How to attract tech talent to the shipping industry

27 Mar 2018

How to attract tech talent to the shipping industry

Shipping is quietly going through a digital revolution. At CargoMate we are right at the centre of it. As with any revolution though, it’s fuelled by people, and tech talent is hard to find. The digital revolution is happening throughout every industry, and the competition to hire the best is hotter than ever. How can the shipping industry compete with the likes of Google and Facebook to attract the brightest tech talent?

First of all, a caveat; if you want to hire the best you need to instil a culture of excellence throughout your organisation and create a working environment that people find fulfilling. There are no quick fixes here.

During my career, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the brightest engineers in the world from the likes of Google, Facebook, and Palantir. At CargoMate we have built a team of six in ten months, with the same focus on quality as those tech giants. Whether you’re a shipping startup, an established shipping company or you’re thinking of hiring tech talent you should take a look at our tips to help you attract the best.

Leverage the power of impact

The maritime industry has a visibility problem. The simple truth is that not enough people are even aware that the shipping industry exists. This makes hiring any talent difficult, let alone in-demand talent. The good news for shipping is that despite being relatively unknown, it is the most important industry in the world; almost every individual and industry on the planet is dependent on it in one form or another.

Smart people (and particularly smart millennials) enjoy solving big problems and having a positive impact on the world. Problems and challenges don’t come much bigger in scale or importance than in shipping.

The tech giants of this world are now so big that it’s increasingly difficult for those who work for them to have a real impact. When I worked in talent acquisition I regularly spoke to engineers at Google who had never shipped a line of code to production.

When Steve Jobs was trying to lure Pepsi Executive John Scully to join him at Apple, he famously asked him “Do you want to sell sugar water the rest of your life, or do you want to join me and change the world?”. By demonstrating that what your company does has a real impact on the world, and more importantly that any individual who joins your team will be solving important problems, you will be pitching over and above the noise.

Make intellectual growth a priority

So we understand that you’re solving a big problem, but how do you stretch your employees? Not in the 100-hour week kind of way, but pushing them to constantly learn, adapt, and improve.

Intellect isn’t fixed. In the right environment, it will grow with compounded returns over time. Stephen Cohen, the founder of enigmatic data science scale-up Palantir, sums up the returns of compounding intelligence perfectly in a conversation on hiring and culture with Peter Thiel:

“If you graduate Stanford at 22 and Google recruits you, you’ll work a 9-to-5. It’s probably more like an 11-to-3 in terms of hard work. They’ll pay well. It’s relaxing. But what they are actually doing is paying you to accept a much lower intellectual growth rate. When you recognize that intelligence is compounding, the cost of that missing long-term compounding is enormous. They’re not giving you the best opportunity of your life. Then a scary thing can happen: You might realize one day that you’ve lost your competitive edge. You won’t be the best anymore. You won’t be able to fall in love with new stuff. Things are cushy where you are. You get complacent and stall. So, run your prospective engineering hires through that narrative. Then show them the alternative: working at your startup.” Stephen Cohen - Palantir

Don’t be outpaced

The shipping industry is full of large, bureaucratic companies and hiring can take a long time. If you want to hire someone with a vaguely in-demand skill set you need to be sure that you have the right internal processes in place to move quickly when you need to. From job opening to offer, the global average time to hire within the technology space is 56 days. If it takes you significantly longer to get talent through the door you’re being outpaced by the market. Focus on optimising the hiring process - from job ad copy, to interviews, to decision making. No candidate should be left more than a week without either advancing or getting rejected. At CargoMate, we pushed to give our candidates a firm answer within 48 hours.

Hiring is tough in every industry but finding tech talent and attracting them to shipping is really tough. The good news is that the CargoMate team is proof that it’s possible as our team hails from revered tech and software companies. As long as you’re clear about the impact you’re making, focus on continuously improving your team, and keep your hiring process as slick as possible you will bring the right people into your organisation to take it forward.

©Intelligent Cargo Systems 2020