What will the developer and tech job market look like in 2022 and beyond? That’s what we’re talking about on this episode of Dynamic Developer. The following is a transcript of this interview, edited for readability.

Listen to the podcast version of this Dynamic Developer episode on SoundCloud

Bill Detwiler: I’m joined by Chris Thorpe, CTO and SVP of Solutions for Talent Path. Listeners of Dynamic Developer may know Talent Path from my interview in 2020 with Kip Wright, the CEO. But for anyone who hasn’t heard that episode (which I encourage everyone to go back and listen to), or who isn’t already familiar with what Talent Path does, give us a rundown of the company.

Chris Thorpe: Great. Thanks for the question. I know Kip was here last year, so I actually just joined Talent Path about five months ago. I sort of joined from the other side of the industry where I’ve been hiring people for years. So, I’ve been brought on board to help flesh out what really is something called a higher-trained deploy model. It’s a standard vernacular used in the industry, but ultimately what we try to do is we’re trying to find people who sort of fall through the traditional cracks on the hiring side. We try to find the diamonds in the rough and create opportunities for them, build a custom curriculum around that. And what I’ve done coming in from sort of the financial services industry is we’ve focused on building the curriculum, which I think are the most in-demand jobs, the most in demand skills.

And then we have some relationships with some critical companies out there and we place them into these companies and we create pathways and opportunities to go into those companies. I think the reason why I loved doing this job is I’ve seen this disconnect between the big companies and there’s lots of great talent out there. So, Talent Path’s job right here is to create opportunities, maybe go after people who it sort of more diverse backgrounds, people who haven’t gone through the normal educational systems and place them in these great opportunities in junior roles. So, it’s a fun place to be.

From finance to hiring

Bill Detwiler: You have a background in the financial sector, with stints at DLL, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and JP Morgan Chase, what was it about Talent Path that made you want to switch from finance to talent development?

Chris Thorpe: That’s a good question. Actually I think I’m going to have to bore you a little with some of my history for you to understand and why I joined a company like Talent Path because it’s sort of been in the making for many years. So, originally from the UK, I actually have a master’s degree in a non-computer science background. I sort of started off with an engineering degree. So that’s what you guys call a STEM education in this country. And I got hired into JPMorgan, And I actually got shipped to the US. And then I noticed what was going on with a lot of the big financial services banks is that they were hiring lots of people who came from non-traditional technical backgrounds. And a lot of us were pretty successful. I managed, was lucky enough to get to some CIO roles, some MD roles at both Bank of America and JPMorgan.

And during my career for both these places, we’ve sucked in lots of talent, but I just noticed there was so much inefficiency about how the big banks or the big financial services we’re recruiting people, were leaving so many people out there in the marketplace. And a lot of my high points in my career, I built out the first tech center in Houston, Texas, where we hired 500 people, I’ve done the workforce strategy for Bank of America, where I restructured workforces around the world. I restructured the workforce strategy for DLL. And the common theme I’ve noticed. I’ve always been attracted to this idea around how you have a hiring manager, they have a resume, they have their perfect match of people they want for their skills. And then I see all these recruiters over here.

And typically you go through this process of wasting like 90 good people that probably have the right skills, but they just don’t happen to have the right thing on their resume. And then they find the right pattern match, as I call it, and they typically get a job. And the reason I joined Talent Path is I just think there’s another way that we can actually find opportunities for people where I see inefficiencies on both the hiring side and on the trading side from the educational system. I’ve just seen that going on for years. So, I want to do something about it. That’s why I joined Talent Path.

How Talent Path works

Bill Detwiler: Well I think that’s a really amazing story. And as someone who also has a non-tech background and actually a non-journalism background, although I’ve been doing this for 20 years, but had a career in tech before I joined TechRepublic, I started out my career like you as a engineering mathematics and computer science major. That was my major. And then I ended up with a couple different degrees in criminal justice, oddly enough. And then I had a career in IT, and then I had a career in tech media. So, I think a lot of people that I talk to can identify with that kind of non-traditional path into the tech world. And so, I’d love to drill down on what that last point you made, which is about bridging that gap.

Bring all your knowledge around digital transformation to Talent Path, how are you leveraging technology there to, 1) identify people with an aptitude for success in a tech job, 2) give them the skills they need to get hired, and 3) then connect them with the right employer? I mean any one of those is a tall order, but you’re doing all three.

Chris Thorpe: Oh, that’s a tough one. That’s a long going on that we’re doing with Talent Path. I think the first thing we have to realize is that Talent Path has a different mission. We are in historic times right now with COVID, with the fact that we’re going through this accelerated digital transformation, there’s this massive demand out there. There’s what? Hundreds of thousands of job openings in the technology space. And then yet we still have lots of people in the marketplace trying to figure this out. So, you’ve got all these companies in the marketplace that have their missions where they’re trying to generate revenue, they’re trying to do all these other things.

SEE: Hiring Kit: JavaScript Developer (TechRepublic Premium)

Talent Path’s mission is, we are trying to bridge that gap. So, everything that we do in the company, we are building systems, we’re building processes we all get into right now is just trying to find the diamonds in the rough, flow them through our process, understand what’s going on in the marketplace and place people into junior programs within these companies. So, our mission’s different, our mission is really trying to bridge that gap whereas most of the other companies out there, they’re trying to build a product or they’re trying to do something within the marketplace. So they’re not really focused on the process of hiring. So I think our secret sauce is boiled down to, so we linked with a staffing company. So we have a lot of natural processes and we have a lot of natural flow of candidates just flowing through Talent Path the whole time. One thing we built is we just had a lot of data. We have a lot of data about candidates applying for jobs.

What I’ve implemented in the last six months is we’ve just started to track this flow and we are actually tracking it across three dimensions. We’re tracking across the dimension of emotional intelligence, we’ve created some of our own proprietary tests that don’t presuppose you have a computer science background, and then we’re tracking that data. And then we’re there measuring the outcomes of what happens with our data. So, we have the advantage of the fact that we have hundreds of people that flow through the thing and we want them to be successful. So we’ve got an AI practice inside of Talent Path. So, we’re actually using some data analytics to actually just track that data and just create a closed loop around how that’s processed. So, we actually have a set of algorithms and data that we’re using to screen for candidates a different way.

Another thing that we have is that we invest a lot of time and money and energy with various networks. So, we have a digital outreach to university networks. So we’re spending a lot of time and money just creating some different networks. We have some partnerships with some people on that side, and we are not going necessarily after the top-tier schools, we’re going after one level down schools where we think we have a more of a diverse outreach. So, we have an algorithm which we’re continuously training. We have a network of intake on this side. We have some of what I’m going to call the old fashioned heuristics of using a staffing company. So, we have great flow. And then we sort of bring to bear some of the best practices from the industry around training. And this wasn’t one of your questions, but one thing I’ve done as a CTO is I know what a buyer wants and we have huge demand in the cloud space.

We have huge demand in the data space. And then I think when you’re bringing people from nontraditional technical backgrounds, there’s a huge demand in the low-code space. So we’ve sharpened our curricula and our brand and our training, our expertise and projects around making sure we can produce full-stack people in the cloud space, in the data analytics space, and we’re exploring some ideas in the low code.

So we’ve actually got a curriculum which we put online and we’re doing that. And then that’s that component. And then the biggest piece of work right now that I’m focused on is really trying to come up with a digital brand. So, we can do the outreach to some of our clients, so people can see some of the work that the cohorts and the students are doing. So they’re the three components of what we’re working on right now for Talent Path, from a technology perspective. And then I have all the traditional stuff. We have some CRM tools and all the usual stuff.

Bill Detwiler: I love that blending of technology and AI and ML with the process, the old school kind of process that you had with the staffing company. So you’ve got the throughput and those personal relationships that you’re building with those universities, because one of the things that I’ve always seen and I think anyone who has gone through the job market recently and the job search recently is exactly what you… they’ve faced a situation exactly as you described it, which is a lot of the algorithms are just looking for keywords on resumes. And those keywords can be some indicators of skills that people have, but they don’t necessarily tell you the whole picture. So, I like that. I like a more holistic approach that Talent Path is taking there.

Chris Thorpe: And actually that reminds me, so I think that’s why I wanted to talk about the mission. And so what we are trying to do is we are trying to grab as much data as possible at the front end, so that we are screening people in. The problem with these ATS systems and these resume screens is that they’re really just looking for that perfect keyword search and that tends to screen people out. So, because of our mission, we’re trying to find ways to bring people into the fold and give them opportunity whereas most of the hiring companies out there like, “Well, if you don’t hit this criteria, you’re gone.”

What are the most in-demand tech skills?

Bill Detwiler: Well, and I think, too, you get a snapshot. So in a previous life, I was also a data analyst, and I did a lot of quantitative analysis for social science research firms. And so one of the things we found is we were always trying to find, we got better results with longitudinal data. And so that’s really kind of what you’re talking about in that you aren’t just looking at a snapshot in time where you say, “Hey, look, we’ve got a hundred resumes that came in for these positions and they fit these keywords,” and boom, now we’ve already processed this person through, they have the job. That’s great, but we have no visibility into how have they been successful later on. What happened afterwards? What actually makes them so you can tie it back over a certain length of time to say, “Yes, this person was successful.” Right?

So, let’s talk about the state of the tech job market, what do you see as the most in-demand skills right now?

Chris Thorpe: This all stems from digital transformation and the three pillars around digital transformation is people are hungry for data. And so that’s just an exploding skill. So, we’ve actually got a few instructors there and the demand on that side spans. And the other thing to remember as well is because we’re trying to take people with a junior background, so the other thing we’ve got to think about is we’ve got to make them successful in a junior role in the company with a set of training. So, within the data space, for example, we are finding we are very successful if we can bring people at the data-analyst level where they’ve got natural communications skills, they’ve got natural problem solving skills, et cetera, et cetera. We’re staying away from some of the more esoteric skills around data scientists and people like that. But with some of these ML libraries that are coming out, it’s interesting how we are finding that the market’s continuing to expand.

SEE: Business leaders as developer: The rise of no-code and low-code software (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

So, we’ve got that whole data space. There’s always demand for people with traditional programming backgrounds, but because of the cloud, and everybody’s moving into the cloud, finding people with that magical combination of programming skills that work in either AWS or Azure, to a lesser extent, Google, people who have those cloud-based skills is huge. And then yeah, definitely on the low-code side, Salesforce is exploding, we’re looking at some automation things as well. So, as a buyer on the CTO side, when I want to bring people into my workforce, I want certainty of outcome. I want to make sure if I’m bringing these junior resources in, I want to see potential and niche skill sets to help continue to train my workforce as well. So, they’re the three pillars that we’re really focused on and just going to brand and making sure that when people get our data engineers or our data analysts from Talent Path, they are going to be productive day one or day, or at least within a week.

And so I think we’re giving them a little edge on that side. So the curriculum’s pretty tough. It’s like 12 weeks, 15 weeks. And it’s pretty intense practice, but I think it’s a great experience. And the other thing, the other flavor that we’re adding with our training is that we give them lots of practical hands-on experience. We’ve got the emotional intelligence training and we try and get projects from the business so that by the time they get exposed to the final company that they’re working at, they can maybe understand how to manage a portfolio. They can understand how to work in the work environment, because some of these kids that come from some of these environments, they’ve never been in the corporate environment. So, we’ve got an interesting blend as well around them.

What should students focus on if they want jobs in technology?

Bill Detwiler: To me that sounds much more like an apprenticeship kind of model, which I think is fantastic because I think that’s something in the U.S. Especially, we’ve really lacked where other places in the world in Europe and you found that model because it had history behind it, hundreds of years of history, and that carried through to the day. So, I mean, it sounds like that’s kind of what you’re describing. It is much more about, “Hey, we’re going to help make sure that as an employer, you are getting the right talent.” These people come in and already have a level of knowledge, and at the same time the people coming in already know what to expect and they feel like they have confidence in being able to do the job, which is just, I think, has been missing for a long period of time, unless you just kind of hit the jackpot on both sides of the equation.

What about down the road, say three to four years, for people entering or who are already in college but will be joining the job market soon, or for folks who are considering a career shift into tech but need some time to get the right skills? What should they be focusing on?

Chris Thorpe: Yeah. I mean, because at the end of the day we are incented, not trying to knock other models and it’s an interesting educational system in the U.S., But because we want to do repeat business with these customers and we are putting junior people in there, we have a mentorship program. So, the way we set up the training is we’re incented to make sure that when we put people into these companies, they’re as productive as possible, whereas a bootcamp it’s more about the upfront fee and then really it’s then up to you to take that training and figure out how to get a job. For us we’ve made an investment with, we’re paying a salary. So the more we can actually get people successfully placed in these companies, the model works. So we’re incented to try and make sure that we give them as much skills as possible to be so successful. So yeah, it’s kind of like an apprenticeship.

Bill Detwiler: Well, Chris, I think that’s a fantastic place to end our conversation. If folks do want to learn more about the Talent Path, it’s just Talent Path.com, right?

Chris Thorpe: Yeah. That’s correct. Yeah. And they can always hit me up on LinkedIn or Twitter. I’ve got some handles around that as well. I’m happy to give people career advice. I’ve been doing this for 25 years trying to figure out how to bridge that gap between these big employers, and there’s a ton of great talent out there, and I get the biggest kick out of people that come in from these random backgrounds and successes. So this has been fun. I’ve enjoyed this Bill.

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