Minnesota Technology Association, MNTech, MN Tech, Target, workforce development, Twin Cities, Minnesota, tech workforce Jake Krings is the Senior Director of Digital Apps Technology at Target. On Thursday Feb. 27, Krings will join fellow tech leaders in our community at the TechTalent Conference, to discuss their approach to inspiring, hiring and retaining a stronger Minnesota workforce. This Q&A gives a little sample of what’s to come:


Looking back, how has the recruiting process changed within Target’s technology team?
What has changed is having a stronger focus on building diverse teams and finding new sources of talent, like our local boot camps and two-year programs like Metro State. To recruit diverse team members, you need to create an inclusive environment, a place where women and other diverse talent can be supported and propelled.  We’ve made great strides here which has helped us attract more talent.

We have also been fortunate to find incredible engineers from institutions like the Software Guild, Prime Academy and Metro State.  Expanding our sources of talent has been a great way to tap into channels we previously have not leveraged.

Target openly shares its playbook with other companies, for initiatives that improve diversity within its technology team.  How does this transparency help Target in the long run?
Yes, Target is happy to share stories of success we’ve had in improving gender and ethnic representation in our engineer and manager roles. The technology industry faces BIG challenges here.  Target has and will make a dent in improving challenges, but if we are ever to solve these challenges as an industry, we need to collaborate with each other.

I believe it should be a mandate for ALL technology leaders to help expand and diversify our pipeline of technology talent.  We can all strive to make our companies the best place for diverse talent to work in technology, but what if we think bigger?  What if we seek to make the Twin Cities the best place for diverse engineering talent?  What would that look like? This starts with having conversations on the challenges and what is working, which is exactly why the MHTA created Tech Talent.  I’m excited to share learnings we have had at Target and learn from others during the event!

What can you tell us about the importance of investing in employee training?
It’s critical.  Beyond training, learning has to be part of your culture to be successful.  Our industry and the technologies we use evolve very quickly, so we need our team to stay ahead.  Target’s technology team has invested heavily in learning and development.  We’ve launch programs like ‘50 days of Learning’ which allows our engineers to participate in self-directed or team-based learning.

On a quarterly basis, we host Demo Day where teams demo the latest capabilities they have built and share learnings.  It’s one of my favorite days of the year.  Our CEO Brian Cornell and the leadership team attend which shows the interest they have in the innovation coming out of our teams.  On any given week there will be several tech-talks and hackathons across our teams to test and learn about new technologies or ideas.  Teams are hungry to experiment with the latest technologies.  Pair this with programs like 50 days of learning and that’s when great things happen.

TechTalent is showcasing a lot of programs and initiatives that are paying off over time but leaders like you are feeling the pain of a slow hiring processes now. How do you manage business and leadership expectations when slow time-to-hire creates project delays? How can this TechTalent conversation help leaders like you manage expectations within their business while improving the overall hiring environment?
The long pole in the hiring process is of course finding qualified candidates. Our tech industry has negative unemployment, so there are more jobs than candidates, which has been and will be a challenge for all of us.  As an employer, you need to be a preferred destination for engineers with a culture that values and empowers technology teams.

Next you need to understand what sources of talent are. Traditionally, most companies go after experienced hires and college graduates. Although these are great sources of talent, there are not enough candidates to meet our workforce needs. I’m encouraged by the growth and success of engineers coming out of boot camps and two-year programs. This is a source of talent that technology teams need to consider as part of their growth plans.  Nidhi Sen, Senior Engineering Manager, and Anna Maxam, Sr. Engineer and Software Guild Alum, will share their story on how they are making this work at Target during the TechTalent event on Feb 27th.

Lastly, and looking longer term, we need to find ways to inspire the next generation of engineers.  Partnering with programs like Genesys Works gives me great hope about the future of our workforce here.  Genesys Works is a program that brings high school and college students from underprivileged areas into companies with internships in technology.  We’ve seen it change lives for these students and open doors to so many opportunities, as many of these students are the first ones in their family to go to college. And we’ve been involved long enough to have had a number of high school interns come back and join our team as full-time engineers.

Considering your journey and what you’ve learned along the way, what’s something you’d like to see changed in the future of leadership training?
During my career, I have gained a deeper appreciation for how much I learn from my peers. I think leadership training should help facilitate bonds and trust among participants as much as it focuses on the content of the training itself.  This is one of the reasons Target’s Engineering Manager Immersion Program (eMIP) forms a cohort for its participants.  eMIP is a 12-month, on-the-job training program designed to prepare women and other underrepresented groups in the tech industry with the tools, experience and mentorship connections needed to take on leadership roles.  We’ve seen incredibly strong bonds form between the eMIPs which allows them to share wins, mistakes and learnings with each other as they participate in the year long program. It has been rewarding to see is how these relationships continue as they graduate and become Senior Engineering Managers.

Where do we go from here in closing our tech talent gap?
As an industry we need to strive to make our engineering teams representative of our communities, our guests and customers.  When you look at statistics at gender and ethnic representation, specifically African Americans and Latinx, you recognize how big of a challenge this will be, but I’m encouraged by work industry leaders like Target and other TechTalent presenters are doing to drive improvements.

In terms of what’s next, I hope there is more collaboration between companies to share what is working.  If we are to solve this challenge, we’re going to need to work together.


To learn more about Target’s efforts to train and hire technology leaders, join Jake and fellow Target team members, Sr. Engineer Anna Maxam and Senior Engineering Manager Nidhi Sen at the TechTalent Conference on Feb. 27.

Register here.