The term “metaverse” is still very abstract. Some know a little bit about the concept, but hardly anyone knows how to explain it. Yet some of the biggest companies are already looking for candidates who know how to function in an entirely virtual world.
According to data collected by the Digital Business School (ISDI) in Madrid, “metaverse specialist” is now one of the most sought-after professions, along with about 40 other innovative career titles that would have sounded like science fiction just a few years ago.
Data scientist, full stack developer and cloud architect are some of the jobs on the list that require advanced STEM degrees. Others – such as digital media planner and artwork specialist – are more related to the field of marketing, demanding a combination of tech savvy and communications training.
To create the list, ISDI took a look at about 2,300 companies that are scouring the job market for tech professionals. Some of these firms include Accenture, IBM and L’Óreal. José Luis Sánchez – a communications manager at Accenture, a Fortune 500 company that specializes in IT services and consulting – explains that “metaverse specialists” are personnel capable of “developing ecosystems and coordinating assets” in augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) technologies. Basically, they are folks who can take a user’s physical environment and combine it with hyper-realistic virtual content.
“Hiring these professionals has been a challenge… [a metaverse specialist] must combine design and creativity in AR, VR and MR with technical knowledge of these platforms,” explains Sánchez. He adds that, in the last year, more than 200 clients have asked Accenture for help to understand “how the metaverse can change their business.”
Dr. Cathy Barrera – who holds a PhD in Business Economics from Harvard University – explains that “metaverse” is an umbrella term that covers various different technologies, some of which have actually been around for a while.
“There are companies that use augmented reality in manufacturing processes, for example. Others use virtual worlds to help employees collaborate during telework,” says Barrera. The other group of firms is made up of those that want to use the metaverse to reach customers, such as video game companies, or META (formerly named Facebook), which wants to create a completely virtual universe that people can access from their couch.
In Spain, the Complutense University of Madrid has been a pioneer in filling the demand for metaverse-related professions. Last year, the university launched a certificate and a diploma in VR and AR. Now, the Complutense is offering a Master’s degree that focuses on the metaverse.
Eduardo Herranz Sánchez – an expert in content engagement and a visiting professor at the Complutense – notes that the interest in formally learning about the metaverse has grown substantially.
“For each [university] program that admits 36 students, there are at least 250 applications, not counting all the requests for information.”
Sánchez – who holds a doctorate in computer science and technology – underlines that firms are very interested in forming teams that specialize in disruptive technologies, such as those related to the metaverse. Many business schools – virtual and in-person – have taken advantage of this increased interest to sell courses online. Just punch “metaverse course” into Google and you’ll come up with countless options.
With the advantage of possessing the skills that the market most demands, technology professionals have the greatest chance of choosing where, when and how they work. The scarcity of talent has resulted in companies from different sectors competing viciously for the same pool of techies. Human resources departments have started to treat job candidates as clients, putting into practice marketing techniques that, until recently, were only used to sell products and services. The tech industry is increasingly seeing hyper-personalized selection processes, hefty budgets to advertise for open positions, as well as sweet incentives to win over applicants.
The representatives of several companies consulted by ISDI agree that the greatest challenge – beyond hiring – is the creation of talent, especially in the highly-technical area of cloud architecture and engineering. For each open vacancy in this field – which is dedicated to developing and implementing various services in online networks – there are an average of seven suitable candidates. This isn’t ideal, but when it comes to roles in cybersecurity, the pickings are even slimmer. For each position in information security roles, there are only about one to three potential applicants. By way of comparison, across the range of digital professions, designers working in areas such as user experience and user interface typically compete with 55 other people for a job.
Despite the high demand, Dr. Barrera – who leads the first executive program on the metaverse at the Wharton School of Business – is not worried. She says that there will always be new technologies and a need for new professions. At present, the metaverse and blockchain are the hottest concepts, but in a few years, other things will take over. And, she adds, none of this will detract from other human talents.
“Even if technologies keep evolving, it doesn’t mean that other skills will become obsolete.”