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HC 2018: Huawei Panel Discusses The Fierce Competition For Scarce AI Talent
October 10, 2018 News

DSA and Big Community have been invited to cover this year’s Huawei Connect, Huawei’s biggest annual conference in Shanghai, China. Just like the company’s Global Analyst Summit which we also attended earlier this year, artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to be a central topic at Huawei Connect, which will be held from 10-12 October 2018.


This isn’t surprising as Huawei has reiterated its belief that AI will be an ubiquitous technology that is set to disrupt the world as we know it and bring an endless array of possibilities. But in order to get there, there is currently a growing need for AI talent, to which there is a significant shortage in China and globally.


At the day zero media roundtable event titled “Approaches to Developing Talent in the AI Era”, Joy Tan, Huawei’s President of Global Media and Communications, said, “We believe technology will always lay the foundation for the future intelligent world. But people will always be the key for making that happen. So, developing talent during the AI age is absolutely critical.”


Among the invited speakers of the roundtable session included Wang Qian, Co-founder and Head of Commercial Strategy of Maimai, a Chinese social career platform that’s similar to LinkedIn, who told the audience that in China alone, the AI talent gap currently stands at 5 million when just a few years ago, the number was closer to 500 thousand. That alone shows just how quickly the technology has grown and how in demand AI specialists have become.


Companies are competing for top AI talent and Maimai has seen rapid growth in the salaries they are offered, whereby AI professionals stand to earn, on average, more than CNY25,000 (approximately USD3,600) just three years after graduation and more than double that amount in 10 years. Leading AI companies, meanwhile, are even willing to offer between CNY1 million to CNY2 million to secure those talents.


While engineering skills were most sought after circa 10 years ago, today, what enterprises need are scientists. This is because the development of enterprises now rely on capabilities related to the more recent technological trends such as deep learning, IoT and cloud computing. Winning over capable talent has also become critical for companies that wish to gain an upper hand over the competition.


The way in which talent is acquired has also changed over the years and companies like Huawei have had to change their approach, paying more attention to branding and using intelligent algorithms to find prospective employees. What’s interesting is that Maimai itself has adopted AI technologies, big data analytics and intelligent recommendations to help enterprises to find and connect with such talents, and help users find new business opportunities.


According to Huang Weiwei, Huawei’s Senior Management Consultant as well as a professor at Renmin University, companies have to offer attractive salaries as well as compensation to attract the best AI talent. From a value creation perspective, he pointed out that compared with the industrial age, where value was mostly created by employees at junior or middle levels, in the era of AI, a small proportion of top AI talents will create the vast majority (over 90%) of the business’ total value.


With that in mind, Huang shared Huawei’s philosophy for success; the view that “growing human capital (talent, workers, entrepreneurs) is more important than growing financial capital”, because in the long term, this kind of strategic investment will generate great returns.


Therefore, enterprises like Huawei definitely have a role to play in developing the required AI talent. To attract quality human capital that will bring value, businesses have to provide them with value in turn, not just in terms of monetary rewards, but also in terms of helping them grow, continue to improve their skills, and find meaning in what they do.