Addressing the Talent Gap in the Digital Infrastructure Industry

Q&A with Peter Hannaford, Founder & Senior Partner of Portman Partners

What are the issues facing the digital infrastructure industry, and how is Portman Partners addressing them? 

It’s a bit of a dichotomy right now. Digital Infrastructure (DI) has kept the world afloat through the times of COVID-19 outbreak. It provided us with the ability to move workforces from office to home, supported at-home education, and enabled supply chain agility for stores, manufacturing, utilities, transportation, governments, hospitals, and others. So, DI has been very busy, while some industries like airlines, restaurants, and others in hospitality have suffered greatly. The result is investment paused as we try to figure out how this would end. Now, with the vaccines being rolled out, predictions are for increased investment and accelerated growth. As a boutique firm, Portman is agile, scalable, and ready to react to that demand quickly.

What Datacenter People insights do you leverage for Portman Partners’ clients seeking top-level talent?

Sometimes we find people we know would be a perfect fit for a role, but our clients rely too heavily on the CV, which tells you what someone has done, not what they are capable of doing. Once an HR manager rejected my candidate because the resume skills didn’t match their checklist, but I saw potential and knew they were a fit. I phoned the hiring manager and pushed for the interview. That was the candidate they ultimately hired. The HR manager didn’t find my ‘proactivity’ endearing, so I wouldn’t take that route again, but I work to achieve the same objective, more diplomatically.

Why should DI clients choose Portman Partners over larger, big-name firms?

There’s a relatively small number of people working in the sector, and as I’ve been in the industry a long time, Portman has an inside track. We’ve maintained an impressive list of connections, including exceptional leaders and influencers. Also, Portman is not just me; it includes our London and Singapore-based colleagues, all with many years of experience in the DI and/or search sectors to their credit—a powerful, unique combination. Portman’s small size benefits our clients working directly with senior executives who have deep insights on their needs that most recruiters at the larger firms, very often junior, have yet to attain.

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