Businessman attracts workers with a big magnet
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Artificial Intelligence is top of mind for most technology leaders these days and as a result the competition for employees with an AI skillset is high. So how do employers attract this elite group of people? Assuming the salary you are offering meets their expectations, here are some suggestions from people who know.

Meaningful and Exciting Work Matters

People want to work for an organization that is having a positive impact on the world and they want to work in a place where they can reach their potential. Such was the case with Pamela Wickersham, who left SpringCM  several years ago to join Google’s Ad Tech team. It was — at least to the outside observer’s eye — the job of a lifetime. And yet, Wickersham only spent two years with Google before moving back to SpringCM, where she eventually became director of solutions development. Her reasons for the return?  “I love the ability to take on more responsibility and manage a team,” she said of her role at SpringCM. She liked the type of work she had been doing at there — when she left she was implementing projects — and she liked how quickly she was able to push projects and deliverables out of the door. At Google, Wickersham also added, she didn’t have direct client access, nor was she working on the cutting edge projects. 

There are several lessons a corporate IT recruiter could glean from Wickersham’s story, especially a corporate recruiter seeking AI talent, which is part of Wickersham’s skillset. Chief among these, meaningful and exciting work can be more important than working for one of the biggest names in the industry. 

Other times it's simply the scale of the project that keeps some employees interested and engaged. “Working on projects that impact tens of millions of people gives AI engineers a sense of pride in their position as well as access to the amount of data required to use the most cutting-edge techniques,” said Jason Ansel, director of engineering of GoDaddy.

Related Article: 5 Tips to Help Win the War for Tech Talent

Talent Scarcity Means Competitive Salary is a must

Indeed, stacked against meaningful work, salary is almost besides the point — but don’t kid yourself, AI talent doesn't come cheap. For someone with a graduate degree in machine learning in Silicon Valley, according to Chris Nicholson, CEO of Skymind, compensation could range from the low to mid six-figure range, which includes salary, bonus and options, he said. Not only is AI talent expensive but it is also scarce. Globally, there are fewer than 10,000 people that are skilled enough to handle serious artificial intelligence research, Element AI, an independent lab in Montreal told the New York Times. 

Having Good Data

"Fundamentally, AI talent wants two things: data and problems" said JW Player CTO Pablo Calamera. "If you have lots of interesting data points and a domain/problem to attack, that's when the fun begins. Layer on top of that, if there is technology/machinery in place to begin modeling and using data science techniques quickly that helps get to results faster."

Related Article: 8 Skills Every Digital Leader Needs

Freedom to Solve Problems and Explore

AI talent doesn’t just want to work on back office technologies that won’t move a needle, said Lori Williams, vice president of fulfillment at Gigster — there is a desire to be involved in solving business problems. “Many of the most critical challenges in machine learning can only be solved through novel innovations and approaches,” Ansel said. “Discovering these creative solutions requires the agility and latitude to take the time to investigate unexpected findings and explore unorthodox techniques. AI talent also has the expectation that they are not just wedded to the tasks they are given but that they are provided time to explore other applications of data science on your data set for your business,” said Corey Ferengul, CEO of Magnetic.

AI Talent or Attention Seeker

There are two types of AI talent: people who want to be famous and people who are in it because they are passionate about the work, said Manny Medina, CEO of Outreach. The former “are the folks attracted by the opportunity to publish papers, speak at conferences and be on the covers of magazines,” he said. Medina is not a big fan of this type of person. “This type of AI talent will find some constrained problem set that’s newsworthy and allows them to build a big personal brand but means nothing in real life: beating someone at go, or at chess, or creating AIs that beats Starcraft.”