Time to reimagine IT careers in Asia Pacific


AN IT (information technology) talent shortage exists, despite over three-quarters of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates globally hailing from Asia Pacific (source: McKinsey & Co). This was already true prior to Covid-19. The gap grew during the pandemic. And by 2030, more than 85 million jobs could go unfilled due to a lack of skilled people to take them (source: Korn Ferry). 

How can this gap be closed? It’s time for both employers and IT workers to rethink what a career in technology looks like.

The Complexity of A Solution-Based Industry

In the last few decades, much of the IT sector’s core business was centred around selling bread-and-butter hardware products, including personal computers, laptops and mobile devices. These organisations typically relied on a very narrow talent pool of technical experts such as sales and product specialists or IT engineers    which is still where many STEM graduates are looking for opportunities today.

Now, however, working in IT means operating as part of a connected ecosystem and interacting closely with specialists. Therefore, the need for data scientists has increased, who may need to build and test machine learning solutions. 

Additionally, software developers, even at hardware companies, can help make that solution compatible between different devices. UX designers will ensure that an audience with little technical knowledge can still make use of the product. 

Growing demand in highly specialised IT personnel is also reflected in the surge of IT outsourcing and renewed interest in managed service providers globally. As a result, companies can focus on innovating and creating products and services that would better serve the needs of a wider audience. 

An exciting new career area in technology is the increasing requirement for accessibility specialists. Given the increased focus on making tech accessible to all, they can help convey the vibrancy of an image through sound to visually impaired users, or through visuals to deaf or hard-of-hearing people, and better design products that connect people — and connect to people — from all walks of life.

A New Kind of Tech Specialist

In addition to new technical skill sets, a solutions-based industry requires better soft skills. Facilitating collaboration between management, team members and other stakeholders, and providing mentorship to more junior members of the team. 

To create tailored and relevant solutions, all talent on an integrated team must also be able to communicate with both technical and non-technical audiences.

A hiring manager in the tech industry now looks for a candidate’s ability to exercise resilience, communicate across teams, show emotional intelligence and imbue their work with creativity. 

In my experience, job seekers too often see interviews as opportunities to show how much they know. Applicants forget to showcase how they can learn and continue to learn.

Every Business is A Tech Business

The Malaysian Digital Economy Corp (MDEC) Digital Talent Survey 2021 revealed that companies in Malaysia are accelerating the adoption of digital technologies with 48% of companies adopting digital tech platforms for day-to-day operations in 2021, compared to 19% in 2020 (source: MDEC). The increasing digitisation of every industry means that even businesses or industries not traditionally thought of as being technological in nature now also require skilled IT workers — and on the flip side, tech companies need workers with skills from other industries.

Healthcare is increasingly digitised, with the transition towards virtual care, digital record keeping and the increasing use of technology in R&D (research and development). Manufacturing lines in today’s highly-efficient factories depend heavily on digital solutions. The retail environment — yes, brick-and-mortar shops — has become more digitised than ever before. Very prominently, education has undergone a rapid transition into the digital age during the pandemic and this transformation is still just the beginning.

Technology companies like Lenovo Group Ltd are increasingly hiring specialists in these industries to help better connect with customers. And since IT services must serve everyone, building and executing tomorrow’s solutions will require aspiring employees from a variety of backgrounds and stages in their careers.

Never Stop Upskilling

Rapid change is a constant in technology: For this reason, a career in IT will involve constant collaboration and upskilling. A data scientist leading a team may want to improve project management skills to be able to better communicate with team members, while a UX designer may decide to take up coding to better communicate with programmer colleagues. 

New jobseekers and established employees alike should look to take advantage of reskilling and upskilling opportunities available to them. 

Up to four million workers in Malaysia stand to benefit from MyDigital blueprint, which national development policies are aimed at catalysing the digital economy. 

For those workers set to remain in their roles, World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020 predicted that the share of core skills that will change by 2025 is 40%, while 50% of all employees will need reskilling.

When we look to the future of IT careers in Asia Pacific, we need to ask ourselves: “Are we looking broadly enough?” A technical skillset can and should be pursued, as it will benefit candidates at any stage of their careers. But we also need to shift our focus, much like the industry has, to a more holistic picture. 

With what personal attributes can we augment our technical skillsets and how can our experiences — formal and informal — connect us better to the careers we seek and the audiences we are assigned to assist?

Chris Au is the head of AP Talent Acquisition for Lenovo Asia Pacific.