Are recruiters sourcing 'Internet of Things' talent in the right way?

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Everyone seems to be talking about 'Internet of things'. Billions of dollars have been invested into Internet of Things (IoT) startups during the last two years, and MNCs are opening up IoT business units to keep up with the shift in technology. By the next decade, according to A.T. Kearney,  IoT technologies are expected to impact 6% of the global economy.

So while the stage is set for IoT to create a substantial impact in the global economy, the question perplexing a lot of companies with operations in India is how to attract the right kind of talent who will work on their IoT initiatives.

What's the challenge in finding IoT talent?

'Internet of Things' is still in its early days. Universities in India don’t impart any formal IoT education, nor are there any 'unique skills' associated with 'Internet of Things'. Less than ten thousand software engineers in India identify themselves as IoT professionals, although there are more than thirty thousand people  who could possibly transition into an IoT role today - making the potential talent pool much larger. Merely searching for “IoT Engineer” is bound to fail because IoT is a family of skills and roles rather than a specific skill (similar to Robotics, for example).

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How can recruiters overcome this talent shortage?

The best way is to expand the target pool and source for people who can easily transition into an IoT role. This can be done by looking at the the career trajectory of people who have transitioned into IoT-related roles.

In general Computer hardware and embedded companies like Cisco, IBM, Aricent, Qualcomm and Intel have among the highest number of IoT focused employees in India, and more than 80% of them transitioned from software engineering or embedded engineering roles. Employees of some of the top IoT startups in India have also had a similar career path.

Essentially, for any candidate to move into IoT roles, an exposure to both hardware systems and software systems is very beneficial.

How should a recruiter go about sourcing for candidates who can transition into IoT?

  1. Understand the segments and types of work being done in IoT
    Every industry has unique challenges. However, by analyzing the kinds of industries that IoT affects, you can figure out the kinds of candidates available and the kinds of problems they are working on. For example, Agri-Tech companies are solving problems related to sensors, pattern recognition, etc and lot of platform-based companies are trying to solve the challenges related to deriving data-backed insights from IoT devices. According to TIE's IoT Forum, the end market that these companies cater to, is distributed as follows:

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  2. Break down and understand what role you're hiring for
    There is no such thing as an 'IoT Engineer'. IoT comprises of a number of related or complementary functions and your ideal hire will fit into one or more of these functions. Hence it helps to get an understanding of the domain that the candidate will be working on.

    Typically, a company's IoT engineering team comprises of product managers, software engineers, embedded engineers, network/security engineers & big data engineers working together.

  3. Understand the required combination of skills/domains 
    The only difference between hiring engineers for e-commerce companies vs IoT companies is that IoT companies require cross-domain exposure. Therefore, any backend engineer having a bit of hardware knowledge can easily transition into an IoT role, or an embedded engineer with a bit of coding knowledge can fit in too.

    You can use the sample boolean query below to identify backend engineers who can transition into IoT roles:

    (Python OR "Embedded C") AND ("Embedded Systems" OR "Raspberry Pi" OR Arduino OR Microprocessors OR Microcontrollers)

    Similarly for other IoT roles, depending upon the combination of domains that the hiring manager wants, you can use the following skill checklist to form a boolean query. This is just an example, you can figure out the exact nature of the job while crafting the Job Description.

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  4. Analyze the talent landscape to understand talent availability
    From the IoT Talent Finder above, we can see that two-thirds of the talent pool is concentrated in 2-5 years, and 5-8 years experience bracket. Finding candidates in other experience brackets (such as mid to senior level candidates) will require more effort and it helps having some early visibility into your hiring plans and starting early conversations with candidates so that you’re not caught up during last minute hiring.
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  5. Understand how the talent pool is spread across different cities :

    When it comes to the existing IoT talent pool, Bengaluru clearly outnumbers its peers, with Delhi NCR and Pune being the other cities which have a decent number of candidates owing to these cities having a sizeable portion of embedded and hardware companies.

    In cities like Mumbai and Chennai, which barely have five hundred software engineers who are currently into IoT, recruiters should start having a multi city sourcing strategy from early on.
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When companies are hiring for new fields like 'Internet of Things', where not many people have past experience, they need to leverage the power of data to understand what kind of people can potentially fit in, where do they exist, and proactively reach out to them, instead of waiting for them to apply. We believe that such a data-driven talent acquisition strategy would enable them to build stellar teams who can then create truly game-changing products.

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