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Upwardly mobile: Booming e-commerce and app activity is driving demand for IT talent

Published on Saturday, 13 Aug 2016
Booming e-commerce and app activity is driving demand for IT talent. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Traditionally, IT infrastructure was the popular choice for budding professionals looking to make their mark in the technology sector. But the recent flurry of activity across Hong Kong’s e-commerce and mobile app platforms has given rise to new interest in IT developer roles. Attracted by the endless possibilities shaping the future of innovation and technology, candidates see more learning opportunities outside of day-to-day IT maintenance and support of legacy systems.

Dramatic changes in consumer habits and behavioural spending have resulted in companies refocusing their tech talent to development for mobile devices. Experienced developers, especially those skilled in mobile and big data analytics, are highly sought-after, as companies strive to cultivate and understand online purchasing habits, mobile payments and digital transactions.

As such, demand for IT developers has surged across industries. This includes commerce, manufacturing, retail, software and app development, logistics, fast-moving consumer goods, and media.

In efforts to engage consumers, developers are also highly sought-after by financial services organisations such as banks, asset management companies and insurance firms.

Skill requirements depend on companies’ particular needs. Candidates may want to gain skills related to enterprise resource planning (ERP), e-commerce, payment gateway systems, mobile development for iOS and Android, or graphics and game development. Recently, developers have also been tasked with producing analytical tools to aid business intelligence reports.

This has resulted in a tech talent crunch – particularly in mobile, online and big data. Competition for talent is not just between new-to-market businesses; a number of well-established traditional firms in Hong Kong are turning towards online platforms in efforts to revive their offerings and interact with a growing pool of online and mobile-first consumers.

The good news for employers is that developer skills are transferable. Candidates in the financial services sector can make the switch to developing applications in the commercial space if they have strong mobile or iOS development skills – and vice versa.

Programming languages can be applicable across industries, but it’s important to note that, when assessing candidates, employers are more likely to consider someone with similar platform development experience as well as literacy in relevant programming languages.

Top of the wish list for most employers is a candidate with both technical and soft skills. For example, a senior analyst programmer or systems analyst with the necessary hands-on developer skills, as well as a proactive and positive attitude, would be an ideal candidate for a project management position.

Apart from delivering technical support, professionals are expected to bridge the gap between the IT department and the wider business, as well as take ownership of driving new strategies and solutions.

Given the global trend in mobile and e-commerce platforms, there are long-term prospects and a sustained potential for career progression in the sector.

Competition for talent has also driven up salaries in the IT sector. While the average salary increase for job movers in Hong Kong is 10 per cent, IT developers can expect a 15 to 20 per cent increment.

 

SWITCHING TO START-UPS

Hong Kong’s e-commerce and mobile app boom is largely a result of companies choosing the territory as a springboard for mainland China. In particular, US and European firms choose to make Hong Kong their base because of its economic and financial stability. Government support and minimal red-tape has also made it easier for new businesses to set up operations in the city.

While a number of established organisations are recruiting and setting up entirely new IT development teams, the start-up sector also provides plenty of opportunities. Top candidates considering start-up careers may want to consider the maturity of a business, and whether their long-term plans and career goals are aligned with the company.

Typically, IT candidates with a background in development who decide to get into start-ups have 10 to 12 years of experience. They are often in a proactive stage, in which they know how to advance their career.

Most aspire to lead teams and eventually start their own businesses. Again, this calls for IT professionals to have leadership and communication skills on top of their technical portfolio. Most also have enough tenacity to expand their responsibilities, own a P&L and ultimately take charge of a business.

In this tight labour market, professionals are also savvy and well-connected. They’re likely to know when any promising start-up is looking to hire before public efforts have started. This could make them picky candidates.

Experienced developers, or development leaders, are likely to also assess their employer’s ability to achieve its goals. The business owner or chief technology officer’s capabilities, and business vision, are just as crucial as salary packages in attracting candidates to a start-up.


This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Upwardly mobile.

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