Back to the War

Don’t look now, but there is a labor shortage looming.

I’m talking about the global war for talent. From cloud computing hackers to system administrators to marketing specialists with developing economy experience, skilled personnel are in short supply. Newly minted college graduates with almost no experience are being snapped up by start-ups and mid-sized firms with salaries in the middle five-figures. Top recruits going to Apple or Google can get offers in the high five-figures. And don’t even ask what experienced programming team-leaders are getting. Those seven-figure eye-poppers are related to options, restricted stock, and IPO-minted instant wealth.

Not since the initial days of the internet boom have we seen such demand for nerds. Like every talent boom, this one will have excesses. I remember during the heyday of the “Japan Investment Miracle” of the late ‘80s, all you needed was a –okosan at the end of your name and you could write your own ticket. Now, with shifting buzz-words, “peer-networking engineers” or “cloud hackers” with any initiative can probably talk their way into innovation labs at Apple or Amazon.

It has always been this way. New technology creates demand for design and development which in turn creates its own sub-industry. And before a new crop of recruits can be trained, companies vie with one another to nab the next new thing.

It seems bizarre to talk about a talent-shortage when there is a labor-surplus. The key for many will be transforming their labor into talent. That’s the way to win this global war.

Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer
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