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How the CEOs of KnowBe4, ReliaQuest view tech hiring

Margie Manning

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Top executives at two of the largest and fastest-growing cybersecurity companies in the Tampa Bay area say they don’t have any trouble hiring workers.

The experiences of Stu Sjouwerman, CEO of KnowBe4 in Clearwater, and Brian Murphy, CEO of ReliaQuest in Tampa, run counter to the findings of a new survey from Robert Half Technology. Eighty-nine percent of those surveyed nationally, and 87 percent of the survey respondents in the Tampa-St. Pete area, said it’s difficult for their company to find skilled IT professionals.

Cybersecurity was the top skill needed, both nationally and in the Tampa-St. Pete metro area.

“Employers around the country and across all industries are challenged when it comes to growing their teams because of a limited pool of available talent,” John Reed, executive vice president of Robert Half, said in a news release.

Stu Sjouwerman, CEO, KnowBe4

Neither Sjouwerman nor Murphy are buying it.

“There’s an amazing amount of local talent available,” said Sjouwerman, whose nine-year-old company has grown to 752 employees. “We can find good people in sales, in tech support, in customer service, in accounting, and in marketing/PR. The only specific area where we have challenges is hard-to-find software developers that are specifically senior developers in our programming language. Those we relocate from anywhere in the world.”

Murphy specifically disagrees with reports citing a shortage of cybersecurity talent.

“There is no shortage of talent. There may be a shortage of trained and skilled cybersecurity professionals but there’s absolutely not a shortage of people who would like to be trained and skilled in cybersecurity,” Murphy said. “Now, if you are just looking for the one person with all the right skills, that might take a little bit longer. But I really think we don’t have a talent shortage. We have a skill transfer problem, and I think we need to look at how we train and develop differently.”

Brian Murphy

ReliaQuest, which works with large companies on their cybersecurity programs, committed $1 million to University of South Florida last year to fund the ReliaQuest Cybersecurity Labs at the USF Muma College of Business. It’s an extension of ReliaQuest University, the company’s own internal training program. Both ReliaQuest University and the USF program use the company’s training tool, the ReliaQuest Cyber Simulator, an immersive program that teaches fundamental skills. It cuts learning time from 14 months to four weeks, Murphy said.

That investment has paid off. The company has hired 110 people so far in 2019, and is on track to hire at least 90 more by the end of the year.

“We don’t have a problem hiring people who want to learn, that have the aptitude and have the attitude, energy and effort and that fit the mindset of ReliaQuest,” Murphy said.

Company culture makes a difference as well. Great Place to Work named both KnowBe4 and ReliaQuest as “Best Workplaces in Technology” in 2019, and Sjouwerman this month won a Glassdoor Employees’ Choice award, honoring top CEOs.

Other findings from the Robert Half Technology’s State of U.S. Tech Hiring research include:

• 67 percent of IT hiring decision-makers plan to expand their teams by adding full-time employees, up four points from the first half of the year.

• Almost all respondents — 95 percent — said they will bring on project professionals to support their teams.

• Of those, 59 percent say consultants are a part of their overall hiring strategy and 56 percent say they’ll bring project professionals on when there’s a sudden vacancy on their team.

• Nearly all IT leaders, 97 percent, noted they are confident in their company’s prospects for growth in the second half of 2019.

• Industries planning to expand IT teams by adding new positions through the end of the year ranked as follows: construction; business services; banking and financial services; energy, utilities, oil and gas; finance; retail; and healthcare.

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