Welcome to the latest post in Robert Half’s Thought Leader Q&A series, which features insights from those who have made our company a great place to work and a premier provider of talent solutions.

This post features Megan Slabinski, district president for Robert Half, who oversees the operations for our technology and marketing and creative practices in Washington, Oregon, Northern California, Utah and New Mexico. Since she graduated from the University of Washington in 1999, Megan has held numerous roles within the company, working her way up from account executive to district president.

Megan is interviewed often about career topics, and she speaks at events throughout the Pacific Northwest. Since the beginning of the pandemic, when she and countless others started working remotely, she’s often asked about ways to work from home with children, leverage technology and network online.

Here’s what Megan had to say during our interview, which covered everything from breaking into the technology field to blocking off time on your calendar.

How can technology and marketing candidates seize this strong hiring market and maximize their opportunities for career advancement?

Employees need to advocate for their own worth, both by knowing the market trends as well as understanding how their contributions can impact those trends. Scheduling regular performance reviews and being able to demonstrate their ROI (return on investment) to their organizations is a great way to start.

Additionally, they should outline the next steps in their career and what training, support or resources they need from their employer to advance and further their contributions to the organization.

What would you say are the top three in-demand skills for IT candidates? How about for marketing and creative professionals?

Technology is a rapidly evolving field, so IT professionals need to keep their knowledge base up to date. If I had to designate the most in-demand tech skills, I’d pick these three:

  • Security — A fundamental understanding of security includes concepts like data encryption, firewalls, risk mitigation, compliance regulations, network and software security.
  • Data analytics — An aptitude for analyzing data is another one of the basic tools for IT specialists who work with information and develop insights.
  • Technical support — The ability to install, maintain and troubleshoot computer hardware and software systems, especially remotely, is crucial for a company’s success.

For marketing and creative candidates, the skill sets in high demand correlate to the most prevalent market trends:

  • User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design, research and development — To stay competitive, companies need professionals with UX/UI skills to help improve their websites and applications.
  • Digital marketing and marketing analytics — These skills provide valuable information about content performance, target audiences, channels, engagement and leads.
  • Content strategy — Producing content, defining voice and tone, researching performance and creating a publishing plan are all part of this skill set.

How can job seekers without college degrees break into the technology field?

If you are interested in technology but lack formal education, your best opportunity is to enroll in community college classes, certification programs or coding schools. It’s hard to learn technology on your own but even harder to communicate your skill set to an employer without work samples or an accreditation.

Once you gain some formal education, in order to get a body of work and/or professional references, volunteering your technology talents to a local nonprofit or to a school is a great way to build credible work experience.

What are some of the innovative ways companies in the Pacific Northwest, where you’re based, are attracting top talent in this stretched market?

Companies have to engage in all forms of candidate recruitment possible to attract talent now. Online networking, advertisements, internal employee referral bonus programs, on-campus recruitment and internal upskilling programs are all in play to help companies staff their technology positions.

Beyond that, companies are looking at how to make their employment package as competitive as possible, through compensation, benefits, work location/hours, and other in-demand perks. It’s a 360-degree approach to create a solid pipeline of talent, host an engaging hiring process, make competitive offers, and have a thorough and consistent onboarding experience.

Employers: Read what Megan has to say about the value of conducting retention interviews with your employees.

You work from home, both as a parent of two school-aged children and as a remote manager. Can you share your advice about how to balance that successfully?

Working from home with children is incredibly challenging. Balancing their needs for support with homework, transportation to and from extra-curricular activities, meal preparation, as well as the normal household chores, all seem to take precedence when your children are there.

The key for me has been time blocking my personal and family responsibilities on my calendar, as I do for my professional engagements. If I block off drop-off/pick-up time in my calendar, then I don’t have to scramble last minute and move around times.

I also block off time for homework support and other important activities I want to attend. In return, I’m able to share with my children when I’m available and when I have work responsibilities and won’t be readily available to them.

Read How 8 Parents Juggle Work and Remote Learning, which includes Megan's story.

Is there a cause you are passionate about? How do you support it?

I’m passionate about empowering women to help care for themselves and their families through financial freedom. I’ve served for four years on the board of Dress for Success, an organization I greatly admire and support. It is an international not-for-profit organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

Follow Megan Slabinski on LinkedIn.

Meet other Thought Leaders at Robert Half, such as Richard Deosingh and Jordan Quigley. And be sure to subscribe to the Robert Half newsletter for future installments of our Q&A series and to discover more unique stories, experiences and perspectives on the latest hiring trends.