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What qualities do these employers want from deep-tech candidates?

27 Oct 2023

Zalando’s Shaelyn Klaus and Yahoo’s Ronan O’Rafferty on the importance of transferable skills for deep-tech workers who want to get hired.

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All throughout this week, we have been exploring the deep-tech ecosystem in both a national and international or European context. As we have established, deep tech is a broad term that encompasses lots of different industries – and that means, of course, that lots of employers want to hire deep-tech talent.

For example, we heard from Michael Dascal, who spoke about his role as a director of quantum product management at financial services giant Fidelity Investments. Fidelity Investments is featured in our list of companies hiring deep-tech talent at the moment alongside employers from the biotech space (MSD) to professional services (Accenture).

Deep tech skills for the ad tech space

Another company that appeared on the list was Yahoo, which is “actively recruiting” for research and engineering roles. Ronan O’Rafferty, a senior director of software development at the tech player, gave a little bit more insight into Yahoo’s hiring approach when it comes to deep tech. The company is currently in the process of establishing a new ads research team in Dublin to complement its existing software dev team.

“Our research staff ​design​ ​innovative​ ​algorithms​ ​to​ ​optimise the performance of ad campaigns for our clients, push​ ​the​ ​capacity,​ ​performance​ ​and​ ​reliability​ ​of​ ​our​ ​platforms and ​exploit​ ​novel hardware​ ​and​ ​software​ ​architectures,” said O’Rafferty.

He added that Yahoo has been using AI, machine learning and data science in the advertising technology space for many years. This recruitment drive in Ireland is part of the company’s efforts to expand its deep-tech research scope into Europe. According to O’Rafferty, the push is needed because “advertising technology is constantly evolving – particularly as we adapt to the shifting landscape of user privacy concerns in the advertising ecosystem.”

Such change means that companies like Yahoo increasingly need to implement state-of-the-art applied machine learning tech to solve large-scale problems in information retrieval, machine learning, computational linguistics, unsupervised clustering and data mining, O’Rafferty added. It’s an exciting space for deep-tech aficionados to get into and O’Rafferty envisages that the roles will stimulate researchers as changes keep happening.

“With increasing public adoption of large language model-driven tools, we can see how users will interact with complex systems will change in the future. Applying this technology to our products and services is just the start – who knows where it will go,” he said.

Education and experience required

So, in terms of skills, what is Yahoo expecting from prospective applicants? A solid mix of education and experience is essential, O’Rafferty said, adding that “candidates have a solid foundation in data analytics and machine learning as well as software engineering”.

“We are looking for expertise in Python and associated data analytics libraries. Experience in topics such as big data technologies, MLOps, NLP and deep learning is a plus.”

For the research science roles, applicants are required to have a PhD​ ​in​ ​Computer​ ​Science,​ ​​Engineering​, Statistics or Mathematics. “Also, we expect a strong research track record in relevant areas (e.g. ​mathematical optimisation and algorithm design​, machine learning, computational​ ​economics​, control theory).”

Tech trends move as fast as fashion…

O’Rafferty is not the only one with a wish list for prospective talent. Shaelyn Klaus, talent acquisition cluster function lead in technology at Zalando, told us that the online retailer always keeps an eye on the newest deep-tech trends out there. Like O’Rafferty, Klaus said she has seen these trends “evolve at a rapid pace”. The company is constantly working to adopt these new technologies into its service offering, meaning it has lots of tech team members.

“At Zalando, the deep-tech areas include data science and machine learning, statistical modelling, data visualisation, NLP, computer vision, neural networks and data analysis.” The company has dedicated data science and engineering teams whose members have been featured in before.

Like O’Rafferty, Klaus was keen to point out that innovation is particularly important to companies that want to keep abreast of deep-tech developments. That means a little bit of extra thought going into talent acquisition strategies to ensure candidates have transferable skills. “It is no longer sufficient to only have deep-tech skills on their own, but also being able to pair the technical knowledge with application. Driving innovation, being proactive and initiating improvements, collaboration across teams and creating value while reducing complexity are all skillsets that stand out amongst individuals and are encouraged at Zalando,” said Klaus.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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