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Good news for Bay Area: Tech hiring despite the coronavirus

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With the coronavirus pandemic confining many to their homes, it’s a boom time for video streaming. Collaboration software. E-commerce tools.

While much of the American economy falters and unemployment soars, tech companies in the Bay Area — the industry’s heartland — are seeing demand for their services soar. Some are even hiring.

Whether that wealth spills over to the rest of the economy depends on the depth and thoughtfulness of those companies’ philanthropic efforts and how closely they work with state and local authorities, according to experts.

“Left to its own devices, the situation could lead to an even wider gulf and an exaggeration of the problems the Bay Area is already facing,” said Margaret O’Mara, a professor at University of Washington and a fellow at the Institute for Regional Studies at Joint Venture Silicon Valley.

“In order to deliver for the billions of people and millions of businesses who rely on us, we aim to hire 10,000 people across tech and product in 2020. We also remain committed to making critical hires across the business,” said Chloe Meyere, a Facebook spokeswoman.

The company has plans to build or expand offices in Burlingame, Fremont and Menlo Park. Construction has stopped temporarily under shelter-in-place orders, but growth is still planned.

“We continue to hire and have many open roles,” said a Google spokesman, who declined to disclose specific numbers. Google’s website lists more than 600 openings in the Bay Area. The company said in February it plans to spend $10 billion on offices and data centers.

Salesforce, San Francisco’s largest private employer, said it has 2,200 open positions. The company is prioritizing the hiring of employees’ friends and family members who have lost jobs because of the effects of the coronavirus through a referral program.

Companies like Facebook and Google have gargantuan cash reserves, and can safely continue to hire. As other sectors of the economy wither, mid- and low-wage workers could get pushed out of the housing market, calcifying the economic divide, O’Mara observed. The majority of laid-off and furloughed workers in the Bay Area are in the service sector, according to California’s Employment Development Department, and likely lack the skills to benefit from tech job openings.

Other companies, particularly in e-commerce, may bring some relief to the jobless.

Amazon, which is headquartered in Seattle but employs thousands in the Bay Area from software engineers to hardware designers to Whole Foods cashiers, said last week it already hired more than 80,000 out of an additional 100,000 warehouse employees to handle exploding demand for shipped goods. Grocery stores, shipping firms and other e-commerce operators are hiring, too.

Yet those ambitious hiring plans will do little to thin the skyrocketing ranks of the jobless. The unemployment rate could top joblessness during the Great Depression, economists said.

Other efforts beyond direct hiring, like Google’s plan to distribute 100,000 internet hotspots throughout the state to help students study at home during school closures, could lay the foundation for a stronger, more educated workforce, according to Belinda Archibong, professor of economics and development at Barnard College. Internet access could also ease child care burdens, boosting parents’ productivity while working from home — with concerns about excessive screen time temporarily cast aside.

“How can we use technology so we don’t have to have these situations where the kids are out of school and it’s usually the women who have to take charge of teaching these children?” Archibong said.

She added that with so many out of work, companies should create and strengthen training programs offered to the public while so much of the workforce is idle. Archibong said doing so would create a stronger pipeline of skilled candidates for companies that are hiring.

That kind of retraining could be crucial. Tech job postings in the U.S. have fallen at a smaller rate than other sectors, according to data from the job site Indeed.

As of March 31, U.S. job listings were down 20% from a year ago. But software development was down only 12% compared to 2019, and information technology, operations and help desk listings were down 14% compared to 2019. Hospitality and tourism listings plunged by 62% compared to 2019.

“The Bay Area is not as dependent on leisure and hospitality as some other places are like Orlando or Las Vegas,” said Jed Kolko, Indeed’s chief economist. “The Bay Area has a higher share of professional and technical jobs that can be done from home.”

Still, the industry can expect to take a hit, along with the rest of the economy, he said.

There’s a limit to how much tech’s largesse can blunt the havoc the coronavirus has wrought on the economy, said Sean Randolph, the senior director of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

“The longer-term question about exacerbating inequality isn’t something we should necessarily look to the tech companies to resolve,” he said.

Demand for digital work is broader than just the best-known tech companies, said Adam Bennett, director of permanent placement services at recruiting firm Robert Half Technology.

“The big influx over the last three weeks is what I would call general (tech) support type of jobs,” as demand for remote technology services has increased, Bennett said. “Any consistent hiring we’ve seen in the last three weeks has been around supporting remote work.”

The U.S. information technology sector added about 8,500 jobs in March, according to technology industry trade association CompTIA.

Tech’s biggest contribution may be in providing tools and services that help businesses in other sectors get back on their feet, said Issi Romem, an economist and founder of MetroSight and an affiliate researcher and economic adviser to the Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies.

“The longer this period continues, it’s a good time for adapting the way work is done,” Romem said. Jobs that traditionally require an in-person aspect, like retail or plumbing, could be done virtually with the right video technology, for example.

“It’s as simple as … finding a group of plumbers who are sufficiently articulate and well-meaning and friendly to be able to guide someone effectively” to do a job themselves, Romem said. That kind of shift might last well past the shelter-in-place orders.

Chase DiFeliciantonio and Roland Li are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email: chase.difeliciantonio@sfchronicle.com, roland.li@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @ChaseDiFelice, @rolandlisf



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Amazon’s Jeff Bezos invests in UK digital freight forwarder Beacon- Technology News, Firstpost

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 Amazons Jeff Bezos invests in UK digital freight forwarder Beacon

By Maria Ponnezhath

(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has picked British startup Beacon, a digital freight forwarder, for his latest investment.

Beacon said on Sunday it raised over $15 million in Series A fundraising, from investors including Bezos and venture capital firm 8VC.

The startup, formed by two former Uber Technologies Inc executives two years ago, is already backed by Uber founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, along with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Beacon is also a supply chain finance firm that provides real-time data of cargo delivery and a marketplace view of global shipping costs and prices.

“With digitalisation accelerating globally as a result of COVID-19, we believe the future of the traditional freight forwarder is more precarious than ever,” CEO Fraser Robinson said in a statement.

Beacon, whose logistic services include global ocean, air and truck freight, said the funds raised will be invested in new hires, technology and market expansion.

Amazon did not immediately respond to request for comment.

(Reporting by Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.



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Summer Camp goes virtual during coronavirus pandemic

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DETROIT – North Star Reach campers and their parents have become sought-after hygiene experts during the coronavirus.

They are using video conferencing technology and social media to help.

Local 4 meteorologist Andrew Humphrey has more on the virtual camp in this segment of Tech Time.

You can watch his full report in the video player above.

Copyright 2020 by WDIV ClickOnDetroit – All rights reserved.

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Remote hiring is surging; here’s how to ace it – Latest News

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While many Covid-hit businesses froze hiring or laid off a large chunk of their staff, developer skills platform HackRank saw several of its large customers accelerating hiring because the pandemic sent the need for their software products through the roof. “We had to quickly assemble our product and engineering teams to pivot all of our energy into building a strong remote hiring solution that customers would love,” said HackerRank co-founder and CEO Vivek Ravishankar in the first edition of Times Techies’ webinar series last week.

The remote hiring tech is built on three principles. One, the interview experience of a developer should be as good as the onsite one. Two, the company can trust the solution completely because an offer is made without even seeing the candidate in person. Three, help developers prepare for jobs by providing them resources.

Developers can not only code, compile and run their application, but also walk the interviewer through the problem. A virtual whiteboard, a regular feature at onsite interviews, is embedded into the solution to draw system designs, diagrams and patterns.

“In remote hiring, companies must be very clear about the kind of skillsets they are looking for. AWS, Ansible, Docker, Kubernetes – just name the skill, instead of giving out job descriptions. Nobody really reads job descriptions these days,” said Ravishankar.

Remote hiring places a lot of focus on strong communication skills over interpersonal skills. Strong communication skills, the ability to express your ideas clearly and concisely, are essential for developers. It is not correct to use it interchangeably with interpersonal skills, which is more about the ability to engage in a friendly conversation, Ravishankar said. “You can have strong communication skills, but you could be an introvert, and be labelled as a person without interpersonal skills. The remote hiring process can eliminate this bias. Also, unlike in onsite where you tend to observe things like gait, body posture etc, in remote, you would focus more on the skills of the candidate, obliterating all other biases,” he said.

Ravishankar believes computer science (CS) is going to be far more significant in the coming years. “Every company in the world is on the path of transformation to become a software company. The two CS areas that are growing particularly fast are cybersecurity and data science. Cybersecurity is in fact going to grow much faster than data science, and is going to be quite lucrative as a profession,” he said.



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