Sunday, September 25, 2011

Learnings from working with unemployed IT professionals.

One of the things about my current job is that I can afford to take a short time off work to spend half a day helping unemployed IT professionals get new jobs. This week I was able to perform screening interviews for a job I used to have with a major tech firm about 4 years ago.

Here are my observations. This observation is probably one small sample of unemployed IT professionals so that there is unlikely to be of any statistical significance. I think my learnings can help the reader protect their careers as they get into middle age.

a) Generally speaking, those above their 40s with a salary above $7,000 are at risk.

There is a large number of unemployed folks who have a previous salary of over $7,000 and above the age of 40. If you belong to this category, my only advice is that you begin to curtail your home expenses aggressively, start investing for yields and possibly spend your weekends getting your taxi license or giving tuition. Don't let the MNC you work for pink slip you into doing this out of necessity.

b) Most candidates lack communication skills, technical skills or both.

One of the trends I noticed amongst candidates is that they don't really have the right skills to explain complicated technical concepts to non-technical customers. People with a sales background can speak really well but can seldom dig within a component like a router to explain to me that they can understand IP address, packet sizes, etc... The technical folks who can do so somehow fail to inspire confidence in the customer. This serves to confirm that professionals who have both can develop more career resilience. Technical professionals should join a Toastmasters club, sales professionals probably need a to get a good technical credential like A+ or a Masters in Technology to remain competitive.

c) Foreigners are cheaper and better than Singaporeans.

It saddens me to say this but this is an inconvenient truth which I must emphasize to all my readers. Of all the candidates I interview, those who were given the highest grades were all Singapore PRs. Singapore PRs generally have lower pay scales and somehow combine technical savvy with better communication skills. I imagine that the local candidates who got through the screen would have to contend with pretty fierce competition. I pray we will learn that the deck is becoming increasingly stacked against us and it's time to call in favours and network with other Singaporeans to work better in this industry.

( If you want to know, I did ask the coordinator if we should only allow Singaporeans through the screen or forbid PRs altogether. After all, we believe that Singaporeans should come first. While this idea is nice, my organization cannot afford to lose its credibility to the MNCs as well, so that this is not an easy balancing act to do. )

d) Read here for the most controversial finding.

I am not trying to nasty or suggest that a statistical reality exists here, but a lot of the resumes I reviewed had Hwa Chong Junior College in it. It took me a while to decide whether to blog about this since I have no explanation for this finding. After all, HCJC is an elite institution in Singapore. A good way to explain it is that many HCJC alumni are mathematically inclined so would have been attracted to IT as an industry. I think there are worse ways to interpret these observations but I am not out to start a flame war here. ( Note that, personally, I'd rather there'll be less NJCians like myself in politics or the civil service. )

Nevertheless note that I speak on this blog as a ultra-capitalist finance author and not my day alter ego as an bleeding heart liberal IT manager and HDB uncle in a labour union.


  1. Good writing! Would like to add further. Once you have a FT becoming head or mgr of IT dept who is in a position to hire, Singaporeans will be at a disadvantaged. The foreign boss will tend to hire their own kinds... for whatever reasons...

  2. I thoroughly agree since I just left an Indian financial services company after spending two years there. Let me know if you have any solutions you'd like to share.

    I'd be happy to push the agenda for the Singapore IT worker in the organization I work for.

  3. Another thing I would like to point out is that many of these FT IT people may have dubious qualifications. If anyone wants to employ them, best to test them out first. I've seen so called FT CS "grads" who can't even write a simple sorting program.

  4. Understanding and manipulating numbers is at the heart of the PSLE Maths exam. Students are tested on their ability to perform calculations with whole numbers, decimals, fractions, and percentages accurately and efficiently.

    Read more: PSLE Maths