By Joseph Apted, Principle Consultant, Senior Appointments, Head Resourcing
I GREW up in rural Angus, and studied History and Philosophy at Dundee University. Almost as soon as I graduated, I went straight into IT recruitment and moved to London; where the market was exciting and thriving.
Whilst in London, I specialised in IT recruitment mostly within the banking sector; initially recruiting business analysts and project managers, before specialising in the technology leadership space.
During the 16 years I was based in the UK’s financial centre I saw a huge amount of change. The focus shifted from recruiting technologists to build the fastest and best-in-breed trading systems, to recruiting technologists that would help banks navigate the new regulatory landscape or strengthen their risk, compliance & governance approach.
The evolution of technology also meant an evolution in job roles, and I found myself increasingly working on leadership roles within the data analytics, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity space.
When I returned to Scotland in 2016, the local fintech scene was very much alive, kicking and competing with the excitement of the Silicon Roundabout in London.
Business was booming – and still is. In fact, according to Technation’s 2019 report, there are 58,000 people in employment in digital technology in Scotland, turning over £3.86 billion annually in the sector.
Edinburgh specifically has a thriving technology ecosystem, with an excellent candidate talent-pool. As the environment has evolved, Scotland arguably offers a much better quality of life than London, and candidates do not have to settle for “less exciting” companies – the opportunities here are almost unrivalled.
The challenge, however, is finding the right leadership. Candidates must have strong technical knowledge, but also real business experience. Many of the companies looking for executive-level appointments are start-ups; where the product or service they are offering is often the first of its kind, and leaders are tasked with turning a concept into a commercial success.
It’s a real blended skillset – to find somebody commercially minded, not risk-averse, excited about new technology (which they are often likely to have minimal experience of) and with fantastic leadership skills – that pool is finite.
While start-up founders know their business better than anyone, sometimes being too close to the concern can be blinding, and it takes an external view to identifying which gaps need filling. In parallel, an investor may think the answer lies somewhere else.
What is often needed in this situation is an external specialist who understands the language of tech developers and engineers who can come in, analyse the businesses needs and guide accordingly and in an unbiased manner.
Knowledgeable recruiters can also sit with an organisation and identify what is critical to business success at that very moment, and what can be trained and developed. While sector pressures may be calling out for AI, machine learning and a grasp on future trends; the need for product developers and sales specialists may, in fact, be more time-sensitive to the business’ growth.
Scotland’s tech success is showing no signs of slowing down, but in order to build sustainable businesses, there must be strong leadership at the helm. I’m really excited to be back in Scotland to help identify those leaders of the future.