Technology advancements have been driven by the need to change and disrupt, all while providing users with the best digital experience. The technological revolution has completely changed the way we work and live. It made two very distinctive improvements to human life. First, it helps humans be more productive by automating administrative and routinised tasks. Second, it drives innovation and creates new technologies that will connect more people with each other to improve the quality of our lives. tech – a key driver in the local economy

With talks about implementing a 5G network, technology will continue to take centre stage in Malaysia’s development in 2020. In addition to the I4WRD initiative, the government has identified key digital areas to increase investments in, which include cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), cybersecurity, on-demand marketplace platforms as well as artificial intelligence. More companies are also expected to leverage government grants and tax rebates to build a culture that encourages and drives innovation.

The outputs of the technology industries contribute to 18% of the national GDP (as of writing in November 2019). It is expected to increase to 20% by 2020. This booming technology scene in Malaysia has attracted the attention of many foreign investors who are looking to grow their portfolio in Asia. Their investments can help enhance the local workforce’s capabilities and ensure that the local talent are equipped with future-proof skills to drive the digital economy. One example is the Digital Free Trade Zone, which connects local firms with foreign companies not just to facilitate the exchange of goods and services between Malaysia and China, but also to promote collaboration and sharing of best practices. With a world-class infrastructure, pro-business government initiatives and a relatively mature talent pool, Malaysia is primed to be ASEAN’s technological hub and a start-up haven. Many entrepreneurs and global technology firms are also drawn to the city due to its low operational costs as well as the rise of co-working spaces and crowdfunding platforms. bigger budgets to explore opportunities in new technologies

Many business leaders look to technologists to guide them in driving digital transformation projects to achieve efficiency and stay competitive. As a result, many have entrusted CIOs (Chief Innovation Officers) and CTOS (Chief Technology Officers) with bigger budgets to both optimise efficiency and generate revenue. Besides digitising internal processes to create efficiencies and generate cost savings, tech experts are now expected to develop new products to build customer base or deepen share of wallet. CIOs and CTOs are increasingly required to think outside the box and actively seek innovative talent to drive the organisations’ ambitious tech agenda. Many digital leaders are also investing in research and development as well as acquiring new start-ups at an early stage to propel innovation growth. These investments will help to attract talent who seek the opportunity to explore and trial new technologies.

In Malaysia, the focus is largely on ML/AI (machine learning/artificial intelligence), RPA (robotics process automation) and cybersecurity. Companies are increasing their investments in RPA as these technologies tend to reap high returns and generate cost savings almost immediately upon implementation. Many organisations are also building new and more targeted algorithms to improve user experience and expand their customer pool through ML/AI. As such, experts equipped with niche skills in new technologies such as ML/AL and RPA will be highly sought-after. In particular, talent experienced in programming languages like Python and Golang will be in strong demand.

Many firms are also doubling down on their cybersecurity to fend off increasing threats and build trust with their stakeholders and customers. Data had overtaken oil
as the world’s most valuable resource, and technology companies are doing more to ensure that data are highly protected from threats, prevent reputation damage and avoid financial loss. Frost and Sullivan reported that the potential economic loss from cyberthreats can be estimated at a hefty USD12.2 million, which is more than 4% of the total GDP (USD296 billion). Going into 2020, we expect companies to hire experienced talent to enhance their cybersecurity capabilities, as well as research and develop new technologies in RPA and ML/AI.

Skills shortage an all-time high in Malaysia

Despite an increase in hiring appetite, there remains a shortage of skilled talent in the labour market. Technology has made many rapid advancements in the past decade, but many workers are still playing catch- up in acquiring new skills. Within the tech ecosystem, organisations, employees and the government should recognise that upskilling is a shared responsibility, and that everyone has a part to play in developing and elevating the skills of the workforce.

Many tech professionals want to take part in creating new technologies and learning new skills. In some instances, highly-motivated professionals would even prefer having a robust learning experience over an attractive remuneration package. SMEs and start-ups with leaner and flatter structures tend to be more flexible, which allows for a more autonomous and fulfilling learning experience. Because of their nimble operations, these small firms are able to trial new technologies quickly to evaluate if they are useful for the business in the long-run. Global firms, on the other hand, can provide workers with international exposure which helps connect local talent with foreign experts.

As the ones leading change and disruption, tech companies are expected to play a bigger role in closing the skills gap. This can be done through on-the-job training programmes and mentorship, participating in community networks and tech conferences as well as proactively signing their employees up for hackathons and webinars. We recommend employers to select candidates based on their learning potential rather than wait for one who has the perfect skills-match, and fill those gaps after employment through training programmes. Companies should also hire a candidate whose vision and working style are closely aligned with the company’s culture.

Tech professionals seek autonomy and flexibility to work

In a candidate-short market such as Malaysia, it is not uncommon for top talent to receive multiple offers. With more companies choosing to expand in Malaysia and creating more jobs, we expect that candidates’ intention to switch employers will be significantly higher in 2020. Tech experts are particularly attracted to companies that offer them the autonomy to own their projects, as they will have the flexibility to explore new and more efficient ways of doing things. Tech professionals also value a highly conducive and creative work environment, which is why offices with ‘Silicon Valley vibes’, such as dress-down days as well as colourful and collaborative spaces, appeal strongly to tech talent.

Despite receiving multiple offers, we would still recommend candidates to do more research on their prospective employers before the job interview to increase their chances of new employment. Experienced professionals should also take the opportunity to showcase the key projects they have worked on during the interview to demonstrate their capabilities, skills and expertise. Experienced tech professionals in the applications space may see a 20% to 25% salary hike when they change employers. Those in infrastructure may receive a salary increment of 15% when moving jobs. It is not uncommon for global firms to refer to their internal salary bandings when making an offer, which are usually benchmarked against the market average.

Smaller SMEs and start-ups however tend to deviate from such traditional remuneration methods. They are willing to pay for the perceived value that the talent is able to bring to the company, plus equity for those in senior- executive positions to reflect their added responsibilities and experience gained from their past employments. Employers looking to secure high-performing tech talent should also consider offering onboarding and contractual bonuses.

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