STEM Talent May Have a Bright Future in Sales

STEM Talent May Have a Bright Future in Sales

“With more informed buyers to contend with and data as their most powerful sales weapon, sales teams are incorporating more STEM backgrounds within their ranks,” Jared Lindzon writes at Fast Company, in a piece exploring how data and technology skills are becoming as important as interpersonal skills for sales professionals, if not more so:

According to a 2017 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the seventh most popular career for STEM graduates in the United States and most popular noncomputer related role is in sales. … “We are seeing thousands of jobs across the United States in which sales teams are looking for people with STEM related skill sets,” says Glassdoor community expert Scott Dobroski. According to Dobroski the job listing and recruiting website has seen a huge spike in postings for positions that blend sales with STEM skills. …

The demand for STEM skills within sales teams is representative of a seismic shift in sales strategy. This transition has been enabled by technology and the availability of information, both on behalf of the buyer and seller. While the salesperson used to be the primary source of information for their products or services, buyers increasingly have access to specs, samples, and independent reviews. At the same time sellers are able to access information and insights about prospective buyers that would have previously been only accessible through personal interactions.

The nature of the sales role has indeed changed in today’s business environment, especially in B2B sales, where the typical buyer is now most of the way through their decision-making process before engaging with a supplier. This means salespeople need to be comfortable wielding more facts and figures, but also must be adept at managing relationships.

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Canadian Cities Among North America’s Hottest Tech Talent Markets

Canadian Cities Among North America’s Hottest Tech Talent Markets

The latest annual survey of the tech talent market from the commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE finds that Toronto was the fastest-growing market for tech jobs in North America last year, Natalie Wong and Stefanie Marotta reported at Bloomberg last week:

The city saw 28,900 tech jobs created, 14 percent more than in 2016, for a total of more than 241,000 workers, up 52 percent over the past five years, CBRE said. Downtown, tech accounted for more than a third of demand for office space.

Canada’s biggest city took fourth place in “tech talent,” a broad measure of competitiveness, pushing New York down a notch and coming in just after the Bay Area, Seattle and the U.S. capital. CBRE ranked 50 markets across North America, using measures such as talent supply, concentration, education and cost as well as outlooks for job and rent growth for both offices and apartments.

Ottawa is also on the rise, CBRE found, ranking that city highest in terms of growth potential based on its concentration of tech talent as a percentage of the total workforce. The Canadian capital city, situated in the urban corridor between Toronto and Montreal, is currently home to over 1,700 technology companies and more than 70,000 technology workers. Ottawa is home to some of Canada’s most prestigious universities and boasts among the highest living standards in the country, so it’s no surprise to see a tech scene take root there.

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Tech Companies Need More Than Just Tech Talent

Tech Companies Need More Than Just Tech Talent

New research from Glassdoor examines the job openings at major employers in the US tech sector to find out what roles these companies are hiring for. While tech companies have demonstrated an insatiable demand for digital-specific talent like software engineers, data scientists, and experts in AI and machine learning, they also require the same diverse set of skills and functions as other large, complex organizations. Accordingly, Glassdoor finds, 43 percent of open positions at tech companies are non-tech roles, accounting for almost 53,000 jobs. The ratio of tech to non-tech hiring varies widely, however, from one company to another:

Overall, Intel, Microsoft and Walmart eCommerce were hiring the highest percent of tech roles compared to non-tech roles, with 78 percent of their open roles being tech roles. Another tech company hiring predominantly tech workers was Amazon, with 72 percent of the roles on Glassdoor being categorized as tech roles. Despite having a large network of warehouse and logistics operations, tech giant Amazon is still mostly a tech employer.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, only 28 percent of Workday’s open roles were tech-related, with 72 percent being for more traditional non-tech jobs. The majority of job postings at IBM, Salesforce and Verizon were also for non-tech roles. Among Salesforce’s open roles, 41 percent were tech roles while 59 percent were non-tech roles. Similarly, Verizon had about 45 percent tech roles and IBM had 46 percent tech roles open out of their total openings.

The most common non-tech jobs advertised at these companies are account executives and project managers, along with a variety of sales, marketing, and management positions, but the tech sector is also hiring for a wide variety of other roles. Overall, Glassdoor found, most salaries for non-tech jobs range from $50,000-$90,000 per year, compared to $80,000-$120,000 for most tech roles.

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VCs, Entrepreneurs See Midwestern Cities as Potential Startup Hubs

VCs, Entrepreneurs See Midwestern Cities as Potential Startup Hubs

Once the industrial base of the US, the Midwest has struggled in the high-tech era to capture the talent-driven growth enjoyed by coastal cities like Boston and San Francisco, but the region’s fortunes are changing fast. In the past year or so, a burgeoning Midwestern tech scene has begun attracting more attention from venture capitalists and Silicon Valley giants, with many local startups and big-company expansions focusing on the middle-skill roles for which the tech sector’s demand is insatiable, but that are still in short supply nationwide. These “mid-tech” or “new-collar” jobs are described as a 21st century analog to the factory jobs of the past—and as such, a promising path to revival for the industrial Midwest.

High-tech industries including major international firms have been making some big bets in the region: The Indian IT services and business process outsourcing giant Infosys is planning a sprawling campus near Indianapolis, which aims to create 3,000 new jobs within five years, while the Taiwanese multinational Foxconn Technology Group made a deal with the Wisconsin state government last year to build a display panel factory there, which will see the company invest as much as $10 billion and hire as many as 13,000 people. Several midwestern cities are on the list of finalists in the competition to host Amazon’s second headquarters, though Detroit, for example, didn’t make the cut, partly due to a lack of readily available talent.

Yet “mid-tech” companies and regional outposts of tech giants are just one side of the Midwest’s high-tech renaissance. Over the weekend, VentureBeat reporter Anna Hensel took a look at the growing community of AI and machine learning startups in the heartland:

“The real benefit of artificial intelligence is the application to traditional problems and products that the world needs, and the really successful companies have that domain knowledge that they can understand how to apply this technology,” [Chris Olsen, a partner at Columbus, Ohio VC firm Drive Capital,] told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “We see more of those domain experts in these industries [with] massive chunks of GDP that exist here in the Midwest.”

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Automakers’ AI Startups Expand, Pulling Talent from Silicon Valley

Automakers’ AI Startups Expand, Pulling Talent from Silicon Valley

In a sign of how serious the US automobile industry is about beating Silicon Valley to marketable self-driving cars, several AI startups working on this technology have multiplied in size since being bought by legacy automakers over the past two years, Christina Rogers reports at the Wall Street Journal. Argo AI, an artificial intelligence startup founded in Pittsburgh by former top engineers from the self-driving vehicle divisions of Alphabet and Uber, had fewer than a dozen employees when Ford Motor Company bought a $1 billion majority stake in it early last year. Today, it has 330 employees, including a number of software engineers and robotics researchers formerly employed by major tech companies like Apple and Uber.

Argo attracted these employees with an equity offer for new hires, which big tech companies can’t offer, Chief Executive Bryan Salesky tells Rogers. This ensures that each employee is “able to benefit from the upside being created in a direct way”—a potentially massive payoff given that Argo is helping Ford prepare to bring a fully autonomous car to market in 2021 while also developing a system it can sell to other companies. Being backed by a major company, but not owned outright or micromanaged by that company, gives Argo the agility to continue operating like a tech startup, while also benefitting from Ford’s economies of scale to manufacture and market the products it designs.

General Motors also bought a self-driving car startup, Cruise Automation, as part of a series of high-tech investments in 2016 that signaled the company’s intent to develop autonomous vehicles and made it a more attractive employer for tech talent. San Francisco-based Cruise, which GM also spent $1 billion to acquire, has staffed up to 740 employees and got $2.25 billion investment from Japan’s SoftBank Group last month, Rogers adds. Japanese automakers like Toyota and Nissan are also investing in the development of robotics and autonomous driving technology.

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Microsoft to Acquire GitHub, Making Waves in Developer Community

Microsoft to Acquire GitHub, Making Waves in Developer Community

Microsoft announced on Monday that it was buying the software development platform GitHub for $7.5 billion worth of Microsoft stock in a deal expected to close later this year:

GitHub will retain its developer-first ethos and will operate independently to provide an open platform for all developers in all industries. Developers will continue to be able to use the programming languages, tools and operating systems of their choice for their projects — and will still be able to deploy their code to any operating system, any cloud and any device. Microsoft Corporate Vice President Nat Friedman, founder of Xamarin and an open source veteran, will assume the role of GitHub CEO. GitHub’s current CEO, Chris Wanstrath, will become a Microsoft technical fellow, reporting to Executive Vice President Scott Guthrie, to work on strategic software initiatives.

Ten-year-old GitHub, based in San Francisco, is widely used among software developers to share and collaborate on code. In earlier years, Bloomberg’s Dina Bass and Eric Newcomer note, Microsoft leaders were hostile toward open-source projects like those being shared on GitHub, with co-founder Bill Gates and former CEO Steve Ballmer encouraging developers to build proprietary software for their company. Current CEO Satya Nadella has taken a notably more positive line on open source, making GitHub a more natural addition to the way the software giant currently operates. In that context, Tom Warren writes at the Verge, “it’s easy to imagine why Microsoft would want to acquire GitHub”:

Microsoft killed its own GitHub competitor, Codeplex, in December and is now the top contributor to GitHub, Microsoft now has more than 1,000 employees actively pushing code to GitHub repositories. Its popularity among developers could see Microsoft earn some much-needed trust and respect from developers. In bigger enterprises and slower moving businesses, the fact Microsoft has acquired GitHub will make it more trusted to use for projects and source control, simply because Microsoft is already trusted across many software and services by these companies.

In a blog post discussing the acquisition, Nadella insists the move is all about empowering developers:

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Google, Coursera Launch Machine Learning Course Series

Google, Coursera Launch Machine Learning Course Series

Google and the online learning platform Coursera are launching a five-course machine learning specialization to teach developers how to build machine learning models using the TensorFlow framework, Frederic Lardinois reports at TechCrunch:

The new specialization, called “Machine Learning with TensorFlow on Google Cloud Platform,” has students build real-world machine learning models. It takes them from setting up their environment to learning how to create and sanitize datasets to writing distributed models in TensorFlow, improving the accuracy of those models and tuning them to find the right parameters.

As Google’s Big Data and Machine Learning Tech Lead Lak Lakshmanan told me, his team heard that students and companies really liked the original machine learning course but wanted an option to dig deeper into the material. Students wanted to know not just how to build a basic model but also how to then use it in production in the cloud, for example, or how to build the data pipeline for it and figure out how to tune the parameters to get better results. …

It’s worth noting that these courses expect that you are already a somewhat competent programmer. While it has gotten much easier to start with machine learning thanks to new frameworks like TensorFlow, this is still an advanced skill.

The new series is a continuation of Google’s longstanding partnership with Coursera, through which the tech giant went public with its internal IT support training curriculum earlier this year.

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