Preventing RFID Brain Drain

By Tammy Stewart

RFID-skilled individuals and their employers need to take proactive steps to keep the industry's most accomplished professionals in the talent pool.


A career in radio frequency identification was accidental for some people, deliberate for others. But for many formerly employed RFID-talented folks, the past several months have been full of distress. Seeking employment is tough enough; looking for RFID work has been exasperating.

RFID end users have been reducing expenses to keep their quarterly earnings up as their revenues drop. That same cost-cutting includes the elimination or postponement of RFID implementations, the trickle-down impact of which has forced systems integrators, software providers and hardware manufacturers to trim their costs in order to stay afloat. The result isn’t pretty, and numerous highly skilled RFID engineers, technicians, systems architects, marketers and salespeople are now searching for new careers.

The human side of this pullback isn’t pleasant. Nevertheless, most of us can deal with day-to-day adversity through a systematic approach to job hunting. Many have already earned fantastic new positions—outside of RFID. Good for them, but bad for those of us still in the RFID industry. This brain drain will affect all RFID end users when they resume pilots and deployments, as RFID product suppliers are sure to find a minimal talent pool available.

So, what is an industry to do? Let’s look ahead. RFID will rebound, but when it does, it may look quite a bit different than it did during the hype years. Already, we see systems integrators concentrating on applications for which radio frequency identification will produce a solid return on investment, as well as applications that will work perfectly using RFID. Instead of trying to live up to the hype, we will, in turn, concentrate on continually improving and innovating products and services.

RFID employers, listen up: If you are not taking some small yet essential steps to engage potential employees now, you might be in a world of hurt when you ramp up again. So, how do you start making these forward strides? Think about your business in terms of projects: What needs to be done next, and where can you fill some of the gaps—even temporarily? Many of RFID’s most talented professionals are available on a contract basis. Keep in mind that thinking short-term is essential, providing opportunities for these RFID professionals to stay in practice while you get to improve your business as you “try before you buy.” By doing so, both parties are moving ahead (and sometimes getting a head start on their competition).

Job hunters: Make sure recruiters and potential employers are aware of your specific RFID skills and experience. Some RFIDers on the prowl for work have taken this down time to improve themselves by getting certifications specific to their talents, such as Project Management Professional (PMP) and RFID+ certifications.

Whether you are a potential employer or a prospective employee, now is a great time to get to know like-minded RFID professionals in your area, while at the same time engaging with potential RFID end users. In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, for example, OTA Training and its sister company, RFIDJobing, sponsor two North Texas RFID networking events every month: the Group Friday Lunch and the Third Thursday Happy Hour. Networking events can be fun, and offer RFIDers the opportunity to stay connected, while learning a little something new to stay on the cutting edge.

Together, let’s plug the brain drain and keep RFID talent in the tub.

Tammy Stewart is the director of placement services at RFIDJobing, a Dallas company that seeks to match skilled individuals with projects and positions requiring RFID expertise. Previously, Stewart—an 11-year veteran of the RFID technology industry—worked on the sales and marketing team at Texas Instruments‘ RFID Systems division, and later served as the business development manager at 5Stat, an RFID systems integrator in the retail market.