BLM interviews Neil Dickins, Founder and Director of IC Resources.
What was your motivating factor behind setting up IC Resources?
The only ‘deep tech’ recruitment companies in the UK were providing a poor service and had a litigious modus operandi. We saw the need for a recruitment organisation that worked in the long-term interests of companies and individuals and operated as a member of the technology community rather than an external supplier.
You position IC Resources as a recruiter that operates within the technology industry, rather than simply serving it. What’s the difference and why is this important?
What’s the difference between a good song and a truly great song? It’s hard to define and it’s subtle, but it exists and it means everything. Being a member of the technology community rather than an external supplier informs everything we do – we give advice that is in the best long term interest of the candidates and clients we work with, even if the result is less optimal for us in the short term.
One example: in our first year of trading I sent a CV to a new client. The CEO contacted me to say the candidate was perfect, and he already had the candidate on a ‘list to call’, he just hadn’t had time and was going to make the call on the upcoming weekend. Contractually, he ‘should’ have paid us a fee for our introduction but had we added any value? Not really. So we waived our fee and organised the interviews anyway because the CEO was so busy. We then worked with that CEO as a client for 17 years until his recent retirement.
What’s been the biggest recruiting challenge that you’ve faced so far?
To be honest, the biggest challenge is consistency. By definition, filling the tenth requisition in the same skill-set for a company is a lot harder than the first, because the talent pool has been shrunk by nine! So the biggest challenge is achieving consistent success, year on year, to great companies such as Qualcomm, ARM, Graphcore and Ultraleap, all of whom have exceptionally high standards.
You sponsor high-profile, specialist technology trade fairs including World Summit AI, AESIN and GSA Exec Forum. You also donate to UKESF, support their campaigns and sponsor awards, year in, year out. Why do you feel it’s so important to support the industry in this way?
The challenge of ‘deep tech’ is in the name, it’s deep, it’s ‘under the hood’. So it’s not in the general consciousness of society at large and politicians in particular. They don’t understand the value that technology companies deliver to the economy and that the UK leads the world in many cutting edge domains (which unfortunately Brexit has eroded but by no means destroyed). Therefore supporting organisations that beat the drum of ‘deep tech’ is a great way to give back to an industry that we love.
How has the recruitment industry changed since IC Resources first started out?
The recruitment industry hasn’t hugely changed since 1999. Technology has become an enabler that saves time and a lot of paper (remember faxes?). There will always be a small minority of people who refuse to engage with recruiters entirely, but ultimately I think there is greater recognition now that a specialist, well connected, ethical recruitment partner is a necessary business ally in the battle for talent.
The start-up tech industry in the UK is a huge growth area at the moment. How do you support start-ups and why is it such a big focus for you?
Start-ups are invariably 100% focussed on the challenges of product development and customer acquisition. They need a business partner representing them in the ‘employment market’ and also educating them about the skills picture in general and about their own recruitment process in particular. They also need a partner who understands their funding struggles. We had a start-up client that needed to hire a senior technical person in order to obtain funding, but they didn’t have the money to pay a recruitment fee – classic catch 22. We undertook the assignment on the basis that we’d only invoice once they had secured their funding.
You’ve spoken on your blog about the need to attract skilled workers from outside of the UK. What single thing do you feel would make the biggest difference when it comes to attracting the skilled workers the UK so desperately needs?
The government has finally woken up to the value of the graduate visa scheme and the need for international professionals across all technical fields. What we need now is clarity on Brexit, and a rise in the pound to make the UK a viable option.
What are the biggest challenges that you foresee to recruitment within the technology industry in the next five years?
The biggest challenge is the increase in demand for ‘generalist specialists’ – for example full stack developers, firmware engineers or system architects.
Finally, where would you hope to see IC Resources in ten years’ time?
We’ve built an outstanding team of leaders who are responsible for heading up our eight different divisions; Software, Electronics, Semiconductors, AI, Creative, Commercial (Sales and Marketing), IT and Operations. So, as we turn 20, I hope to see a 30-year old IC Resources in a place I can’t imagine right now, because our leadership team has taken it into areas I never would have dreamed of.