Wanted: Arts majors for high-tech
Technology companies are looking for creativity, flexibility, and the ability to think outside the box.
The average profile for a high-tech worker generally includes an education in systems engineering, computer engineering, or programming. However, in recent years, along with the blossoming of start-ups, many companies are turning to completely different fields to recruit workers. They are looking for creativity, flexibility, and the ability to think outside the box - attributes that are not necessarily typical of math and engineering graduates.
This trend, which characterizes high-tech and start-up companies, reflects a broader trend: companies are increasingly seeking to hire workers who are not conventional fits for the traditional requirements, so they can contribute to intellectual diversity, and help them to see things a little differently.
Shai Ozon, CEO of One1 Group, which employs 3,000 workers in IT, is a strong advocate of hiring management talents from different fields. “The idea is to bolster the management layer with people who come from different disciplines, and to diversify the style of management,” he says. “The reason is that we are in an industry that is constantly changing: the technology changes, the customers come from a wide variety for fields, and we are looking for people who will be able to speak in diverse languages, and not necessarily understand the intricate details of the product we are selling, but more relationship management and sales processes. We can teach them about the product.”
Are there problems with today’s training?
“Apple’s success did not stem from the fact that their computers were better than IBMs, rather from the synthesis of disciplines. For example, once, the role of information systems was to make sure the computer would work. Today, it is to give the business a competitive edge. It is not enough to speak the old language of technology; you need a broader business vision.”
What characteristics are you looking for in employees?
The people I am looking for may have backgrounds in law, industry and management, and as far as I'm concerned even art. The important thing is that they have some life experience. They first undergo an internship, for about a year and a half, in three levels of specialization: professional training in IT, management coaching, and in organizational culture the company’s business language. Each one of them will hold a variety of positions within the company along the way: projects, sales, etc., and they will see the big picture.
“I am looking for assertive, creative people, who understand business, and from that, also sales processes. Personality and ability to communicate are extremely valuable. It is hard to find managers, and, generally, people look in the wrong place. The match has to be as close as possible. We have built a rigorous program, and I want to have 10 employees enter the first round. If I end up with a few good managers, I will be happy. Good managers are worth a lot of money.”
Technology with creativity
RSA (EMC Information Security division) Israel Director of Research and Innovation CTO Alon Kaufman says that using information for business purposes requires multi-disciplined people, and professional teams need to include, on the one hand, technical people, with backgrounds in statistics, mathematics, or computer science, and, on the other hand, content experts, who understand the business side, and the customers.
“There are very few mathematicians who have a natural business sense, therefore, people who can translate and manage all the technical sides and direct them towards something business oriented that will speak to the customers, and will translate the information in the most practical manner into a final product, are very important. But thinking about the final product has to course through the blood of every one of the workers. So that they have the drive to find the simplest algorithm, and the most practical graphics. When we analyze the data, we need people who know how to ask questions, and know how to present the final product, visually speaking. Such a team could include an architect, a statistician, someone with a degree in computer science, and a physicist. The manager of such a team does not need to be an expert in one of the fields; the manager needs to have the personality traits to allow him to connect everyone, to communicate with the team, and to lead.”
Is it possible to find such people?
“It makes hiring very complicated. Depending on the candidate, you sometimes change the job description, because obviously you will never find yourself exactly. Typically, managers look for people who resemble themselves, but I think this is the biggest mistake - you should search for people who are different.”
At the start-up company Innovid, the employee profile is also atypical for high-tech. “The company’s first employee was a Creative Director, which is a position that does not exist at high-tech companies,” says co-founder and global operations manager Zack Zigdon. “What we are creating is something new, and when you approach a client, you have to show him something to convince him. We need creative people to convince the advertisers.”
Innovid offers advertisers a new way to present their products using videos that present viewers with options to be exposed to more and more information about the product. For instance, a viewer watching a car commercial may be able to book a test drive, view the car’s interior, or receive price quotes, while watching the commercial. The company has a full team of art and design school graduates working on the video advertising experience.
Playtika Israel, which operates in the field of gaming on social networks, and whose primary platform is Facebook, has a hard time finding workers because the company is so specialized. According to head of HR Gabi Karni, she turns to candidates whom, in a typical recruit, she would not be interested in. The company’s content manager is a script writer, and working directly under him is a toy designer. The studio manager previously worked at an ad agency. The marketing manager is an entrepreneur, who previously founded a start-up. One worker was an IDF intelligence officer; his job is to research the competition. “Initially, it was because we had no choice,” says Karni, “But, later, I understood that, surprisingly, the variety and the heterogeneousness bring about our success as an innovative organization that creates products outside of the box. These workers come from a crossroads, seeking a new and challenging path. They come with motivation, hunger, and desire - this is what creates the synergy with the organizations culture and pace. Their learning curve is very steep, and they succeed exceptionally.”
“Also seeking literature majors”
As mentioned, seeking employees who do not fit the classic profile is not only typical in high-tech. McCann Valley (McXann Erickson ad agency Mitzpe Ramon extension) chairwoman Hana Rado, had a hard time finding young workers in the area. Hence, some of the senior staff relocated to the area from Tel Aviv, but there is a clear preference for Negev residents. “We take people with undergraduate degrees, who have no experience, and they undergo 3 months of training. For the time being, the training is in Tel Aviv, but soon it will be in Mitzpe Ramon. We have psychologists, economists, lawyers, communications majors, literature majors, people who understand language. People who like to write like journalists, economists, biologists. People who are interested in the Internet world. Wonderful people with values. It’s like a start-up in the desert."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on December 30, 2013
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2013
Globes - Wanted: Arts majors for high-tech