Neal Garman on Recruitment in the Future Tech Landscape

iGaming offers credible perspectives for advanced tech professionals who want to excel, have their voice heard, and – ultimately – innovate and break new ground. Few people, however, are aware of its intricacies, and how tied gaming companies are to tech development and IT operations. Neal Garman, Chief Technology Officer at iSoftBet, offers a glimpse into tech recruitment within the iGaming landscape.

The Pandemic has had a substantial effect on global employment. This applies to most industries, but the imbalance is more visible in some. A global slowdown could be noticed in terms of recruitment, heavily influenced by Brexit, IR35 and the move towards PERM. Lots of contractors held back to see how the changes would unfold. Shortly after, Covid-19’s effects hit and visibly affected business confidence. Hired individuals became reluctant to leave their companies due to job security. 

As stated in a Gartner study, all IT segments declined in 2020, with an accentuated downward trend in devices and data centre systems, with the largest drops seen in employment spend (-9.7% as compared to 2019). Luckily, the IT sector has been resilient enough to adapt and thrive under these new conditions and the technological changes that have followed, but not always with ease. 

However, the IT landscape faced the need to adapt long before COVID-19 disrupted the labour market. The Pandemic simply brought existing skill gaps to the surface, making it even harder for companies to find suitable candidates and for these prospects to upskill. We’re all adapting to the ‘new norm’, with people returning to the office and a hybrid approach to working from home.

Interesting changes can be noticed with people working remotely, especially when it comes to meeting new colleagues. Zoom or other video call applications are very impersonal, as discussions tend to be focused on an outcome, and with back-to-back meetings being common, time optimisation becomes a must.

In this opinion piece, iSoftBet is sharing its view on the challenge along with insights on wanted technologies, the continuous rise of software, the importance of soft skills in building strong teams, tech education and more. 

The true reflection of tech in iGaming: Creating a pure software-driven business

As CTO in an innovative iGaming company, I see the struggles that come both internally, as our products need to be aligned with the current demands in the industry, and externally, when it comes to recruitment. It’s a two-way street in which, as an agile company, we want to adhere to our values – based on Respect, Passion and Curiosity – but equally we want them to be practised within the wider tech community to ensure our employees really feel the benefits of embracing them. 

We are passionate about what we’re doing and this is what drives us to stay involved and present at every step of the way when launching a product or maintaining our current services. Especially in the tech team, we’re always looking to share the spark, to encourage innovation and to prove a hypothesis. Each member of the team is treated with respect and trust, with micro-management being kept as far away as possible. We give our teams a chance to shine and feed their passion with the resources made available to them. As a result, 84%* of our staff agrees or strongly agrees that they can communicate freely with their team colleagues (*Source: Internal employee survey 2021, May; N=184).

Traditionally, IT professionals from outside our industry are reticent to apply for iGaming tech jobs, often wrongly believing the work we do is not as innovative as ‘tech-only’ companies. Recruitment agencies also often fail to reflect a true image of what we do, which is, fundamentally, technology led. The essence of what we do is creating a business purely driven by software: we contour our needs and translate them into technology, which becomes our key asset and the driving factor of our progress. Sectors that remained unaffected during the pandemic included iGaming, which – in fact – grew considerably. 

A consistent part of iSoftBet’s success is dependent on the products and services we create. We work with complex math models, high throughput ledgers, cutting edge products, big data platforms leveraging AI and Machine Learning (albeit on the periphery), and high-end image-processing platforms. There’s much more to iGaming companies than just a simple front end designer job or a programme. 

iGaming companies who care: Forming our people in support of performance 

Tech experts are more than just tech gurus that will perform in any environment –  They  need a safe, focused culture, with a long term vision to deliver to the best of their potential, and that’s what our company iSoftBet can provide. Performing at work, especially in such a multi-squad, multidisciplinary tech team, depends on having a healthy culture and supportive colleagues, always eager to answer the WHYs and HOWs. After running an internal employee survey, we found out that our staff rated their relationship with their peers an impressive 4.26 out of 5, and the one with their managers a 4.19 out of 5, both numbers coming in support of our claims (Source: Internal employee survey 2021, May; N=184).

At iSoftBet, we put an emphasis on our people, their education and their wellbeing. We carry out monthly internal, deep-learning sessions, covering areas from compliance and marketing to business analysis and product. It’s also about learning on the job and continually learning from experienced team members who are open to sharing their knowledge. Out of all the business respondents of a recent Malta Gaming Authority survey, 35% indicated that they invest in in-house training or mentoring in order to tackle skill shortages.

It’s not only about demanding skills at the hiring stage, it’s also about spotting the potential when it comes to forming its people in support of performance. The societal changes the world has, and is going through, have helped us develop an even closer bond, fostering strong team links and relying more than ever on collaboration. We always go above and beyond to help our people overcome any obstacles. These are all factors that activate the potential to grow naturally, without forcing transition, demanding upskilling or working inefficiently until reaching burnout, which can occur in a growing technology business. 

Step out of your comfort zone to open the door to discovery

To deliver such ambitious vision, not only for iSoftBet, but also for the wider industry, we need to upskill our talent pool – focusing on creativity and passion, as well as our core values. To drive innovation, teams need to be inspired and allowed to apply their innovation daily – as such, we prompt our teams to make use of our existing technology resources, to gradually step out of their comfort zones and to explore new grounds as the company itself grows and develops. That’s the beauty of technology – it opens so many doors that are yet to be discovered, and our main purpose as a team is to push the handles and step in.

Anne Muscat Scerri, Head of HR at iSoftBet, explains: 

As the ears and eyes of the employees, we have to acknowledge that products and services are delivered by people and not by technologies. This implies heavily relying on those we work with, who ultimately must be passionate about their specialisms but equally open to dipping their toes into forthcoming innovation. Here’s where our company culture steps in – we do our best to push the ideas of our employees forward; we always listen – either in formal or informal forums – and we’re always trying to bring these ideas to life.

This is key in our progress, especially considering the challenges of adopting new tech. Instead of perceiving potential skill gaps as a dealbreaker, we direct sustainable effort towards supporting and guiding our staff through the tasks, processes, and potential changes.”

Soft skills represent the elements that glue an efficient team together and these are frequently developed while in the middle of a challenging project. If there’s genuine passion and interest towards technology, then we can witness that performance flows and ‘hard skills’ have room to expand. As Paul A. Strassmann mentioned in his study, “The value of computers, information and knowledge”: 

Software should be seen as one of the best means for accumulating and preserving enormous amounts of information about how a corporation functions. It should be recognized as a knowledge asset so that it can be managed as something that keeps accruing value steadily, reliably and safely. It must be designed for evolutionary growth instead of keeping it alive by patching it up until such time when a sudden convulsion makes it necessary to replace it without much delay.” 

At iSoftBet, we look for passionate tech pros who are ready to make memorable changes in the long run, but patient enough to take small steps within existing limitations. Technological progress today means efficiency and speed to market; it means system-level innovation instead of breakthrough, one-off elements; it comes down to how can we give birth to better products, how can we create more products without compromising on quality? This is what we’re doing internally at a complex level.

Additionally – another reason why it can be difficult for some people to perceive iGaming as a technological field, is because of its governance towards gambling audits and regulations. We apply every local gambling regulation to our products and services, but our tech products should not simply be perceived as compliance-rigid tech solutions. 

What we look for: The ideal iGaming tech candidates

For IT operations, we’re seeking fluency in MySQL, Terraform, AWS, Kubernetes, and node.js among others. For TechOps, a huge plus is represented by Cisco certifications, with the whole experience framed by a good understanding of data, WAN connectivity, and general IP networking. As for development, our main goal is to write elegant code that is both extremely efficient and simple to follow. In this sense, we’re looking for engineers that are Agile-programming oriented, with C++, Node.js PHP, pixi.js, and opengl as their native tongue.

We strive to obtain a perfect balance between experienced people (specialists who are ‘smarter than us’ and provide strong leadership) and people we bring through the ranks (‘juniors with good mindsets’, who are ready to learn and contribute with fresh insights, but who require technical leadership). The third element that glues the team together are ‘grounded operational people’, tech lovers who are happy to remain in the same position that allows them to perform and obtain the work-life balance they desire. As we grow, we go from startup to scale-up and the challenges associated with it, a scenario that requires people from different backgrounds: some that can ‘bring’ experience from having done it already, and are excited to lead people through an exciting time. 

iSoftBet hosts a tech department of 147 people out of a total of 340 staff, with some with over 12 years of experience in the company alone. We plan to grow this team much further, allowing us to produce the content that’s being demanded and enabling people to work in a business that truly puts them and their passions at the heart of everything it does.

We are a fast-growing, very ambitious company with a passionate C-level team that desires to employ a wide range of tech savvy individuals. Our staff is the pumping heart of iSoftBet and we’re permanently looking to expand the family. If we stirred your curiosity, instilled respect or inspired your passion through this opinion piece, check out our current tech vacancies here and follow our tech posts on our LinkedIn channel – iSoftBet. 

Bio 

Neal Garman was appointed CTO of iSoftBet in June 2020. Neal has transformation and growth experience within technology business, involved in two IPOs. He previously led technology functions in MoneySuperMarket, FinTech [CashPlus], Metropolitan Police, DEFRA, and Helios Towers. Neal is passionate about delivering scalable, ‘next generation’, data driven technology, where throughput and resilience is critical. A focus on understanding a businesses’ core purpose, growing its people, and creating technology that is considered an asset.

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