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How to field the right workforce for the 5G revolution

Investing in top talent and training is key to achieve 5G-enabled initiatives

Mar. 26, 2019 | By Brian Tagami

Overhead map of highways leading to the right workforce for the 5G revolution

The future is here

We’ll soon be living in a world where necessities of today’s society will become irrelevant in the world of tomorrow. Ubiquitous connectivity, immersive wireless experiences and highly personalized content will be the new standards leaving our children to wonder “how we ever survived” in a world that didn’t have these. 5G-enabled technology and services will bring an overarching economic and social revolution that will change the way consumers think about and buy products, and in turn, disrupt how businesses build, deploy, advertise and sell to the future customer. But the question is—do they have the right workforce in place today to get this done quickly?

Imagine: One of your leaders rushes into your office with a great idea—the soundest 5G business model and, by any standards, the next 5G unicorn. You look at the team around you and none of them have the skills to get you from point A to point B to bring this idea to life. What do you do?

The challenge

To put it simply, organizations must embrace the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) immediately and start forecasting 5G enablement into their future initiatives. It’s essential to look at your team and begin to map your best talent to these future initiatives. Take a look at future use cases and determine the gaps in your teams today and answer whether adding new roles versus converting existing roles will be the best approach. Perhaps the most undeniable question that should already be on the tip of your tongue: what critical skills will we need to navigate the 5G future successfully? Top talent has always been an important part of any IT strategy but understanding how to define and identify what “top talent in a 5G world” will look like—that will be the tricky part.

What is 5G? The next mobile revolution is here. Find out what you need to know. Click here to read our FAQ.

The 5G skill sets that matter

Critical 5G technology skill sets can be classified into five main categories: platforms, connectivity, performance, analytics and insights, and user experience. The technologies associated with these buckets will play a huge role in your future hiring strategy, and the challenge will be finding candidates whose careers and experience have traversed the traditionally siloed skill set categories like:

  • Radio frequency (RF) principles and fundamentals
  • Network functional virtualization
  • Software-defined networks
  • Edge computing
  • Network splicing
  • Spectrum
  • JavaScript
  • Python
  • Scala
  • Julia
  • R
  • SQL
  • Spark
  • Hive
  • C++Unreal
  • HoloLens
  • Network protocols
  • HTTP
  • HLS
  • DASH
  • HDS
  • ABR

Obviously, finding all this experience in one resource is going to be a challenge. The blending of traditional recruitment talent bucket definitions (i.e., application engineers, network engineers, communications engineers) is fast becoming outdated and irrelevant. New classifications are materializing: reach engineers, performance engineers, loyalty engineers and insights engineers may become the norm in future talent acquisition, where a functional approach tied tightly to what the business is trying to accomplish may become paramount over the underlying technology skill sets. As the development and engineering standards (which will define 5G) begin to solidify and gain universal adoption, future-state business cases will have IT, creative and wireless colliding together.

The answer to the problem is to get ahead now. Rewrite dated job descriptions; determine key functional experience future use cases and build a social presence to build interest; invest in training and reskilling your current workforce; gamify or incentivize to increase pace of adoption.

How do you get ahead?

For a long-term hiring strategy, ask yourself: “How are we going to make money in the 5G economy, and where will we invest that money? If we have a product today that people will buy, how will we stay relevant? How can we disrupt our own product and the way people buy today before someone else does? How do our products and services evolve in the context of these stacks, and how do we quickly realign our workforce?” Asking these questions provides clarity—the way you think about your workforce will be the differentiator:

Attention stack

From content marketing, SEO and retargeting to website personalization and media buying, your attention stack is essentially your brand and consumer data that bring in the maximum ROI from your audience through personalized digital consumer experiences.

Production and fulfillment stacks

We’re talking digital and physical production that’s efficient and scalable. For example, maybe an unpredicted event occurs that relates to your product. Instantaneous and real-time response times are critical to ride these unexpected and viral waves. How do you get your audiences to order, convert, manage the inventory, experience and support?

Data stack

Data is the oil that will grease your machine and give you critical insight to encourage your customers to buy big and buy fast. This is where you’ll most likely spend the majority of your money. Think: data analysis, data insight, AI, deep learning, delivery, storage, planning and optimization.

The short-term prescription

Reskilling your current workforce now will be your initial ticket to success. Create an environment to create, pilot, fail and move forward. Give your existing staff room to experiment and take chances now while the consumer’s expectations relative to 5G are really low. Innovation now is viewed as a surprise or a novelty—do not wait until it becomes an expectation or table stakes. Open up a strategic initiative within your talent acquisition teams to seek out unique talent who have straddled projects in all three of these stacks. Although expensive now, their benefits and contributions in the future will far outweigh the cost. Think API and App developers—those that took chances early, trialed and errored, and learned quickly how to build a unicorn.

A 5G future is coming. We surveyed more than 300 IT leaders to understand their thoughts and attitudes. Learn how they’re preparing for 5G and what it could mean for your business.


Brian Tagami is the managing director for TEKsystems communications, entertainment and media. He has more than 15 years of industry experience managing enterprise customer relationships and delivering IT, creative, wireless engineering and field services solutions worldwide. Based in Seattle, he is continuously exploring and building new partnerships with industry leaders and analysts.