Oct 26 2009
Exclusive interviews with top search professionals in key sectors--to bring you the latest career updates from the front lines.
Steve Watson, CEO of retained search firm Stanton Chase, shares his views on the state of recruitment for senior technology positions.
BlueSteps: Technology has been a bright spot in all of the outlook surveys for 2008. Has that situation changed in the last couple of months?
Steve: The good news is that in the U.S. we’re not seeing a big slowdown, technology companies are not concerned about the recession. 2007 was a great year, and 2008 is on track to be great too. There is still a strong demand for good talent and companies need to roll out the red carpet for those they really want.
BlueSteps: Where are the growth opportunities right now?
Steve: On the growth side, new software technologies in social networking; wireless; email/voicemail/texting/video; anything in green/clean tech; broadband; and data compression. Also, at the nexus of technology and healthcare, the integration of medical platforms is very much in vogue.
We’ve created a new practice area in Transportation and Logistics, a specialized niche to serve oil companies transporting goods at lower cost. So companies doing transportation and logistics are also in growth mode right now.
There’s high demand for CIO’s and other senior technology experts across all industries. Companies are looking for new leadership to drive ROI.
BlueSteps: Which areas are declining?
Steve: Old, mainstream technologies such as hardware and semiconductors are continuing to decline. Also, VC activity is not as aggressive in terms of funding new technologies so there is more competition.
BlueSteps: Can you give us an idea of what’s happening regionally?
Steve: There’s been a shift in terms of where emerging technologies are coming from. It used to be that they came almost exclusively from Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley, but now they hail from all over the U.S. Silicon Valley is still dominant, but also Houston, Miami and San Diego, especially in healthcare technology.
BlueSteps: What kind of advice would you offer senior executives looking to change jobs right now?
Steve: If you are happily employed but are thinking about doing something different, don’t jump too soon. One- and 2-year stints are not considered enough time to test your mettle. Clients are looking for 4 plus years at a company to see executives through a full business cycle. That includes:
- Creating the strategy,
- Putting the strategy into place,
- Doing the implementation and measuring results, and
- Refining the strategy
The bottom line is: Be cautious. You should be looking for long-term strategic fit. The worst thing for both a senior executive and an employer is a bad marriage.
BlueSteps: Any cautionary tales?
Steve: Well, we had a candidate, a CIO who took a year off for a sabbatical, to recharge. When he returned, we presented him to a client. But the client was worried about his knowledge of Sarbanes Oxley, as well as certain technology compliance issues. Even with one year out there was concern he wasn’t “up to date”.
So I would say that, although it’s perfectly reasonable to take a year off, you need to get up to speed quickly when you return to avoid any skepticism from the market.
BlueSteps: What are the current trends in compensation?
Steve: What we’re seeing is that salaries are going up but not leap-frogging.
There is more pay for performance, pay is frequently tied to milestones. The structure on milestone vesting and time vesting are being removed. There is more emphasis on equity, less on base salary.
BlueSteps: What do you think is on the horizon for 2008? Predictions?
Steve: We do not see a big slowdown coming. There may be a pause, but generally speaking, companies that pause will lose their top candidates.
Great talent will get hired, especially in the hot areas of green technology, convergence and nanotech. We anticipate plenty of movement. The talent shortage will definitely get worse.
About Mr. Watson
Interview conducted for BlueSteps by Allison Cheston, May 2008. Allison is a marketer, career advisor, and expert in executive search marketing. For more information go to www.allisoncheston.com.