UK: TECHKNOW - The people and products shaping your future - Lessons from Silicon Valley.

UK: TECHKNOW - The people and products shaping your future - Lessons from Silicon Valley. - JEFF BEZOS, the chief executive of Amazon.com and wonder-boy of internet retailing, recently announced to financial analysts and the press that he was looking for

by ROGER TAYLOR.
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

JEFF BEZOS, the chief executive of Amazon.com and wonder-boy of internet retailing, recently announced to financial analysts and the press that he was looking for a new chief financial officer. He then asked them to e-mail him the names of potential candidates.

His somewhat desperate appeal is a symptom of the shortage of talent faced by technology companies as rapid growth sucks up available personnel at all levels. Hewlett-Packard and Compaq, two of the largest computer companies in the world, are currently seeking new chief executives.

The situation has prompted imaginative responses. Some people put themselves up for hire on auction sites, seeking bids for their services. Startupnetwork.com lets growing companies advertise for personnel - a good starting point for a chief executive or finance director. And Futurestep.com will tell you the sort of job you should be doing, and how much you could be earning.

TECHNOLOGY CAN HELP solve the shortage of talent facing high-tech companies - or the lack of 'people bandwidth', as it is known. Joe Costello, head of Think3, a young software company, has used it to broaden the pool of available talent beyond those prepared to move to its headquarters in Silicon Valley. The head of sales lives and works 50 miles to the north in Marin County, the marketing chief lives 1,000 miles away in the state of Washington and the head of engineering lives on the other side of the country, in Boston, Massachusetts. To complete this picture, the services department is run from Italy. Mr Costello says he uses video conferencing as a 'day-to-day thing' and the full management team has a virtual get-together once a week.

DESPITE THE LABOUR SHORTAGE California remains the centre of the technology industry and the location of choice for new companies. However, there are risks: your colleagues might go a little weird on you. Take USWeb/CKS, the leading internet advertising group. One of its founders, Joe Firmage, has given up his executive duties to spend more time on his real passion: UFOs and alien visitors. Mr Firmage believes that much of the technical progress of recent decades is due to alien intelligence. He is not shy of expressing his beliefs, which are detailed on his web site and in a forthcoming book.

Having recognised, however, that his opinions might lead to adverse comments on the management of his company, he has chosen to distance himself from his old firm. Of course, there is always the possibility he is right - in which the labour shortage will soon be relieved by little green executives.

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