackathon event at the end of the school year for kids participating in coding clubs.

The hackathons and coding clubs are targeted at grades six to nine, while the Hackergal Ambassador program is a highly competitive program for high schoolers who have aged out of Hackergal’s middle school coding and hackathon programs.

Hackergal uses a “teach the teacher” model, in which Hackergal connects with teachers, school boards, and school districts across Canada to directly train educators and provide them with information on the Hackergal Hub, Hazell says. The Hub enables teachers to bring a full coding curriculum to students that they can easily integrate into their lesson plans.

“Whether [kids learn] during classroom time, or it’s an extracurricular, they create that safe space where the girls can learn, make mistakes, and raise their hand with confidence and feel comfortable with that,” says Hazell, who adds that a lot of educators express nervousness about implementing a coding club, especially when they have no experience with coding themselves. But Hackergal’s approach aims to empower any educator to expanding their students’ access to coding education, regardless of the teacher’s own programming experience.

Utilizing a platform called Lynx, which originated in Canada and is developed in English and French, Hackergal provides educational programming across the country for students and teachers. The team at Hackergal has been intentional about making its curriculum available to students and teachers in any situation — whether they’re homeschooled or reside in rural areas of Canada, and regardless of language.

“We know that there are certain populations who need our programming a lot and they need the support. They need the community, they need the connection, and the competence-building for their youth. And we’re more than happy to keep growing our program in the interest of serving them better,” says Hazell.

Empowering a future generation of workers

Hackergal’s current generation of learners is highly motivated to have a social impact in their work, says Hazell, adding that this is reflected in each year’s hackathon theme. Last year’s participants, for example, worked around the theme “coding together for our planet,” with a focus on sustainability and environmental issues, such as addressing pollution or developing innovative energy solutions.

“We are very connected to social impact as an organization. It guides everything that we do,” Hazell says. “Research shows that girls specifically are more connected to tech and STEM learning if there is a social impact that’s aligned with that.”

Encouraging students’ passions about social progress is part of Hackergal’s commitment, given that as a generation Hackergal learners will face “some of the biggest problems that this world has ever encountered” and will be among those responsible for finding solutions, Hazell says.

“The people who are using these skills that we’re training them on now are going to have careers that are directly involved in coming up with solutions, and trying to innovate, to make sure our planet is okay,” she adds.

The program also helps its learners establish impressive resumes right out of high school, with some Hackergal students starting up companies by grade 11. That motivation and commitment will help them to become top talent for organizations in the future.

“They’re very motivated in that respect, the teenagers who are in our program, and they have a lot to offer and see the bigger picture. They’re thinking about what they can do and how it will impact the world going forward and what they can do to positively impact the world,” says Hazell.

Getting involved

For companies that want to work with Hackergal, it’s something of a “boutique” experience, says Laurel Maule, development manager at Hackergal. Because the organizations doesn’t have a home-base for students or a main operation center where companies can donate time or resources, corporate sponsors and donors typically work directly with Hackergal to support the organization’s specific needs.

As more organizations focus on DEI, they’re turning to organizations like Hackergal to help solve the talent pipeline as early as possible. For these organizations, it’s can also be an early branding opportunity, as they can put their company name in front of the future workforce.

Maule says that organizations often reach out to ask how they can help expand the talent pipeline. Beyond financial donations, some volunteer an IT executive to speak at a hackathon or coding event, or to write a blog or record a video that might inspire the young learners. Or they might invite ambassador students to do a specialized coding camp at their offices or offer mentorship and advice to older students who are thinking about their careers.

For the learners, it’s an opportunity to start fostering a network early on. They’ll have experiences with a variety of organizations, professional connections throughout the industry, and unique guidance from technology leaders, all before they graduate high school.

“The sky’s kind of the limit on how CIOs want to be engaged and how companies and employees want to be engaged. Each partnership, organization, or company that we work with, brings its own special set of skills. We work closely with them to figure out how we can utilize and build that long-term partnership to support these girls throughout their learning process,” says Maule.

A sustainable support model

By keeping resources low, and by working with government funding and directly with school districts and boards, Hackergal has been able to maintain a free program that enables students to learn, no matter their circumstances.

“We work in a way that doesn’t draw down too much on our resources and allows us to have that creativity and that programming. And we are interested in growing and learning from what we do and trying to challenge ourselves to be as innovative as the kids need us to be, because that’s what we’re trying to share with them. We want to make sure that we’re providing the kind of programming that challenges, that keeps them excited,” says Hazell.

And those efforts are working, as girls are gaining confidence through the program. According to a survey of the latest hackathon’s participants, 97% said they felt more confident in their coding and digital skills after the hackathon, 96% said they were more interested in writing code, and 100% say they felt more knowledgeable.

“You really can’t get better statistics in that sense, especially from a survey that you put out to kids that age group. It was fantastic to see that feedback, and I think we’re going to keep trying to meet that high satisfaction rate amongst our learners,” says Hazell.

Future of Hackergal

For the future, Hackergal is working on developing a full mentorship program for investors that will involve “more interactive, longer-term mentorship programs,” to further support students, says Hazell.

The organization also seeks to continue offering the program for free, as many of the students who need this programming the most are the ones who can’t afford it, or who don’t have access to it, making equitable access a key to Hackergal’s mission.

“I don’t think that we could say with conviction that we were serving those who need us most if we were charging for the resources that we are delivering,” says Hazell.

Hackergal is also working to increase sponsorship opportunities. Last year, for the first time, Hackergal launched a scholarship program, awarding two ambassadors who had graduated from the adult program a $5,000 scholarship for tuition or other expenses, generously provided by Royal Bank of Canada.

Organizations seeking to build their own talent pipeline through coding and STEM camps are also looking to Hackergal for advice on how to start, and how to continue that support beyond just one or two events.

“I hear from some of our speakers, and they always say without fail, ‘I wish this program had been around when I was younger,’” says Hazell. Even if girls don’t end up in tech careers, the key is “feeling encouraged to try something that’s maybe a little bit scary or challenging,” and finding that motivation to “push through barriers and to keep going, feeling supported by a community,” says Hazell.

“Being able to partner with Hackergal — it’s kind of like you’re doing it for your younger self, especially if you’re a woman in leadership in tech,” Hazell says. “Partnering with Hackergal allows them to fulfill that wish or that deep-seated feeling of wanting to connect with that kid. And seeing that excitement, and some of the photos we have from our experiences, really makes me emotional because you see these kids, and they’re so excited to be a part of that community and that energy is special and it can have a bigger impact.”

Diversity and Inclusion

Many companies today are rapidly adopting new technologies and tools to improve overall efficiencies, improve customer and client experiences, and support key initiatives that are related to business transformation. However, these efforts, while necessary, bring with them growing pains for the workforce.

As our global technologies transform, so must our teams. What we have discovered in implementing emerging technology at U.S. Bank over the years is that effectively deploying and making use of new tools requires a skilled and diverse workforce and a technology team with a strong engineering culture to support it.

Banking on technology and people

The largest technology investment for U.S. Bank came in 2022 when we announced Microsoft Azure as our primary cloud service provider. This move accelerated our ongoing technology transformation, part of which includes migrating more than two-thirds of our application footprint to the cloud by 2025. Harnessing the power of cloud is just one of many ways that technology is enabling our organization to bring products and services to our clients faster, while enhancing our operations’ scalability, resiliency, stability, and security.

The technology transformation at U.S. Bank is also focused on adopting a more holistic approach to both external and internal talent pipelines. Diversity is a key component of our team building because true innovation and problem-solving comes from people with different perspectives. To attract new, diverse talent to join our team, we supplement traditional recruitment methods with proactive techniques that help build our company’s reputation as a leader in technology and to give back to our community.

For example, we’re positioning some of our top subject matter experts at relevant conferences and councils to share lessons learned from our transformation journey and we’re engaging with educational programs, like Girls Who Code, Summit Academy, and Minneapolis Community and Technical College to both develop and recruit diverse talent.

Our top workforce priority, however, is retaining our current team and equipping them with the skills they’ll need today and in the future. Because technology changes so quickly, we have adopted a continuous learning mindset where our teams embed learning into their everyday responsibilities and see it as an investment in themselves. To do that, we created a strategy that focuses on four key areas: an employee’s time, establishing a personal plan, providing effective learning tools, and offering ways to apply what is learned. 

1. Time: Establishing a flexible learning environment

We created an environment and performance goals that encourage our technology teams to regularly dedicate time to continuous learning. Each member of my leadership team operates a different type of technology team with different priorities, work schedules, and deadlines, so they are empowered to decide how to create the time and space for their employees to achieve their learning goals. Some have opted to block all employees’ calendars during certain times of the month, and others leave it to their individual manager-employee relationships to determine what works best. We’ve found that, by empowering each team to make these decisions, our teammates are more likely to complete their learning goals.

2. Plan: Growing skillsets and knowledge

Just investing the time doesn’t necessarily mean our teams will develop the right skills. So, we created a program we call “Grow Your Knowledge,” where managers and employees have ongoing skills-related discussions to better understand employees’ current skills, skill interests, and potential skill gaps. This helps them collaboratively create a personalized development plan. We’re also able to use the information to help us measure impact and provide insights on new trainings we may need to meet a common skill gap.

3. Tools: Learning paths and programs

We assembled a cross-functional team of external consultants, HR representatives, learning and development experts, and technical professionals to develop the Tech Academy — a well-curated, one-stop shop for modern tech learning at U.S. Bank. This resource designed to support our teams to learn specific technical, functional, leadership, and power skills that are needed to drive current initiatives. Employees can take advantage of persona-aligned learning paths, targeted skill development programs, and experiential learning. We even developed a Modern Technology Leadership Development Program for managers to help them better understand how to support their teams through this transformation.

4. Application: Putting experiential learning into practice

Providing experiential opportunities where employees can further build their skills by practicing them is an essential part of our strategy. Right now, we offer programs such as certification festivals, hackathons, code-a-thons, bootcamps, and other communities of practice for our teammates to hone their newly acquired skills in psychologically and technologically safe, yet productive settings.

Our certification festival, called CERT-FEST, is our most successful experiential learning program so far. We leverage our own teammates to train others in a cohort-learning environment for eight weeks. To date, our employees have obtained several thousand Microsoft Azure certifications. Hackathons and code-a-thons take that certification to the next level by allowing our technology teammates to partner with the business in a friendly, competitive environment. The winning teams at this event build solutions for new products or services that meet a real business or client need.

Learn today for the needs of tomorrow

Since we’ve started this continuous learning journey with our teams, we’re seeing higher employee engagement, an increase in our team’s reported skills and certifications, and a stronger technology-to-business connection across U.S. Bank. These efforts have also shifted our employee culture to acknowledge that working in technology means you will always be learning and growing.

Finding new, more effective ways to address the ever-shifting needs of our customers will always be a priority. But in a continuous learning environment the question we now always ask is, “What do I need to know today, to learn today, to do my job better tomorrow?” This has been the driving force behind our success in growing, retaining, and motivating our technology workforce.

Financial Services Industry, IT Training 

Amanda Merola had zero technical background when she came to The Hartford in 2015, despite a natural interest in computers and a proclivity for problem-solving. After stints as a call center representative and claims adjuster, Merola got wind of the HartCode Academy, an internal program designed to help nontechnical employees make the leap into software development.

Merola was accepted into the HartCode Academy’s inaugural class, spending months in bootcamps and self-directed training before landing a position as a junior coder. Fast-forward five years and Merola is now a senior software engineer, writing code, promoting agile practices, and working with business partners to advance The Hartford’s digital agenda. 

“The HartCode Academy changed my life and my career path completely,” says Merola. “I never thought I could actually have a career in something that I was interested in outside of what my day-to-day job was at the time.”

Amanda Merola, senior software engineer, The Hartford

The Hartford

The HartCode Academy is just one of several initiatives The Hartford has put in place to recharge its IT talent pipeline. Across industries, companies are experimenting with more creative talent retention and acquisition strategies, including developing a pipeline of IT professionals that have unconventional backgrounds or are sourced from nontraditional applicant pools.

Despite a raft of recent high-tech industry layoffs and some squeamishness about the economy, the IT talent shortage remains an ongoing problem with no real end in sight. The frenetic pace of technology change, coupled with an ongoing shortage of STEM graduates, means there is a persistent dearth of qualified and skilled candidates to fill available jobs. Gartner expects demand for tech talent to continue to outstrip supply through 2026 based on its IT spending forecasts. Moreover, in a recent Gartner survey, 86% of CIOs said they faced stiffer competition for qualified tech candidates while 73% confirmed they were worried about IT talent attrition.

In the 2023 State of the CIO report, IT leaders said they were most concerned about finding qualified experts in advanced areas such as cybersecurity, blockchain, and data science and analytics. Bread-and-butter competencies like technology integration/implementation, IT cloud architecture, and risk/security management were most often called by CIO respondents as most in demand.

“The fundamental difference in this talent war is that previously, it’s been cyclical and this one is structural,” says Tom Connolly, CHRO at worldwide executive search firm Kingsley Gate Partners. “You used to be able to buy people or rely on the education system to pull people through so there was a ready supply of trained technical people. Today, those two strategies are no longer enough. Now, it’s about managing people for who they can be tomorrow, not for who they are today.”

Curating a continuous pipeline

With the digital mandate still front and center, companies are under pressure not only to expand hiring pools, but to step up initiatives to curate existing talent through novel reskilling and upskilling strategies. That’s exactly what The Hartford is doing, having made a conscious choice three years ago to invest in development programs to enrich its own people as well as to position the insurance company as a destination employer to appeal to potential candidates drawn to modern IT environments, according to Deepa Soni, The Hartford’s CIO.

In addition to the HartCode program, The Hartford instituted a 19-week bootcamp to take recently graduated hires through training to become full-stack developers and another 12-week program to build a pipeline for its highly-coveted data engineering role. There is a persona-based training curriculum to upskill staffers in modern engineering-oriented IT practices and a mandate for all managers become cloud certified.

Deepa Soni, CIO, The Hartford

The Hartford

“Fruitful Fridays” carve out time for staffers to participate in training and agile sprint exercises while regular hackathons (winners highlighted in town hall meetings) create an emphasis on innovation and creativity. The goal is for staffers to complete 40 hours of training annually, and about 70% to 80% of IT staffers have complied, Soni says. Since 2020, tech employees have logged over 326,000 hours of training and earned more than 2,200 certifications.

The company also established a hierarchy that enables individual contributors to climb to the highest levels of the IT organization without having to opt for a managerial route — something that wasn’t possible previously, Soni says.

“We’ve worked really hard to create a culture of innovation and collaboration … and to reimagine every part of our talent acquisition strategy, from retention to early career stage to executive-level succession,” Soni says. “Internal talent is gold, and we’re making sure our current employees find places to grow and modernize their skill sets.”

With the tech unemployment rate still remarkably low — it dropped to 1.5% in January according to analysis of US Bureau of Labor statistics by CompTIA — finding seasoned tech veterans to fill posts such as full-stack developers is next to impossible, according to John Hill, senior vice president and chief digital information officer for MSC Industrial Supply Co. Under Hill’s direction, MSC is moving away from a “buy mentality” for recruiting experienced tech talent and is instead committing time and resources to cultivating a steady stream of fledgling workers that will mature into key positions over time.

John Hill, SVP and CDIO, MSC Industrial Supply Co.

MSC Industrial Supply Co.

As part of this strategy, MSC has expanded the number of interns it brings in each summer while allowing interns to work remotely during the school year to foster engagement. Most interns are offered a full-time position upon graduation, working as part of a co-hort, where groups of 15 collaborate and learn the same skills and business processes over the ensuing two to three years. “This provides us with a future funnel as we grow and as people retire or move on,” Hill explains. “I think of it as an inverted pyramid where we’re developing folks that will be ready five years from now.”

MSC is also looking at the veteran community as an under-tapped resource. The company has partnered with Hiring Our Heroes to offer qualified veterans 12-week corporate internships where they develop hands-on experience and get networking and professional training. Many have been offered jobs upon completing the fellowship, Hill says. “Vets have exceptional technical skills from their time in the military, which lends itself to cybersecurity or various infrastructure jobs,” he says.

For Novant Health, students have become an active, yet nontraditional resource for handling certain IT responsibilities. The company’s Student Team Member program enables any part-time or full-time student above the age of 16 to put their hat in the ring for gig-based assignments based on their skillsets and interest areas. Candidates could be in high school, college, or even midlife, taking classes to set course on a different career path. Currently, student team members have worked about 19,000 hours for the healthcare provider, across a range of competencies, and the program has served as a feeder pool for full-time hires, according to Angela Yochem, Novant Health’s former executive vice president and chief transformation and digital officer.

Angela Yochem, former EVP and chief transformation and digital officer, Novant Health

Novant Health

Consider the network engineering team, which might need to physically go around and check configuration of gear at various remote clinics. “This is something that doesn’t require a lot of training — mostly driving around and laying eyes on an equipment closet,” explains Yochem. “You might have someone in STEM classes who has interest in network engineering and wants some visibility into network operations. It doesn’t make sense to pay a network engineer to do that work.”

Outside-the-box hiring strategies

IT organizations are primarily courting the same talent, therefore it’s important to veer from the standard playbook of higher salaries, more frequent bonuses, or dependence on high-profile recruiters.

Longtime CIO Neal Sample advises peers to abandon zero-sum hiring strategies in favor of novel approaches designed to unearth fresh talent sources. “The uniformity of the approach is its own problem,” explains Sample, now a board member of several companies and a veteran CxO. “The old way of thinking is that tech folks are disposable, like lightbulbs — if they burn out, you just replace them. But that behavior leads to a lot of problems, especially with institutional knowledge held in people’s heads.”

Neal Sample

Back in 2016, Sample, then CIO at Express Scripts, faced a major challenge: He had legacy systems that required COBOL programmers, but much of his team was on the cusp of retirement with no foreseeable backup bench as newcomers were not keen on working on what they viewed as outdated technology. Sample’s IT organization forged a partnership with LaunchCode to create an apprenticeship pathway for second-career technologists to learn COBOL programming skills.

The program was such a success, and it caught the eye of the Obama administration, which cited it as a novel example of high-tech workforce development and retraining. Sample says the initiative taught him the importance of “will over skill” when it comes to tech hiring. “If you simply win a bigger piece of the pie or poach people from competitors, you are ultimately going to run out of talent,” he says.

Positioning the company as a great place to work and staying connected to the larger community are central themes in Novant Health’s IT hiring strategy, according to Yochem. She encourages her management team to get actively involved in the tech community and universities in the Charlotte, NC, area, has established a robust labs innovation program to stay connected to neighboring startups, and participates in local alliances to position the region as attractive to both employees and potential new employers.

“Where we live and work is a blessing and a curse,” she says. “It’s flush with talent, but there’s more competition.”

Making sure the candidate experience and recruitment process is positive goes a long way in attracting strong IT candidates and keeping the pipeline flush, notes Rashmi Kumar, senior vice president and global CIO at Medtronic. The medical device maker has put a lot of energy into streamlining the application process, providing regular communications and using data and automation to identify top candidates and track the effectiveness of hiring strategies.

Rashmi Kumar, SVP and global CIO, Medtronic


“Competitive candidates want faster responses, and the old ways of working with them needs to be revamped to deliver a better hiring experience,” she says.

The single takeaway for CIOs, according to Kingsley Gate Partners’ Connolly: “Stop thinking about finding the round peg to fill the round hole and instead consider the possibility of a new profile that complements everyone on the team.”

Hiring, Staff Management

At the recent IDC CIO Summit in Dubai  – themed Enabling the Digital Economy’s Leaders – the topic of talent attraction and retention was a key talking point for those at the event.

Finding and keeping tech talent has never been easy but as the world of work continues to evolve and organisations shift to hybrid work models, new challenges and opportunities present themselves. How can technology leaders leverage these shifts to enhance online and virtual experiences and strengthen competitiveness by developing people, talent, and skills?

At the summit, ITDMs discussed how the technology talent market has changed, pushing organisations to leverage innovative work models. Companies are examining how they can change themselves and their team structures to leverage the current situation and enhance productivity.

Marc Dowd, VP Research, CIO Advisory, IDC UK, says there have been a lot of concerns about skills shortages globally, particularly since the pandemic.

“One of the big influences was the fact everybody was working from home, they liked it, and they did not want to be back in the office. People now live in a world market, they can sell their skills to every place around the world… One of my clients lost 50 per cent of its IT team. At the moment, a lot of companies have projects that are running three and a half months behind because they can’t find the right staff. Some of them were hired by big tech companies, out of our region.”

Jason Roos, CIO at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), says it’s important to focus on attitude rather than skills when hiring.

“When KAUST was set up the whole idea was to be focused on high-tech applicable research. The whole culture is about entrepreneurship and innovation, and we have a group focused on innovation. When I recruit talent I look for attitude, and people that can work with others. Skills come second.  If they become toxic in your organisation, that’s the worst that can happen. I look for  people who want to be in the team and I give them the chance to fail. If they don’t fail they don’t try and technology is evolving. Skills only last for a short time, you need to learn all the time.”

Before coming to the Middle East, Roos was working in California.  He found at the time that if he wanted, for example, to test some drones, he had to deal with multiple municipalities and a lot of bureaucracy.  He says things in the tech sector in KSA are easier. “The red tape is much less and you can make this happen. When you bring new talent to this country they are excited, it’s all about motivation.”

According to the panellists at the summit, when they talk about the skills gap, organisations need to know where they stand now and what are the skills sets that are needed. If you know where you are heading, and you know the gap, you can close it, so the question is: Do IT departments need to hire people or change the way they work?

Mai Alowaish, Chief Data and Innovation Officer at Gulf Bank, says it’s beneficial to examine what resources you have internally and look to upskill where possible. 

“In the bank, we need a business analyst, for example. I do have my data scientist, but I need someone to understand. I can’t get them from outside because I need someone who understands the banking sector, so upskilling your internal talent makes a huge difference. One of the keys to being successful is having a good HR department, they know the people. So build the talent instead of looking for it, and make them stay.”

As discussed at IDC CIO Summit in Dubai, hiring and retaining talented profiles in technology has never been easy, but as the world of work continues to evolve and organizations shift to hybrid work models, new challenges and opportunities present themselves. How can technology leaders leverage these shifts to enhance online and virtual experiences and strengthen competitiveness by developing people, talent, and skills?

During the event, different ITDMs discussed how the technology talent market has changed and compelled organizations to leverage innovative work models. How organizations can change themselves and their team structures to leverage the current situation and enhance productivity? 

“There are a lot of concerns about the shortage of resources, cloud architects, it’s a global concern, how has this pandemic and post-pandemic changed the IT market? Marc Dowd, VP Research, CIO Advisory, IDC UK asked. “One of the big influences was the fact that people were working from home, they liked it, and they did not want to be back in the offices, in some regions people now are on a world market, they can sell their skills to every place around the world, for example, one of my clients lost 50 per cent of its IT team. At the moment, a lot of companies have projects that are running three and a half months behind because they can’t find the right staff because they are working for big tech companies, out of our region.”

This was one of the topics discussed for the 16th edition of the IDC CIO Middle East Summit, organized by IDC, this time with “Enabling the Digital Economy’s Leaders” as the main theme. How to deal with this shortage of talent, knowing the characteristics that make an organization attractive to candidates and the key factors to retain employees, was one of the topics of the event.

“When King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) was set up the whole idea was to be focused on high-tech applicable research, the whole culture is about entrepreneurship and innovation, and we have a group that was focused on innovation. When I recruit talent I look for attitude, and persons that can work with others, skills come second if they become toxic in your organisation, that’s the worst that can happen,” says Jason Roos, CIO at KAUST. “I look at people who want to be in the team and I give them the chance to fail, if they don’t fail they don’t try and technology is evolving, skills only last for a short time, you need to learn all the time.”

According to Roos, you need to guide your employees and Saudi Arabia is definitely a good country to be in contact with the tech sector. Before coming to the Middle East, the CIO of Kaust was working in California, there if for example, you want to test some drones, you have to deal with multiple municipalities, and everything needs to be approved, but in KSA is easier, “the red tape is much less and you can make this happen, when you bring new talents to this country they are excited, it’s all about motivation.” adds.

In the opinion of the panellist, when they talk about the skill gap, organizations need to know where they stand now and what are the skills set that are needed. If you know where you are heading, and you know the gap, you can close it, so the question is: Do IT departments need to hire people or change the way they work?

“On behalf of a Government entity, we assume the right skills are available on the market, but we need the ability to attract as a Government, even if we assume that maybe working from home is a skill that won’t help us if we operate the same way, we are going to need a dramatic change and it’s a very slow democratic process that can’t happen fast, so let’s start having a hybrid way,” explains Dr. Ammar H. Alhusaini, Acting Director General, Central Agency for Information Technology (Kuwait).

But on the other side, in the private sector, some companies face the problem that the skills that are needed don’t exist in the market, they are too new and people have the skills but they are not experts. “In the bank, we need a business analyst for example, I do have my data scientist, but I need someone to understand, I can’t get them from outside because I need someone who understands the bank sector, so upskilling your internal talent makes a huge difference. One of the keys to be successful is having a good HR department, they know the people, so build the talent instead of looking for it, and make them stay,” clarifies Mai Alowaish, Chief Data and Innovation Officer at Gulf Bank.

Tech salaries are on the rise thanks to a demand for talent across nearly every industry. Salaries increased 2.3% between 2021 and 2022, reaching an average tech salary of $111,348 per year, according to the 2023 Dice Tech Salary Report. Salaries vary by location, with the technologists reporting the highest average salaries of $144,962 per year in Silicon Valley, the original tech hub.

But you don’t have to live in Silicon Valley to earn a high-tech salary. There are several other cities that are considered growing tech hubs where technologists can earn higher than average salaries, often with a lower cost of living. Dice defines a growing tech hub as a city with universities and colleges to recruit from, venture funding opportunities, a strong social scene for networking, and existing companies looking to hire talent.

These 10 cities are the fastest growing tech hubs by salary, according to Dice.

1. Phoenix

Phoenix is home to the “Silicon Desert,” and it’s quickly becoming a hot spot for the tech industry, with a focus on telecommunications, electronics manufacturing, and aerospace. Operational costs in Phoenix are 36% less than in California, according to the Phoenix Business Journal, making it an appealing spot for tech companies looking for a less expensive home base for headquarters. It’s also the fifth-largest data center market in the nation, with a “low natural disaster risk, inexpensive power, and a competitive colocation and cloud market.” Phoenix is home to tech companies such as ADP, Workiva, ServiceNow, Traffic Tech, BigTime Software, and General Motors.

The average tech salary in Phoenix is $120,731 per year — a 26.2% increase from 2021, according to Dice.

2. Tampa, Fla.

Tampa alone makes up 25% of Florida’s tech jobs, with more than 50 IT and software companies located in the city and an additional 2,000 jobs expected to be added in the coming year. Companies such as Amazon, Infosys, IBM, Wipro, Apple, Oracle, Microsoft, Capgemini, Uber, Dell, Google, and Salesforce all have offices in Tampa. The Tampa Bay Tech organization was formed over 21 years ago to connect the technology community in Tampa and has since grown into one of the biggest networks for technologists. Tampa is also home to Embarc Collective, billed as the state’s “fastest-growing startup hub.” Embarc Collective raised a total of $107 million in venture capital in the past year, according to Tampa Magazines.

The average tech salary in Tampa is $120,900 per year — a 19% increase from 2021, according to Dice.

3. Columbus, Ohio

Columbus has always held interest for businesses due to the area’s diverse population, which has historically made it a popular test market for companies looking to launch new products. In recent years, it’s become a popular spot for the tech industry, with companies such as Facebook and Amazon moving into the city. And Intel recently announced plans to construct two chip factories right outside Columbus, slated to bring more than 3,000 jobs to the area. The city hasn’t lost its draw as a place for testing and launching new products either — there’s a growing startup community in Columbus. Between 2017 and 2021, investments into city startups started peaking, going from $583 million in 2020 to over $1 billion, with half of  the funding going to Olive, a healthcare technology company, and Path Robotics, an autonomous robotics company, according to TechCrunch.

The average tech salary in Columbus is $107,413 per year — a 15.7% increase from 2021, according to Dice.

4. Portland, Ore.

Dubbed the Silicon Forest, Portland is home to several high-tech companies such as Tektronix, Intel, Pixelworks, Hewlett-Packard, Xerox, and Epson. While Intel’s headquarters were established in California, starting in the 1990s the company moved its most advanced technical operations to Oregon, and it’s now the company’s largest operating hub. Other tech companies that have opened offices in Portland include Airbnb, Google, IBM, Amazon, Logitech, Apple, Nvidia, Oracle, and Salesforce among others.

The average tech salary in Portland is $127,734 per year — a 15.5% increase from 2021, according to Dice.

5. Charlotte, N.C.

Charlotte has been hailed as the tech hub of the south, with a rich startup community in healthcare, fintech, and logistics. There’s strong traction with tech jobs in the financial services industry, as banking turns more to digital transformation. In October 2022, Lowe’s opened a $153 million Tech Hub to promote innovation, attract top talent, and accelerate digital transformation. Charlotte is home to tech companies such as Red Ventures, Credit Karma, EPAM Systems, Torc Robotics, Axios, Cisco, LendingTree, and AvidXchange. There’s high demand for software engineers, web developers, IT support specialists, network administrators and architects, data scientists, and cybersecurity professionals, according to CompTIA.

The average tech salary in Charlotte is $118,465 per year — a 11.1% increase from 2021, according to Dice.

6. Miami

From 2020 to 2021, the number of tech workers moving to the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area increased by over 15%. Interest in the city spiked during the pandemic, with people trying to escape cold cities and ultimately deciding to stay. Some say that Miami’s growth as a tech hub is in part thanks to a simple Twitter exchange between Delian Asparouhov, an entrepreneur who had grown disillusioned with Silicon Valley, and Miami mayor Francis Suarez. Asparouhov joked about “moving” Silicon Valley to Miami, and the mayor responded asking how he could help. After that, Google searches for “Miami Tech” doubled amidst the pandemic and the city continued to gain momentum in the tech scene.

The average tech salary in Miami is $104,542 per year — a 10.6% increase from 2021, according to Dice.

7. Sacramento, Calif.

The city of Sacramento has been dedicated to clean technology and energy since 2005, is one of the top 10 cities adopting smart grid technology, and now holds around 25% of the Region’s Clean Energy Technology establishments. CleanStart, a nonprofit cleantech business accelerator in the Sacramento Region, identified a 96% growth in jobs, 29% growth in revenue, and notes that said growth has added 4,850 jobs and nearly $1 billion in revenue to the Sacramento region. It’s close to the Bay Area, also known as Silicon Valley, but offers a better cost of living and has a growing base of millennial workers (28%) bolstering the workforce. Sacramento not only has a strong stake in clean technology and energy, but also in health sciences, biomedicine, power engineering, education, and the visual arts.

The average tech salary in Sacramento is $111,961 per year — a 9.7% increase from 2021, according to Dice.

8. Raleigh, N.C.

Tech companies have set their sights on Raleigh in the past few years, in part thanks to the area’s high-powered network infrastructure. North Carolina has also embraced tech development, promising Apple $846 million in funding over the next 39 years and becoming the first US state to incentivize esports after establishing a $5 million esports grant fund. Apple has also promised to invest $1 billion into a new campus in the “Research Triangle,” which includes nearby colleges and universities such as Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University. Epic Games also announced plans to convert a defunct shopping mall in nearby Cary, N.C., into its new company headquarters.

The average tech salary in Raleigh is $115,204 per year — a 9.4% increase from 2021, according to Dice.

9. Boston

Boston has grown to become a popular tech hub in recent years, with companies such as Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle opening offices in the city. Amazon recently opened a technology hub in the Seaport district, with space for over 2,000 employees and more than 1,000 technology and corporate roles available. There’s also a hot market for startups in the city and access to graduates from MIT, Harvard, BU, Tufts, and Northeastern. VC’s have relocated to the area to keep an eye on emerging startups given the city’s success rate with startups such as Hubspot,, TripAdvisor, and Wayfair.

The average tech salary in Boston is $130,399 per year — a 9% increase from 2021, according to Dice.

10. Seattle

Seattle was the birthplace to some of the world’s largest tech companies such as Microsoft and Amazon. It’s now home to the headquarters of companies such as T-Mobile, Expedia, Nintendo of America, and offices for companies such as Twitter, Zendesk, Facebook, and Google. Twitter opened a family-friendly community learning center called the NeighborNest that offers residents and organizations access to technology and life skills. They offer programs such as digital literacy courses, coding for kids classes, and other family-friendly events for locals, and Twitter employees can volunteer their time and experience to the NeighborNest and to help foster future tech talent.

The average tech salary in Seattle is $129,456 per year — a 7.6% increase from 2021, according to Dice.

2022’s Top 10

Pittsburgh (up 14.0%)Atlanta (up 13.9%)Chicago (up 12.6%)Miami (up 11.4%)Seattle (up 11.2%)Philadelphia (up 10.6%)Tampa (up 10.6%)Detroit (up 10.3%)Los Angeles (up 10.2%)Portland, Ore. (up 9.3%)

Careers, Salaries

Signs of a tech talent shift are under way, with IT pros increasingly turning away from Silicon Valley and tech stalwarts in favor of new roles outside the technology industry.

For Andreea Bodnari and Chris Jones, both of whom left Silicon Valley tech companies to work at healthcare organization Optum, the lure was not concern over mass layoffs in big tech, but the prospect of solving real-world problems and the opportunity to work on technologies that make a difference in people’s lives.

Bodnari, who previously worked at Google, says that while the search engine giant was a great place to build core technology, it felt more meaningful to integrate healthcare with AI. UnitedHealth Group, the parent company of Optum “was the holy grail of healthcare know-how and prowess,” says Bodnari, vice president of product at Optum.

Andreea Bodnari, vice president of product, Optum


Jones, who joined Optum from Meta in November 2022 as a senior principal applied scientist, says the move meant being able to leverage his expertise in responsible AI while making a positive, real-world impact in healthcare. 

Healthcare seemed like a better place to put his expertise to use “than the slightly ephemeral stuff I was working on at Microsoft,” says Jones, who spent a decade at Microsoft prior to his time at Meta.

Chris Jones, senior principal applied scientist, Optum


That sense of purpose and yearning to do meaningful work is the ace in the hole for Optum Enterprise CTO Francois Charette, who has hired a number of Silicon Valley technologists in recent months. Charette says that in his conversations with candidates, he is struck by how they are “really looking to make an impact on people’s lives” rather than just work on cool technology, he says.

Breaking the stronghold on talent

Historically, Silicon Valley and high-tech companies have had a leg up on luring top talent in part because they provided access to advanced technology, “but now, it’s basically used everywhere, so they’ve sort of lost their edge there. They’ll have to compete for talent like everyone else,” Charette says, adding that Optum’s mission of helping people live healthier lives “resonates extremely well for folks.’

It’s not just healthcare; other “traditional” industries such as insurance, transportation, banking, pharmaceuticals, and consumer products goods are all witnessing a surge in interest from tech professionals who no longer feel the allure of working at venture capital-infused Silicon Valley startups that promised innovative and challenging tech projects. Now, with the recognition that technology fuels all businesses, they can pretty much find those opportunities at almost any company.

You don’t always find a sense of great purpose working in Silicon Valley, observes Diogo Rau, executive vice president and chief information and digital officer at Eli Lilly and Co. “Any engineer throughout history has probably been motivated in large part by the impact they can have on society,” says Rau, who joined Eli Lilly two years ago after a decade at Apple. “It’s bigger than working on interesting problems. … Engineers throughout millennia want to do something that’s bigger than themselves and can last.”

Diogo Rau, EVP and chief information and digital officer, Eli Lilly and Co.

Eli Lilly and Co.

Rau hired a former Apple colleague who approached him and was incentivized by the offer to run the software engineering team at the Indianapolis-based Lilly after hearing about the types of projects he could work on. “I can tell you he didn’t come for the weather,” Rau jokes.

Perceptions are shifting

Lately, there is more receptivity to hearing about opportunities in other sectors for positions in information security, data, engineering, and cloud, observes Craig Stephenson,managing director for the North America technology, digital, data and security officers practice at Korn Ferry.

“The savvier CIOs are certainly trying to take advantage of the disintermediation in tech and recruiting the talent,” agrees Dennis Baden, a partner in Heidrick & Struggles’ Boston office and global managing partner of the technology officers and digital officers practice.

The tide is turning because of the large volume of layoffs and because engineering talent at big tech companies is more open to being scouted by other industries, Baden says. “Some of it is their equity is down and there may not be as much of an upside to staying.” Additionally, companies in other industries are demonstrating there are interesting and complex issues to solve as technology becomes more closely aligned with business goals, he says.

“There’s a world outside big tech and [a belief] that we can solve interesting problems and build cool software,” Baden says.

There are several considerations for tech professionals when assessing new roles and first and foremost is “the notion of impact or mission,” Stephenson says. “Individuals are looking to make sure they have a role that is socially responsible and globally responsible.”

While compensation remains important, the industry a company is in has become another consideration, as well as how the role is defined, the reporting structure and career path, he says.

And despite the uncertain economy, technologists, especially those with specialized skills, are still in high demand, and “established industries” are prepared to pay for talent with the skill sets and experience they need, according to Dice’s 2023 Tech Salary Report.

“This contrast between a rapid contraction in big tech and continued digitization initiatives across key industries sets the stage for an incredibly interesting year for tech hiring and retention in 2023,” the report notes.

Traditional companies let technologists be ‘rockstars’

XPO, a large freight transportation provider that handles more than 13 million shipments every year, is moving to the cloud and has a lot of initiatives geared at how to efficiently move freight through its network. All of XPO’s technology is proprietary and built in-house and CIO Jay Silberkleit has hired a lot of developers from Silicon Valley companies.

Jay Silberkleit, CIO, XPO

XPO Logistics

“What we see is if you have fun and interesting problems and a good work culture, that incentivizes the Silicon Valley technologists to want to move into other companies,” he says. “What’s important to them, and really, to all technologists, is they like to see … that the technologies they’re creating are having an impact on the companies they work for.”

Additionally, big tech companies have gotten so large, it’s harder to make an impact, Silberkleit says.

“A lot of people are leaving these companies to go to more traditional companies where they can be rockstars and have a massive impact,” he says. “They want to prove themselves and show that tech can change a company and be a differentiator for them.”

There has been a paradigm shift, and regardless of the business unit, individuals with deep tech savvy are now required throughout organizations, says George Thomas, CIO of JLL, a global commercial real estate firm.  

George Thomas, CIO, JLL 


Another factor driving “curiosity” from Silicon Valley talent to work in traditional industries like real estate is that “we are increasingly competitive now” from a salary perspective, Thomas says. These tech professionals also have a desire “to balance their career progression with work/life balance … one could argue that’s a challenge” in Silicon Valley, he notes.

Traditional organizations also have large amounts of legacy systems and some technologists want the challenge of being able to modernize them, Thomas points out. “I call it the ‘blue ocean curiosity.’” Candidates he has spoken with also care about diversity and inclusion as well as companies that are committed to reducing their carbon footprints.

Making an impact is very important to modern tech professionals, Thomas says. “I think we’re ready for them.” At the same time, he says the level of interest in working in more traditional companies is “much more than I’ve seen in previous years.”

The lure of applied AI

Across the board, CIOs and other IT leaders are hiring software engineers, machine learning engineers, data scientists, digital project managers, and cloud professionals, and many are, in fact, offering them the opportunity to work on impactful and innovative projects.

At Proctor & Gamble, CIO Vittorio Cretella is focusing on cloud-native development and says IT has deployed about 180 apps from their Kubernetes platform, an increase of 76% in the past few months. Applied AI is another area of growth, and the company’s AI factory is in the process of deploying algorithms “so the teams of machine learning engineers who work on [them] know what they’re building are cutting edge,” Cretella says.

Vittorio Cretella, CIO, Proctor & Gamble

Proctor & Gamble

While he isn’t looking at Silicon Valley technologists exclusively, “it’s a natural component of the talent pool we target,” he says. “We offer them the unique value proposition of working in a digitally-savvy, large CPG company so they can keep working on leading-edge technologies, but also see how their work … produces a positive impact on consumers around the world.”

Another draw is the opportunity to gain experience working in a variety of businesses across a portfolio of 65 brands, Cretella adds.

P&G is applying AI at scale and automating the machine learning deployment process, he says. Product lines include an intelligent toothbrush that interacts with consumers with embedded AI. “These are large-scale applications of AI technology where our employees can see the results of their skills being applied and providing benefits to consumers,” which can be inspiring to technologists, he says.

He believes job stability is another lure. Unlike the peaks and valleys the tech industry has experienced, P&G is committed to hiring for the long haul. “We hire for careers and that’s a time horizon that’s much longer than any economic cycle,” Cretella says. “We hire for the job that needs to be filled today while understanding what skills will fuel the future. Technology underpins everything we do … and we make a commitment with recruits to provide them with a long-term career” as well as job security, flexible work arrangements, and skills development across all brands and geographic locations.

Saving people’s lives

Reducing friction for patients and providers and reducing the burden of disease are two areas of focus for Peter Fleischut, group senior vice president and chief information and transformation officer at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. There are also more people using the hospital’s portal than there are doctors using electronic records. That has meant a need to hire a lot of machine learning specialists and web and application developers “who have the ability to do what’s been done in other industries and apply that to healthcare,” Fleischut says.

Peter Fleischut, group SVP and chief information and transformation officer, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

One tech professional he hired away from Silicon Valley started his career as a data scientist and then began medical training to combine the two disciplines, he says. When he talks to candidates, Fleischut says he doesn’t promote IT projects as much as emphasizing a need to change how the organization works and takes care of patients.

“The exciting thing we can offer is we fundamentally save people’s lives every day,” he says. In addition to the opportunity to work at a large health system with hospitals throughout greater metropolitan New York, Fleischut believes there are many people who are driven by “the altruistic nature of our mission,” which the organization “has been pretty direct about.”

Working in a non-toxic environment

Like Silberkleit from XPO, Eli Lilly’s Rau has “made a conscious shift” to bring more tech development in-house, saying it is more costly to hire contractors, projects take longer and “at the end, you don’t retain the knowledge. My view is anything that’s strategically important, that’s something you need to do yourself and don’t give it away.”

Yet, he admits that the company hasn’t done a great job of selling its purpose in its recruiting efforts. Rau attributes that to a deeply ingrained culture that everyone takes for granted.

“Everyone takes a lot of pride in what they do here in the technology world, even if they’re a couple of steps away [from] getting people medicine” that will improve their lives, he explains. “It’s a different sensation from just solving cool problems.”

Beyond that, Rau believes that having a good environment to work in is extremely important. The phrase he heard when he worked in Silicon Valley and continues to frequently hear from friends there, is “toxic work environment,” he says. “It’s almost jarring because I don’t hear it anymore here at Lilly.”

That has caused Silicon Valley to “lose some of its luster,” Rau says. “If you’re a good engineer, why put up with that and be in an environment where you’re seeing bad behaviors from your boss or colleagues? Life’s too short to be in that [environment].”

Rau also speaks from personal experience. When he worked at Apple, “I was averaging one [expletive referring to a contemptible person] per week. … I’ve been here a year and a half, and I haven’t met an [expletive] yet.”


While much of the news around tech layoffs has focused on US giants like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Oracle, Meta and Twitter, dismissals are also happening closer to home.

Since December, Chipper Cash, an African cross-border payments business and one of Africa’s few tech unicorns, has laid off about 150 staff, with the brand’s engineering team taking the biggest hit. Similarly, Wave, a Francophone Africa fintech with services in Senegal and Ivory Coast, laid off roughly 15% of its team in June 2022. And in January this year, Naspers, the South African multinational Internet, technology and multimedia company, announced it would cut around a third of its corporate staff in response to a changing macro environment, according to a spokesperson. The company will also reduce staff across central functions as part of efforts to realign a focus on specific areas of the business.

This instability across the market is also affecting hiring. According to CareerJunction’s latest Employment Insights, which outlines supply and demand trends in the online job market, there was a 6% month-on-month decline in hiring activity from November to December 2022 in several sectors, including tech.

What this means for the tech skills landscape in Africa and globally, according to Arthur Goldstuck, CEO of South African technology research and strategy organisation World Wide Worx, is that the large percentage of layoffs that targeted business support roles, like marketing, sales and middle management, don’t equate to a flood of available tech talent to quell shortages. “What we’re seeing in many organisations is a rebalancing of staff after an exuberance of over-hiring,” he says. “So it’s important we observe any hype around massive layoffs in context.”

In South Africa, and across Africa more broadly, IT skills shortages remain a far bigger concern than broad global layoffs, Goldstuck continues.

Paul Newman, operating director, Michael Page Africa

Michael Page Africa

Furthermore, Paul Newman, operating director for Michael Page Africa, believes that South African businesses were more limited during the pandemic and couldn’t over hire, so as a result, they don’t have teams weighed down with too many people. “The skills shortage in the market prevented over staffed teams,” he explains, which acted as a stabiliser for the local industry. Yet Goldstuck and Walker see there’s still the underlying issue of demand for custom software development, AI, cybersecurity and data science skills.

Root cause of layoffs

Statements issued by household brands and others regarding layoffs may vary in their wording, explaining several natural drivers for layoffs, but according to Goldstuck, two major reasons stand out.

First, tech firms have experienced declining revenue as demand for tech products and services slumps—a by-product of the pandemic causing a lot of over-hiring due to spikes in demand for online services. Mark Walker, associate VP for sub-Saharan Africa at IDC, agrees. What we saw during Covid-19, he says, is many semi-mature technologies were forced to mature fast, and it would be unrealistic to expect this rate of growth to continue. As a result, many tech firms had to hit the breaks.

Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, also summarised the harsh realities in his letter informing Googlers about its layoffs: “Over the past two years, we’ve seen periods of dramatic growth. To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today.”

Arthur Goldstuck, CEO, World Wide Worx

World Wide Worx

The second reason, according to Goldstuck, has to do with expectations around a coming recession, which will drive further declines in revenue, meaning that some of the industry’s biggest brands are bracing for further belt tightening. While some have blamed artificial intelligence (AI) for the staff downsizing, Goldstuck is sceptical. “One can bet that were profits still climbing and stock market valuations still breaking records, we wouldn’t be seeing these layoffs,” he says. “In fact, we’d be seeing the opposite. More AI engineers would be hired.” He adds that “big bad bets” made on overhyped tech, like Meta going all-in on VR, are also reasons for the need to downscale. In January, for example, Microsoft shut down its industrial metaverse team, leaving nearly 100 employees without jobs. “This doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have any faith in the metaverse or concepts around the metaverse,” says Walker. “It’s case of over investing. These technologies haven’t matured enough yet to justify the spend. If the global economy was booming, things might be different.”

Layoffs putting DEI efforts at risk

This upswing in retrenchments across technology companies, irrespective of specific roles or skillset, is also hampering the efforts of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) departments to boost underrepresented groups like women, certain minority groups and those in their mid-careers, which layoffs disproportionately affect. While DEI should remain important factors in hiring, Walker notes that companies with tight budgets and lean mindsets will look more at skill and ability, and how they can hire the least amount of people to get the job done. “Unfortunately, if you stop making money, things like diversity and inclusion stop being important,” says Walker.

For Pabi Mogosetsi, Universum’s country manager for South Africa, it’s important tech businesses remember that DEI, company culture and corporate values go hand-in-hand as they feed into each other since the worth of the organisation is in its people. “If layoffs disproportionately affect a certain demographic or ethic group, it’s likely there will be some negative ripple effects across the organisation,” she says. So she stresses transparency. There have been a few cases where employees only found out they were retrenched when their emails or access cards stopped working. “You need to remember you’re dealing with people,” she says.

Pabi Mogosetsi, Universum’s country manager for South Africa


According to Mogosetsi, businesses have to accept there will be a sense of loss, a dip in morale and even apprehension among individuals left behind. So employers need to over communicate with employees, she says, and make sure everyone’s expectations are aligned so teams feel like they can be productive and contribute to the next phase of change.

IT Jobs, IT Skills

Human-centric work is a growing movement that focuses on the needs of people, reaping business rewards in the process. As recent Gartner research shows, human-centric work practices leads to better employee performance, with workers 3.8 times more likely to be considered high performing in these environments. 

As some of your most valuable employees, software developers should be considered specifically in how to best apply these insights. In the software world, “developer experience” is a key aspect to work satisfaction — one that is not well understood by non-developers.

By bringing together the insights of human-centric work and developer experience, IT leaders can create a work culture that builds and retains top performing developers. Here are seven ways to cultivate a developer-centric environment that will pay dividends.

1. Understand what developer experience is

The leader who understands what developer experience is and gets why it’s important to coders is ahead of the game.

At the most basic level, developer experience (DX) is about how it feels to use a tool or system when building software. It stretches from the very specific, like the difference in how languages handle functional programming, to the general, like the difference in how it “feels” to use different cloud platforms. DX doesn’t stop there, encompassing the culture and attitude of what it means to live the developer lifestyle. In this most broad sense, DX is a major feature of how developers, especially experienced ones, feel when working in an organization.

At the heart of the human-centric philosophy is the idea of autonomous accountability, which means giving people goals and holding them accountable for performance while giving them as much control over how they accomplish things as possible. The idea is that people know what is working and what isn’t, and they are best able to course correct in fast, iterable fashion. And it very much aligns with a valued developer experience.

2. Understand why DX matters

Developers have a self-referential relationship with developer experience: They often build the tools they use, appreciating the way things work and the creative engineering that goes into building the things they use. 

Artistry and appreciation drive the software community forward. Ever since the early days of shared mainframes developers have joined together to create and collaborate on projects that stimulate their minds. The interest and uptake of developers in tech projects has become a key element in determining what projects are funded and find their way into common usage. DX is what distinguishes these projects among developers, and it acts as a kind of indicator of evolutionary suitability.

Dan Moore, head of developer relations at FusionAuth, draws a useful distinction about DX, saying, “Developer experience can be split into internal and external developer experience. The former is about enabling internal teams to build in a more coherent, secure, faster way by providing building blocks and guardrails along with self-service tooling. The latter is for increasing sales and building a sticky platform for developers outside your organization.”

To ensure those results, IT leaders must continuously ask what it is like to be a developer at their organization and find ways to make that experience better.

3. From DevOps to ‘DevEx’ — and back again

The expansion of DevOps has empowered developers to be involved in the full product lifecycle and influence that lifecycle in a holistic fashion. If you haven’t already embraced DevOps, that is a good first move in the direction of developer-centric practices. 

DX takes DevOps to the next level. As Guillermo Rauch, CEO and founder of Vercel told me, “Organizations will move from DevOps to dev experience. Great developer experience leads to better developer productivity and improved developer velocity, directly improving your bottom line. Every organization should be thinking, ‘How do I empower my developers to spend more time on the application and product layer while spending minimal time on the backend and infrastructure layer?’”

Looked at this way, focusing on DX is a way to better enable developers to control how they work: Instead of figuring out what DevOps processes are best and then imposing them on teams, empower the team to devise processes and technology that best suits them. After all, empowered teams involved in processes firsthand can better design and build tools for their tasks in response to changing conditions. 

Put another way, good DevOps is a natural outcome of good DX, and vice versa.

4. Have someone own DX

Including developers and IT staff in discussions around what tools to use — and giving them purchasing influence — provides an invaluable feedback loop about what is and isn’t working. It also ensures developers feel they are being heard, making them more likely to be invested in the project

The key to nurturing benevolent cycles between the business and tech staff is finding and empowering the force magnifiers in the organization, those individuals who can help speak for the developer experience and provide a bridge to the business side. A great way to help here is to explicitly put someone, or several someones, in charge of DX. This might be part of someone’s responsibility or the sole focus of a group, depending on the scope of your organization.

Establishing an explicit focus on managing the health of DX and providing a way for those involved with DX to interface with the business will greatly contribute to the overall success of your DX efforts.

5. Don’t push developers to fail their second audience

Developers create software for two audiences: users and developers — that is, those developers who will work on the product. For users, product excellence is critical. But for developers, excellence inside the product is extremely important as well, and that has big implications for the business using the software. In this sense, DX is an indication of code quality, which says everything about the viability of software.

Here, the importance to the business is two-fold. First, systems with good DX are easier to maintain and extend, with software quality a key differentiator between code that can grow and evolve and code that is doomed to degrade and decay. Second, when DX is high, developers — especially senior ones — are more likely to be satisfied with working on the project. Because of this, the importance of code quality shows why project velocity is not a metric to be seen in isolation as it often is. 

As the human experience of working on projects, DX is the most indicative characteristic of a project’s health. How it feels to work in the internals of a project is affected by everything from tooling to meeting tempo, and whether that feels pleasant or unpleasant says everything about how well things are going, how they will proceed, and whether people will want to continue working on it.

6. Provide opportunities to learn, teach, share

Learning, teaching, and sharing are major incentives for developers. And the more accomplished, passionate, and caring the developer, the more they typically matter. The ability to craft DX and help others see its value is essential. By inculcating a culture where everyone is participating in a larger journey that includes sharing, everyone finds a deeper well of inspiration.

Incorporating contribution to open-source projects is a great way to accomplish this.  Many software-oriented businesses include an open-source component for good reason.  It allows developers to express their creations, pulls in contributions from the wider world, and draws friendly attention to what’s being done in the organization.

Every developer’s experience is lifted up when their work feels a part of something greater.

7. Mitigate DX-killing red tape

The business longs for metrics and insights into what’s happening in the dark interior of software creation. But too much intrusion into developer workflow is a real DX killer. Instead, minimize unnecessary meetings and reporting, and keep an eye on what works most efficiently. Even just the sense that leadership is incorporating this factor into their strategizing will help.

The best software developers thrive in an environment where they can focus on what they do best — building software — and spend most of their time on activities that feel valuable.  They have honed and invested in what they are good at, and they want to spend as much time as possible on those tasks.

Reducing friction between teams and areas of ownership is also important. IT leaders are in the position to help break down silos of ownership and exclusivity. 

8. Automate (and de-stress) delivery

Recent research shows that 7 in 10 developers quit projects because of stress over delivery.  A million and one things go into the detailed activity of building software and when it is all bundled up into a single discrete thing that is to be delivered without problems, it’s very stressful. There is a sense of never really doing enough, despite your best efforts. 

The best way to address that is to build reliable automated systems. Continuous integration and delivery, automated testing and the like are becoming standard, must-have parts of dev processes these days, but they are only part of the story. A culture of support is just as necessary. How developers feel treated in their times of difficulty and uncertainty has a huge impact on DX. If successful organizations maintain a two-way street between business and IT, DX is the condition of the road. 

Hiring, Software Development, Staff Management

Since the onset of the pandemic, IT has risen in prominence as an engine for business sustainability and growth across all industries. The subsequent demand for enterprise IT talent has led to a sharp spike in salaries CIOs must pay to staff their teams.

“Demand for tech talent was up by 50% to 60% in the last two years, mainly attributable to industry-spanning hyper digitalization. Companies across verticals were ramping up digital functions with the increasing demand for innovation in products and service offerings, especially since the onset of the pandemic,” says Sachin Alug, CEO of talent solutions company NLB Services. “As companies strive to transform their business models specifically in manufacturing, supply chain, project management, and sales, the uptick in hiring IT talent was seen as a natural progression.”

While the rise in salaries for technology roles has bode well for IT professionals, it has posed challenges for CIOs in effectively managing their budgets with the increased demand on their IT departments.

“In response to the demands from business, the strength of our IT department has gone up from 20 to 50 in the last two years,” says Ranganathan Iyer, CIO at auto components manufacturer JBM Group. “The new resources have come at a 30% to 40% additional cost but there has only been an incremental y-o-y increase of 10% to 12% in our budgets.”

Iyer was expecting the massive layoffs taking place in the US to reflect in India too, which could have eased salaries. But while Big Tech in the US has retrenched thousands of workers since the pandemic as recession looms large over its economy, that hasn’t happened in India.

Describing India as a “bright spot” in the global economy, Kristalina Georgieva, MD of International Monetary Fund, has said the country will contribute 15% of the global growth in 2023. According to recruitment and staffing services company Randstad, Indian technology firms are expected to buck the global trend and start hiring in 2023. It is this Indian growth story that is causing high salaries to hold up, at least for the time being.

“Today we are getting resources with half the experience at the same salary as an employee with over 20 years of experience in the company. In such a scenario, it is tough to retain senior employees,” says Iyer, who has no choice but to hire when it comes to next-generation technologies such as AI and ML. “We can upskill existing resources in other areas but not in these.”

Iyer is finding it tough to get cost-effective resources even though he doesn’t hire from top institutes such as IITs (Indian Institute of Technology) and NITs (National Institute of Technology).

“We expect the situation to ease by October as the impact of the global layoffs will be felt by then. Indians being retrenched in the US could return home. But the new benchmark in salaries has already been set. It is 30% higher than pre-COVID levels,” says a senior technology leader from the travel industry, on condition of anonymity.

A top IT decision maker from the BFSI vertical is feeling the heat too. “Our outsourcing partners faced a lot of issues in the last two years. There was high demand for coders, and skilled resources left them at 100% to 120% salary hikes. Some of our contracts with them, which were very old, exhausted in months because of churn in these vendors,” he says, not wanting to be quoted.

With the situation reaching a climax, CIOs have no choice but to find innovative solutions to tackle the situation.

Managing talent costs through outsourcing

To control costs, most CIOs are taking recourse in outsourcing. As the CIO from the BFSI vertical says, “There was a 30% increase in salaries, but it was absorbable as we had already outsourced most applications such as mobile banking and internet banking. The freed resources were diverted to other areas such as infosec, VPN, and networking. They are also being upskilled on next-gen technologies as we look to set up a center of excellence in a specific technology.”

Similarly, the technology leader from the travel industry has outsourced both the company’s core IT infrastructure and its security operations center. However, he kept other areas, such as DevOps, inhouse. “Although we have hired 50%-60% more resources, our overall budget hasn’t exceeded. As a result of outsourcing, we haven’t disturbed the balance sheet. We have also entered long-term contracting to insulate ourselves from price rise,” he says.

Iyer has already outsourced 90% of the company’s IT — everything from the network to the hardware maintenance. Only the ERP and the AI divisions are inhouse. About five years back he thought of outsourcing the ERP division too but then realized it would end up costing more. “The outsourcing partner would only take care of the maintenance. For any new testing, development of business, they would charge extra. We also thought of setting up a shared SAP competency center with other big auto ancillary players, but it didn’t materialize,” he says.

Embracing skills-based hiring and upskilling

Eliminating role-based hiring and making skill-based hiring the mandate can be another approach that CIOs across verticals can adopt amid turbulent times.

“As technology continues to evolve and change the business landscape, the focus needs to be shifted to expertise rather than experience when it comes to hiring IT resources,” says Alug, of NLB Services. “Studies have shown that employers today are more inclined to hire skilled candidates rather than experienced candidates. Many high-tech organizations have resorted to hiring freshers in numbers higher than experienced professionals as the former comes with updated domain knowledge in the emerging technologies.”

Iyer too is banking on upskilling as he looks to implement SAP HANA by the end of the year. He is planning to upgrade the skillsets of resources within the company instead of hiring expensive ones from outside.

“Today, the list of IT and non-IT companies axing redundant roles is growing. In such a situation, employees must keep their skills in check to prove their indispensability within the organization. When it comes to tech and digital expertise, the most impactful means to raise productivity in tandem with the evolving technology is constant upskilling,” says Alug. “In a digital world, the list of certifications for IT courses is endless. However, there is an increased demand for skill building in certain areas such as cloud, data science, DevOps, AI/ML, and cybersecurity to keep up with the progressing technologies.”

Shifting IT strategies to curb costs

In another initiative, the technology leader from the travel industry has “reengineered his enterprise’s operations.”

“The travel industry has lots of legacy applications and APIs. We looked at those applications that were non-revenue generating and shut them down. Overall, 30% of the applications were done away with. With all these initiatives, we are today working at 60% less operating cost,” he says.

The CIO from the BFSI vertical says his enterprise kept costs down by shutting 30% of its regional offices and persisting the company’s work-from-home policy.

Meanwhile, his outsourcing partners have adopted an innovative approach to manage the situation. “Rather than laying off employees, their salaries have been cut and they have been given ESOPs [Employee Stock Ownership Plans]. As the company’s P&L moves, so would their benefits,” he says.

Vendors are also offering innovative schemes to help CIOs manage costs better. “Vendors such as Dell and HP have launched an innovative plan. Whenever a new employee joins, we had to give them new laptops. Now these vendors take back old laptops and return after refurbishing them by replacing their old parts such as keys and screen. This has extended the life of a laptop from 18 to 20 months to 64 to 70 months, helping us save 40% costs on a month-on-month basis,” says the BFSI IT leader.

Navigating what’s to come

Few IT leaders anticipated a spike in IT salaries to this extent. Still, as the business and technology environment continues to remain unpredictable, CIOs must learn from what is transpiring with talent costs today to be better prepared to handle such scenarios in the future — especially as the CIO’s strategic becomes increasingly more important.

“They must use their expertise to anticipate future changes and work towards keeping the employees up to speed,” Alug advises. “Times are uncertain with the looming fears of recession and the ongoing geopolitical scenarios. In such situations, there’s no specific blueprint for CIOs to follow to predict upcoming changes. That said, their reliance on data and emerging technologies does take the driver’s seat to make calculative steps that can stave off any impending challenges.”