Oct 26 2017   4:14PM GMT

Finding AI talent is almost impossible, so cultivate it

Jason Sparapani Jason Sparapani Profile: Jason Sparapani

Artificial intelligence

Let me guess. You want to find AI talent to build a self-thinking artificial intelligence platform that will revolutionize your business and catapult your organization to the forefront of your industry.

You and everyone else.

Gartner analyst Peter Sondergaard gave a sobering look into today’s demand for AI professionals – people with hard-to-find combinations of data analytics, programming and business development skills. Sondergaard spoke to thousands of CIOs and other IT leaders at Gartner’s annual Symposium/ITxpo earlier this month.

Hot commodity

With data and graphics gliding across a screen behind him, he shared Gartner data on the worldwide labor market. Aggregate talent pool: 1.5 billion. Candidates for IT jobs: 15 million. Job seekers with AI experience? A minuscule 1,300.

And in a booming tech market such as New York, the AI talent pool is 32 people deep.

“Sixteen may talk to you, and only eight are actively looking,” Sondergaard said. “Trust me, those eight individuals sit on the right side of the labor market for them.”

Those candidates are sought by not just big tech companies. Transportation, media and banking are among the industries also on the hunt, Sondergaard said.

And if your company isn’t looking for AI talent now, chances are it will be soon.

So how can you compete? Sondergaard recommends “contracting, renting, sharing, nurturing from within” — so taking advantage of external AI services, cultivating expertise in your own workforce or both.

Inside jobs

That’s just what Bill Schneider’s company is looking to do. Schneider is vice president of IT at Pioneer Energy Services, a provider of drilling and well services, in San Antonio. The company is determining how AI can help make its business more efficient and improve its services — and Schneider knows how hard it is to find the right people in the labor market.

“It’s crazy how much of a population doesn’t exist for that,” he said.

So Pioneer Energy Services is looking inside its own organization for people with a passion for the machine learning algorithms, programming languages and deductive reasoning that make AI tick. Once those folks are identified, they’ll be given training on AI and data analytics tools.

The company is also looking to IT consultants for help and trying to “find the right partners” to work with and bolster its analytics practice, Schneider said.

“It’s going to be challenging to get those individuals from the outside world. So we’re focusing on internal,” he said.

To learn more about what Pioneer Energy Services wants from AI, read this SearchCIO report.

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