DevTalk: The Impact of the Crisis on Local Talent Market with Ivan Vankov, gatakka

How will the current situation affect the demand and supply of IT Talent in Bulgaria? Which businesses are more likely to fail adapting to the new normal and what skills would one have to own to be competitive on the market? Georgi Ivanov from Noble Hire and Ivan Vankov, Gatakka are discussing these and more interesting topics on the changing environment during and after the crisis. Georgi Ivanov is the founder and CEO of Noble Hire, an online platform connecting Bulgaria’s most promising talent with hand-picked tеch companies. An entrepreneur for the past 10 years, founder & ex-CEO @ Enhancv, partner at Club-Mate Bulgaria. Ivan Vankov is a software engineer for Hyperledger. IBM champion for 2018,2019 and 2020 in cloud and blockchain category. Vankov is also a blogger, occasional public speaker and a well-known figure in the local tech ecosystem.

How long do you think this will continue and will it affect the industry long-term?

The pandemic crisis will continue for years. We will learn how to live with changes like social distancing for example.

This situation can be beneficial in many ways, though. The IT sector was going in the wrong/strange direction. The things weren’t good – too much money, high expectations, low value, very little knowledge, overpromise, etc.

So this will limit the expectations and will be a good reality check – who is having a good-value product and who is not agile enough to adapt.

Companies that have strong teams can find a way to adapt in such a crisis, they will find a way to a new source of income, new product, ways to cut costs, etc.

Companies that don’t have strong teams will not survive.

Which companies will be hit the hardest?

Cheap outsourcing companies because they are easily replaceable. Also, ones that rely on products that are connected with tourism/hospitality. 

Why do some companies lay off people in other parts of the world and not in Bulgaria?

Because of our lows:

  • it is much more complicated to lay-off teams here, it is cheaper to do so in other countries that allow such procedures;
  • The core team of the company is here
  • The main development and technical teams are here. It is risky to lose such professionals.

The world will never be the same after this virus.

What do you think would be the main differences?

The money-flow. Money will be less. The demand for products and services will shift. Up till now everything was based on consuming. Things will shift in the usability direction. The products which will be the most successful will be the useful ones.

The bigger companies will suffer more because for them it is much more complicated to change their direction. Small businesses are more agile.That’s why they will have the chance to take the opportunity and shift to the new trends. 

Have you seen what happened with Airbnb? They laid off 25% of their staff. 

They introduced a new feature called “Airbnb experiences” that is now getting more and more popularity. 

Well, the restaurants and travel sector will recover fast because travelling is a necessity. That’s why they can fire people because they know that they can get others to work for them later on.

How do you think the crisis will affect the different kinds of talent? And in Bulgaria…

The situation will be a filter. Companies can lay off employees who don’t have high skills. So, for junior people it will be much harder to enter the market and they will be the most affected ones.

About the seniors – all companies will try to keep them for as long as they can because it would be very difficult to attract them later.

Junior will have to spend more time to improve their skills and to work on some additional skills (e.g. soft skills). The bar that you have to pass in order to get into this industry will be higher.

How do you expect this situation to affect the hiring process? Will more people be interested in changing their jobs?

The situation on the market will be more predictable. The demand will not be so high and the supply will be a bit higher. But this will change in a year again. As per the people who are often looking for a job nothing will change. 

In my observation the passive talent started waking up and looking for new opportunities because they are not happy with the changes their current employers are making because of the crisis.

What do you think will happen with junior people in the remote environment? Because it is a whole new story if you’re trying to gain new skills and you don’t have a senior colleague sitting next to you.

1st – again, this is a filter.

2nd – in order to move from junior to senior doesn’t require a person to be sitting next to you all the time. All depends on the person’s motivation and the ability to learn by themselves. Juniors need guidance but learning and gaining knowledge is in their own hands.

What do you think Bulgaria needs in order to become a more value-adding destination? R&D and product destination?

As I said, right now the big companies will be quite slow and won’t be able to adapt to the new environment fast enough.

For example, Google announced that application approval will take up to 7 days. This is quite slow…

Small companies can take the risky step and to develop products and services in this new environment and locally. We have the knowledge of all the good practises and we know how to manage projects and teams.

The real thing though is to be a mediator. 

What do you mean by “mediator”?

Those are companies that are building products according to the client’s budget. We will be able to facilitate all of the parts of the projects. But the people building the project can be outside Bulgaria with a destination with cheaper labor. So if the project management and the risk management are here, then actually we will have a really sweet spot on the market. The real value is how to stick together all the requirements of the project. And in this kind of direction we can scale. Otherwise, we can’t scale by adding more and more developers, we are only 7 million people…

How to increase the number of product owners and product managers in Bulgaria?

High automation and proper processes. Every time when you want to scale, you start by optimizing the processes and automation. 

So we don’t need more product managers but the existing ones to work on more projects and to optimize the processes?

By optimizing the processes they won’t have that fatigue. That will actually help them work on more projects and more efficiently. 

What skills would be required now?

There wouldn’t be a difference. 

Would you say that those core values of being correct, honest, punctual are the most important ones?

In high-quality teams, yes. 

Do you think that we have the business and leadership know-how to provide the value as a product destination?

Absolutely yes.

If you were the main decision-maker in the government, what would be the 3 main changes that you would do in order to adjust to the crisis?

1st – I would not touch taxes. I will make sure that investors know that there would not be changes in the taxes. We have the lowest taxes in Europe so this is a huge advantage.

2nd – increase the internet capacity because we are at the limit at the current capacity of the optic cables. We have to increase the capacity 10 times and it begins now so we can be ready for the next 5 years.

3rd – I would put the professionals in the school and start early profiling of children who show interest in particular fields. Let’s allow experts to guide the potential candidates from an early age.


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