Recruiting Tech Talent Today

Leaders from Akron, OH Share Their Experiences

On April 17, 2018, a group of Information Technology (IT) Leaders, Community Leaders, and educators gathered at the ConxusNEO Align event to discuss the current technical topics such as the Internet of Things as well as the needs of the technical community and the skills required to be successful today.

Following are some key takeaways from the panel discussion regarding training, recruiting and retaining technical talent.


Scott Noerr – Vice President and CIO – National Interstate
Tanya Arthur – Senior Vice President and CIO – Summa
James Williams – Director of Strategic Services – Nanotronics
John Jones – HR Director – GOJO Industries
Jon Hallsten – President – Hallsten Innovations

What IT Roles are important for today?

John Jones – GOJO Industries – HR Director

We’re looking for cloud architects and database administrators to administer all of that data coming in. We’re focused on building the proper backup processes and proper data security. Our customers have a smart link in their facility that connects back to GOJO Industries and we need to ensure that they only have access to their own data. We also need database analysts so that we can take the data produced by our customers and make sense of it.

General Data Protection Regulation is coming down the pike in Europe and will most likely then impact the United States. As a result, data security is one of the first worries from companies as they discuss IoT applications. We need to think holistically about our security perspective.

What skills are needed for the applications of technology today?

Tanya Arthur – Summa – Senior Vice President and CIO

We are looking for Integration skills as well as scientific skills such as data scientists. We need folks that analyze all of our data. There is a gap in the ability to blend the technical and engineering aspects of the Internet of Things (IoT) and be able to leverage it. Integrations of IoT is one of the interferences of being able to take advantage of this. We need an “Archeologist” that blends culture and the technical aspects of IoT to be able to take advantage of it.

Scott Noerr – Vice President and CIO – National Interstate

I may have a slightly different perspective. I don’t know if these skills are new. The thing that is changing is the cross functionally collaboration that is required and the pace that we are trying to achieve things. For example, we don’t need 20 people to build a cloud infrastructure. This can be set up very quickly today. We have found a need for the blurring of lines between IT and the business.  For example, when you go to execute, the .Net code has interfaces that make the technical aspects of this easier but we need to really think about how the business operates and how you take the technical pieces and connect them.

James Williams – Director of Strategic Services – Nanotronics

We need the IT professional to be thinking more creatively, to be thinking like a systems engineer. People need to know how we optimize the hardware on top of all this data that we’re collecting. The legacy knowledge is disappearing and the younger workforce doesn’t see the importance of the collaboration.

What are some of the challenges of developing the right talent?

James Williams –  Director of Strategic Services – Nanotronics

A lot of the roles are nuanced and collaborative. The challenge is how to use the right language to communicate these skills we’re seeing in a job description. This needs to start in the HR department and they need to understand how the business is evolving.

Tanya Arthur – Senior Vice President and CIO – Summa

We have to think differently. From a recruitment standpoint, we can’t keep doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result. There are a lot of different ways to acquire talent. We have a big gap in the tech industry. We leave a lot of talent on the table when we discount the older workforce and other sources of employees

Scott Noerr – Vice President and CIO – National Interstate

It is important to build a culture that reflects and rewards the skills you are looking to hire. We are looking for people who have a sense of curiosity and the internal drive. If internally, we don’t consistently support these skills after recruiting for it, then those resources leave. It starts with how we operate as an organization.

What are some best practices in hiring and retaining talent?

Tanya Arthur –  Senior Vice President and CIO – Summa

Developing talent internally and giving folks the opportunity to further develop those skills is important. We also believe that Internship programs allow us to cultivate those skills early and then bringing them into our organization.

John Jones – GOJO Industries – HR Director

We feel that it is important to have an individual development plan so that people feel that they can get to where they want to go. Look for ways they can take steps in their current role. We do a lot of things to help people so they do not feel stalled. It is important to people to feel that they got a title change. It helps them to feel that they have grown. I also recommend having a good internal job posting network so that you’re sharing opportunities for your internal folks. If people don’t feel like they can grow with your company, they are going to leave.

James Williams – Director of Strategic Services – Nanotronics

Give them a real problem and a real project to give them a stake in the game. It gives them the passion to work hard. It is important for people to understand all of the rungs on the ladder for career progression. Sometimes someone interviews for a role that isn’t a right fit but you understand that they are important for the mission of the organization. You can then create a role for them and find them the right role.

Mentorship is also important. How do we create a model to mentor those who are next?

Scott Noerr – Vice President and CIO – National Interstate

We’re looking for people who want to transform the company as well as change the market. We look for opportunities to allow people to have an impact. You also clearly communicate that you are in charge of your destiny. We set the expectation that people can move from one department to another. People want to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves. Letting them have that experience helps retain the talent.

For our region to seize the opportunity, what are the priorities that need to be addressed?

Tanya Arthur – Senior Vice President and CIO – Summa

We need to bring more innovation to the area. We have a lot of healthcare organizations. We need to foster and support innovation.

John Jones – GOJO Industries – HR Director

People need to have opportunities to fail. If you aren’t given the opportunity to try and fail then you aren’t going to learn anything. We need to give people opportunities and problems to solve. When people do fail, what did they learn from that

Jon Hallsten – President Hallsten Innovations

We have tremendous opportunities at our doorstep. That being said, we can’t reinvent the wheel. There is a lot happening throughout the country. We can’t be frozen in the idea, but through action, we can move things forward.