IT companies search for Sherlock Holmes clones 

A hooked nose and a deer-stalker cap emerge as the ideal IT employee profile as organisations look for curiosity and passion in employees

Abhijit Roy

Organisations are looking for an employee with a sharp aquiline nose, a deer stalker cap, and a curved long pipe. It is the latest employee profile that IT companies are looking to hire. Oh yes of course, all IT firms want to recruit Sherlock Holmes, that famous fictional detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But why do so many IT organisations are looking for Holmes? Let’s look at his character a bit more closely.


What Holmes had was boundless energy, a bull-dog like tenacity, a razor-sharp analytical mind and a huge almost insatiable amount of curiosity. In the novel The Sign of Four, Holmes says; “My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.”


By now you would have grasped why Holmes is the ideal future employee of organisations; and not just any organisation but the digital enterprise which needs talent that possesses his strongest characteristic of ‘curiosity’. Most IT or ICT organisations are looking for a Holmes in their future employees. A new Harvard Business Review research of IT talent shortage points out that the most important thing to look for in new hires is not their specific skills but rather the characteristics and aptitudes they bring to the organisation.


Organisations are looking for curiosity and openness, and a love of data, analytics, and of fun. They are looking for new recruits who will be resilient and able to be the pivot in the face of change. Dr. David Bray, a senior executive and the CIO for the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), looks for creative problem solvers. “Like the character of Sherlock Holmes, they should be excited about the problem or challenge of solving a case and motivated to doggedly pursue it until it’s done,” he says.


Talent crisis in digital economy

The shift to a digital economy is creating a talent crisis that is putting compa¬nies’ survival on the line. Competition for a finite pool of skilled technologists and IT leaders is sharply increasing as organisa¬tions of all types rely more heavily on digital technology. At the same time, the nature of skills that organisations need in IT is changing. Digital busi¬ness is being built cloud-first and mobile-first, and is heavily dependent on analytics, automation and new security models. Skills that were important a few years ago are fast becoming irrelevant. The higher-level skills now in demand are scarce.


The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growth in new computer and information technology jobs of close to half a million from 2014 to 2024. But with an unemployment rate in tech that already hovers near zero, where will that talent come from? How many of those jobs will go unfilled? The situa¬tion is even more challenging in Europe, where the European Commission predicts up to 825,000 unfilled vacancies for ICT professionals by 2020.


54% of respondents surveyed in a recent HBR study said they lack the people and skills they need in order to compete effectively in the connected economy. Digital leaders are offering the kind of cutting-edge work that technologists crave.


Other emerging skills that are hard to find include cloud service management, mobile, and the Internet of Things. Even more traditional skills like appli¬cation development, security, enterprise architecture, and integration are proving tough to fill—particularly because what’s required for those roles is changing as organisations make the shift to cloud.


Organisations need people who can integrate services across commercial cloud platforms, which is different from integrating the relatively fixed internal systems of the past. The drive for more automation affects roles as well, and enterprises want QA engineers to come in and focus on writing/producing automation test scripts, not doing traditional manual testing.


‘Passion’ is another word, and an obvious Holmes trait, that frequently crops up in any discussion about the future of work and the characteristic needed in employees. Given how quickly and constantly technology is changing, it makes sense that organisations hire for characteristics and train for skills.

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