Insights | EXECUTIVE SPOTLIGHT: Making the Shift to Tech Skills Hyperspecialization

EXECUTIVE SPOTLIGHT: Making the Shift to Tech Skills Hyperspecialization

By Ava Sharp | April 26, 2022

Executive Spotlight - John Nelson (1)

John Nelson, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Single Digits

A proliferation of new technologies, platforms and programming languages is necessitating a different approach to software development, one where deeply skilled developers experienced in specific technologies are playing ever more important roles. We call this "tech hyperspecialization."

Accelerance helped New Hampshire-based internet networking provider Single Digits find specialized skills using world-class tech talent offshore.

During an interview with John Nelson, we learn what hyperspecialization means for his approach to software development, and how outsourcing has helped Single Digits meet the need for specialist skills.

Accelerance: Do you foresee developers needing to go deeper with their skills in certain programs, platforms and languages, rather than a broad set of general skills?

Nelson: I do see the trend towards more specialized skills. In my time at Single Digits, we have progressed from a generalist to a specialist type of environment. When I started here in 2012, it was a very small team. We were using pretty plain technologies. Our entire application was built with Java Enterprise. We didn’t use any special technologies or frameworks or anything like that and we weren’t in the cloud.

When I started to build up the team, I intentionally looked for generalists. Later, we got involved with the cloud, started to modernize our application and moved to AWS, embracing cloud-native architecture. Some of the people who I had hired didn’t fit as well into the new setup with specialized microservice teams.

The trend is growing in our organization toward that specialized type of environment.

Accelerance: What emerging technologies or skills do you currently need, or foresee needing in 2022?

Nelson: We’ve transitioned from a monolithic plain Java application to a microservices environment with AWS and cloud. We need to understand the technologies that AWS offers. The difference is night and day with a plain server. I now have a team of AWS platform engineers. Instead of one team, I have ten teams and they all have a specialty. I now have a reporting and analytics team. I need experts in data warehousing and mining. I really feel like the drive to the cloud and making use of AWS technologies and an effort to get into analytics are moving the trend towards specialties.

Accelerance: What challenges has this transition posed for finding talent?

Nelson: I feel like it expands the number of people that we need to have on staff. In the past, we could have fewer people but not as many technologies. Instead of filling generalist positions, now I must have a user interface group that knows about React [the JavaScript library for building user interfaces]. They can’t necessarily crossover to backend technology functions.

I’m using more contract and offshore partners to find the skills. We don’t have the necessary skills local to us.

I’ve talked to various offshore partners about having a bench that’s ready for us. It may put stress on our partners to be able to have this broad skill set at our disposal. But I’ve been able to get those skill sets on the team through partners.

Want to learn more about the growing trend toward highly specialized tech skills?

Download our Tech Hyperspecialization Whitepaper for expert insight into finding deeper and emerging software engineering skills while keeping up with digital transformation. 

Accelerance: What’s your experience with software outsourcing partners?

Nelson: I’ve had a good experience using different partners located in different counties. It does take more attention to define your requirements. You have to be super clear with time zones and language barriers.

One of the models I’m investigating is self-contained teams. Instead of hiring one or two people to augment a team, outsource a full reporting team to a partner. The model may include a developer, project manager, engineers and testers all in one. It could be better than taking a few people from offshore and plugging them in with an onshore team.

One of the reasons we use offshoring partners is to shrink the time it takes to find expertise versus us trying to recruit someone here. There’s a lot of staff turnover these days and I think our partners have been experiencing that as well. Overall, it has been positive.

Accelerance: How do you see the hyperspecialization trend developing?

Nelson: The hyperspecialization trend is continuing and evolving. I can tell that we’re continuing down this path of small teams with specialties. It’s driven by cloud-native technologies. I see the trend evolving towards these specialties. 

Single Digits is one of the many clients that Accelerance has helped. Our carefully vetted outsourcing partners cover all the 100+ software platforms and programming languages you could think of. We can find experts with specialized skills so you can focus on what matters most. We’ve assessed custom software development providers in over 30 countries to certify the top 1% as premium partners who understand Western business models and are world-class innovators in their fields.

To find out more about our suite of software solutions and advisory services, get in touch.


Interested in learning more about "tech hyperspecialization?"

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EXECUTIVE SPOTLIGHT: Making the Shift to Tech Skills Hyperspecialization

John Nelson, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Single Digits


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