At the time of this writing, there are mandatory lockdown directives in 15 of the 26 EU countries, 3 countries in Southeast Asia, and hundreds more municipalities around the world. In an effort to stem the tide of Coronavirus, many companies have mandated working from home to protect their employees from the limited health services. For a great deal of the industrialized world, even though many are well-familiarized with Zoom, Hangouts, Teams, Slack, etc., the interwebz have been flooded with “How to Work From Home” articles.
For many in the world of IT, this is nothing new. In the tech world, this is might as well be the internet reminding people how to tie their shoes or ride a bicycle. While getting to work from home seems like a rare luxury for some, this is just another “day at the office” to tech workers. Remote work is not something dusted off in times of global pandemic, but a tool that thousands of companies use for their own agility, and not to mention, for enticing new talent.
Take for example NexGenT’s backyard- the Silicon Valley. The primordial soup of tech companies and innovation has some of the most expensive real estate on planet earth. For a companies like Google or Facebook, warehousing thousands of engineers in Mountain View or Menlo Park doesn’t make the least bit of sense. For a company like Uber or Apple, what’s the point of having armies of cybersecurity professionals stacked on top of each other in San Francisco or Cupertino?
Unlike physical security, threats don’t come from next door or down the street- they come from all over the world. And while I’m sure it’s lovely this time of year, it’s no easy feat to attract talent to Siberia or the Gaza Strip. So when you go to open a new location in either of those countries, you go for Moscow or Tel Aviv- cities with $1000+ per square foot cost of commercial real estate. The question then becomes, “Who can work in that time zone?”- and while it is often more convenient to be within the same longitude, even that isn’t necessary anymore.
How Zoom Is Rising Right Now (And Hiring)
The benefit of offloading talent to their homes is obvious and quantifiable for companies in the search to optimize space. It is often even more beneficial in their relentless pursuit of new talent. While hiring freezes will soon sweep through most other verticals due to the fault of many businesses, we’ll likely see the exact opposite in tech.
Take, for example, Zoom Video calling. We’ve long used that here at NexGenT for all of our meetings- connecting our team in as far-flung places as Portugal, the UK, the Philippines, and Romania. Over the course of the last month, their stock price has gone up over 20%, but more importantly, they’ve added more users in the first 70 days of this year than they did in the ENTIRETY of 2019. This means Zoom is now dealing with 74% more load on its services and features than it did at the beginning of the year. And at a time when the demand of video calling services will only continue to explode, there is every expectation that this will push Zoom to a near crisis point- a crisis that, at least from a business perspective is a great problem to have.
So, in order to keep pace, Zoom is on an absolute hiring spree- they’re not able to acquire new network engineers to bolster their infrastructure fast enough. They can’t find and onboard new cybersecurity engineers to protect every one of those 2.2 million new users with enough speed.
While this is certainly extreme, let’s look at other services you’re certain to use if you’re working from home today.
I’m sure Netflix will reach peak “and chill” over the next few weeks, and the impetus to log on to Amazon rather than go to your local Target and Wal-Mart to stay away from crowds will be strong. These online retailers and service providers have steadily increased their capacities over the past 10 years, and have become so ubiquitous in our lives we may easily forget what it takes not only to keep them humming along, but also to bring new features to users. The army of Network engineers required by Google and Amazon alone is in the tens of thousands- and a quick check of either of their career pages shows hundreds of openings at any given time.
The tech talent gap has been a steady drumbeat in the distance for quite a while, but in times of Covid-19, will be evident in the ledes of news sites (also look at periodicals like the New York Times removing their paywalls in order to keep everyone updated on virus news) each and every day. These are the times that try men’s souls- and, had they been around during Thomas Paine’s time- their servers, routers, and switches as well.
Alongside the simple need for these jobs, the prospect of working from home is up there right next to salary, RSUs, and vacation days for many in the world of IT. A company’s ability to offer the flexibility and freedom of working from anywhere allows millions of IT workers to work from home, work from an airport, or work from a beach. These jobs can be done just as easily from the moon as they can onsite, and are truly only limited by internet access. Not to mention the freedom from a commute daily (and feel free to look up travel times in some of those cities mentioned earlier) and the costs involved with that- these add up to real dollars saved, and, of course, more dollars in a potential employee’s pockets.
While the demand is great in the here and now, we are certain to see a ripple of this push to work from home as well. While we can’t be sure if we’ll be self-quarantining in a week, a month, or 3 months from now, for many jobs that use this as a proof-of-concept for a remote workforce, this will forever change the landscape of their day-to-day. We can’t possibly know the future and certainly hope for the best, but there is no more surefire way to prepare for the inevitable change than using this time at home to level up and focus on a set of skills not soon to be outdated.
That’s all I have for now- can only ignore these Slack notifications from the boss for so long.