How to lead talented technical teams

Sarah-Jane Peterschlingmann delivered the second keynote for DrupalSouth 2022 looking at how to lead (and keep) talented resources. View the presentation or read our summary below. 

The landscape

Sarah-Jane started off by talking about the skills shortage in the Drupal community and the current fight for talent in general. She presented some research and stats, including:

Skills shortage across all industries was the number one issue facing Australian business at the moment (Director Sentiment Index, 17 October 2022)

Globally, it’s a big challenge in the tech industry, with Korn Ferry estimating >85million unfilled jobs by 2030

The tech skills shortage has been exacerbated by COVID-19’s push on digital transformation. 

This means now, more than ever, it’s important to create a workplace culture that will attract and keep the best employees.

About Sarah-Jane

Sarah-Jane is the owner and managing director of ATech. ATech started as a one-person show and as she got busier she began hiring people. This was the start of her leadership journey. She learnt a lot about leadership from her own experiences and by reading lots of books. During this time she realised the importance of creating a culture where people want to work. 

Tech employees

Sarah-Jane then showed us some stats on how long the average tech employee spends at key companies:

  • Google, 1.1 years
  • Amazon, 1 year
  • Industry average, 3 years
  • ATech 4.2 years

ATech had good tenure and talented employees so she started asking them why they liked working at the company. One of the most common responses was that they liked the culture. Which led to the focus of the presentation…

Creating a culture where people want to work 

Sarah-Jane noted that people leave managers, not companies. So it’s the leaders who are responsible for creating good workplace culture. 

She quoted a large-scale Gallup Research of 80,000 managers. The research focused on trying to identify the difference between an ordinary manager and a great manager. 

The results show that great managers do four simple things really well:

  1. Hire people based on their talent and values, not their experience
  2. Evaluate performance based on desired outcomes rather than direct control over the way a worker performs his or her job (talented people hate to be micromanaged)
  3. Stop trying to ‘fix’ people — focus on their strengths and work around weaknesses
  4. Find the right fit for your employees’ talents

Attracting and keeping the most talented people

Sarah-Jane listed 12 questions you should ask to identify a strong workplace for talented employees. The questions are below: 

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the tools I need to do my job well? 
  3. At work do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day? 
  4. In the last 7 days have I received recognition or praise for good work?
  5. Does my supervisor or someone at work care for me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work do my opinions seem to count? 
  8. Does the purpose of my company make me feel like my work is important?
  9. Are my coworkers committed to doing quality work? 
  10. Do I have a best friend at work? If not…why not? 
  11. In the last six months, have I talked with someone about my progress?
  12. At work have I had opportunities to learn and grow? 

What employees want/need

People want to get a sense of identity and value from work. For any relationship you want to have your needs met. Basic needs are: 

  • Significance
  • Security
  • Variety
  • Contribution
  • Growth

Expert/tech leaders

A good leader is not someone who’s necessarily an expert. Expert leaders often create bottlenecks because expert/tech leaders think no one else can do it so they do it themselves. 

True leaders focus on stepping out of the spotlight and helping and coaching others to do the task as well as you can. One-on-one coaching is the best way to do this. Even if it’s a whole day screen-sharing and coaching. 

Starting change

Importantly, Sarah-Jane pointed out that anyone can be the catalyst to start change in their workplace. 


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