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Data hiring for Q4 2020 in Hong Kong: The dawn of recovery

24 Sep 6:00 by Paris Herard
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One thing I noticed in the past months is that both candidates and clients alike have been quite curious about the Data market’s performance. And to be very honest, I am not a fan of this question because it is too vague and broad. There are simply too many parameters for me to give a simple answer.

A more adequate question would be whether the market is getting better. While this too is two-folded, I can tell you with much confidence that the job market for Data professionals is indeed evolving.

 

Recap on Q2 and Q3

COVID-19 hit Hong Kong towards the end of January and started to impact the corporate world from early February, as companies began to delay their Data hiring during the otherwise prolific period of job hunting. In March, we saw Banks starting to freeze their headcounts, which Financial Services and Retail followed not long after.

There were glimmers of hope back in June as COVID-19 was seemingly gone and people started to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and wakeboarding. However, the 3rd wave hit and everyone was forced to return to the new normal. That was followed by a gloomy July and August.

Even without the political protests, the emergence of the National Security Law has brought along uncertainties for international corporations, leading to concerns on whether the job market will remain doomed.

 

Unexpected recovery in late August

In my perspective, the 3rd wave has been very different from the first two in the sense that businesses already had the experience and was able to react quickly and adapt their ways of operating.

Interview processes and decision making have also sped up, with fewer concerns and hesitations in the mix. We’re getting closer to market recovery and the return of the workforce. As I’m writing this article, COVID-19 is almost gone in the local community and the outlook of the job market has been getting better.

However, I won’t call this a win yet, especially with the Data market going through fundamental changes in several aspects.

 

How the Data job market is evolving in Q4

As with any change, some will benefit and some will not. Here the three winners which rose above the rest.

The first is Data Engineering. Yes, you heard me right, the one area candidates often don’t want to work in because it’s not as fun compared to doing fancy modelling or complex algorithms. That being said, seeing Data Engineering taking off makes a lot of sense because companies want to speed up their data migration to the Cloud. As stakeholders are beginning to understand the importance of digitalisation, data analytic platform projects are being taken more seriously and companies are working to make their data more accessible and faster for their employees.

The second winner is Data Governance. Again, not something people would normally expect. With the National Security Law raising concerns on data safety among Financial Services, they are now more eager to protect their data. They are also preparing themselves for a potential wave of data privacy laws in the years to come. Finally, data quality issues remain crucial as senior managers need trustworthy insights on their current activities.

And finally, contract roles. What was once considered the back-up option or unstable employment is now on the rise. You can expect to see even more contract/interim roles coming in the next six months, but why has this suddenly become a trend?

 

Changes in Q4 – a bitter recovery

Most companies are still affected by a hiring freeze, which forces them to look at hiring contract talent instead of waiting another few months until HR and the board approve their headcount. Thus, contracting is gaining traction in Data Engineering where projects are crucial in business survival as compared to Data Science jobs which are considered more R&D and non-essential in the short-term.

Another major change is around what companies can offer their candidates. Companies are also taking advantage of the shifting balance in demand and supply, with fewer roles open but an increasing number of professionals looking out because of uncertainties.

Therefore, be realistic and stop asking for a 25-30% salary increment just because “you can bring value” as it is no longer the common practice. Even if you are currently underpaid and don’t accept the offer, the hiring manager is likely to move on rather quickly. I wouldn’t suggest just waiting around for the market or economy to get better either, as the market might remain as is till a vaccine has been found and we exit the COVID-19 cycle for good.

 

To sum it up, more roles are coming in for the Data market, which is a big relief. But at the same time, if you want to make a career move during this time, remember to be patient and don’t count on big salary increments, instead, think about if the company suits you in terms of team culture and projects.

 

If you’re curious to find out more about how the market is performing or if you need any support with your hiring, don’t hesitate to contact me at pherard@argyllscott.com.hk.