So Long 2020, And Thank You For All The ‘What-The-Fish’!

I’m writing this from a newly locked-down chilly California; reflecting on 2020 and all that it has taught us. Nikola Tesla, whom many tech enthusiasts worship, is supposed to have said “our virtues and failures are inseparable, like force and matter.” Just as how hardship and learning are intrinsically intertwined.

For businesses, 2020’s learnings have mostly centered around ‘our people’. First up, the people who make up our loyal client base and whom we are grateful for. Next, the dependable teams who stood by us through pay cuts, layoffs, and policy changes. This focus on ‘people’ has also had a very sharp impact on the HR-tech industry — in a way, it’s been a culmination of all the innovations that have made up this decade of AI and automation-led hiring. Distilling this impact in a page is hard, but the Christmas decorations are calling so I’ll do my best.

There are four phrases we’ve all heard often this year. I think they’d do well for an abridged guide to 2020, and what they’ve taught me about tech hiring. Let’s begin.

1. ‘Can You Hear Me?’

The last year of this decade has literally Zoom-ed past us. *Insert wise chuckle*.

Zoom fatigue has been real, but so has this incessant need to stay connected. I cannot recall another moment in my living years when checking up on your neighbors, colleagues, and the alley cat was the coolest thing to do. We’ve cared more than we ever did in 2020.

As I have learned from my conversations with many hiring managers, this ‘connectedness’ has its pitfalls when it comes to working. Burnout has been a beast, and so wellness breaks, carer’s leave, and flexi-work hours have become our biggest allies. As we saw in our ‘State of Developer Recruitment 2020’ report, companies have changed their EVPs (Employee Value Propositions) to reflect how they’ve been looking after their employees.

To me, this phrase isn’t just about a work call gone wrong. It’s also a siren call for businesses to become more empathetic and ‘hear’ their employees out. I take that as a big positive. All industries; and especially the tech world with its love for deadlines, could do with some more empathy.


2. Cookathons, Marathons, And Almost Everything-athon

I love cake, but the constant smell of #quarantinecooking on my Instagram has been giving me nightmares lately. I get why; when the world outside was going to pieces it was but natural that we gravitate internally, towards all that we hold dear.

For some, it was cooking, for others a new-found fascination with running on empty beaches. Developers took the extra time on their hands to find their own version of #QuarantineandChill by upgrading their coding skills. Customer needs have changed, and businesses now need developers who can enable transformation with ease. With COVID and the need to augment traditional human interaction with technology solutions, sharp coding skills have become necessary. Upskilling is also going to be an ongoing theme for the future, and companies looking to build healthy tech teams better include this on the list.

This year, we’ve seen the HackerEarth developer community grow 1.6x to 5 million skill-seekers. Our Slack channel has been abuzz with AMAs, webinars, podcasts and so much more. We thought conducting virtual hackathons wouldn’t be the same, but instead, we saw a lot of developer love pour in for our online events. From India’s first hackathon aimed at helping the LGBTQ+ community to hacking COVID, we found enthusiastic participants for every challenge. We helped companies organize virtual hackathons to keep their tech teams perked up and beat the WFH monotone. The demand for hackathons for boosting internal engagement and upskilling has grown tremendously this year, providing new – and exciting – options for the HackerEarth team as well.


3. Stop The Count

This election chant, and its inherent divisiveness and biased nature, has defined the US in 2020. The aftershocks spilled over global boundaries and gave us a new lens to filter our actions. George Floyd, BLM, and a notable CEO apologizing publicly for his insensitive comments, all forced us to take stock of our own unconscious biases.

Tech hiring is famously riddled with biases. Developers from non-Ivy league colleges face a lack of opportunities due to their academic background. The percentage of African-American employees in tech remains low, even in the big companies (2.9% at Salesforce, 3.8% at Facebook, 4.4% at Slack, 4.5% at Microsoft, and 6% at Twitter), and this number decreases further when we look at those in leadership roles.

The conversation around bias is always painful. Acknowledging that we might unintentionally harbor prejudices can be life-changing, but it is here that we honestly mustn’t stop the count. Whether it is our dislike of face tattoos or people with pink hair, these prejudices need to be packed up and buried in a deep, dark grave.

Also Read: 7 Types Of Hiring Bias And How To Avoid Them

It heartens me to know that many tech recruiters are showing these biases the door. They have, in fact, prioritized diversity and geographically-unspecific hiring during this year and adopted tools to help achieve this. In Q3 2020, for instance, we saw a massive adoption of our developer assessments platform which assists in skill-based hiring. The use of our technical interview solution FaceCode, with its blind hiring feature, also increased dramatically. Overall, we have experienced a 250% YoY increase in remote assessments, and a 4,000% YoY increase in remote interviews conducted via FaceCode (Q3 2019 vs. Q3 2020).


4. The New Normal

Ah yes! The war cry of all those fed up with the pandemic. Hate it as much as you want, our personal lives will carry the imprint of COVID for years to come. Sanitizers will have a dedicated place at the altar even post-COVID.

Professionally, too, the “new normal” will be colored by the remnants of 2020. The empathy we talked of before means that companies would not be forcing apprehensive employees to return to workplaces anytime soon. Remote working and hiring will be the norm, putting a bigger spotlight on skills than before.

What this has taught us in tech hiring is that it doesn’t matter where a developer works from, or what’s their academic pedigree. What’s most important is how skilled a developer is, and how quickly they can pivot and adapt to changing business needs. Our survey shows that recruiters are prioritizing geography-unspecific hiring to bring talented developers on board. Most businesses have contingency plans, but a ‘what if’ year like 2020 can throw all that on its head. A 5-star resume will not help you in such circumstances. The right set of skills always will.


To Borrow From The Great Tesla, Again.

“As I review the events of my past life I realize how subtle are the influences that shape our destinies.”

If years could be weighed, 2020 would be a metric ton of unexpected left curves, adaptability, and finding the silver lining behind everything. If a year could make you spiritual, 2020 was the one tailor-made for it.

Five Christmases from now, the year the world stopped might feel like a distant memory. The subtleties of 2020 will, however, continue to shape our collective destinies for a long while. For those of us in the tech world, it presents a unique opportunity to make electricity out of hatred (Tesla 3.0), and light up the coding hallways with boughs of holly, and hope.

Happy 2021.


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