Another Swing at a Podcast Curveball: Talent Transition from Tech to Manufacturing

By Frank Borovsky

Dec 27, 2022

On the heels of his recent appearance on our B2B Reimagined podcast, Salesforce Vice President - Industry Sales (Manufacturing, Automotive, Energy) Frank Borovsky dropped by to expand upon one of his answers in the interview.

Clearing Up a Case of Interviewee's Remorse

Have you ever been interviewed for a podcast or webinar and immediately realized that you missed the perfect opportunity to connect the dots for your audience? Happens all the time to me. Last week, in a podcast interview with our good friends and partner, Zilliant, I whiffed big time. Asked about the greatest challenges facing manufacturers, I quickly raised the very real need for qualified talent, which has been a long-time challenge in the industry, exacerbated by recent employment trends. It was raised to me on the day I started in manufacturing more than 20 years ago and it has been the topic of conversation with almost every business leader with whom I’ve spoken since arriving at Salesforce.


Essentially the follow-on interview question had to do with news of layoffs in the tech industry and how manufacturers might be able to fill the gap with this new potential source of available talent. In my own defense, it wasn’t on the list of prepared questions, so I had to think on my feet. It had been posed by some colleagues over cocktails the week before, but I didn’t have the politically correct answer at the tip of my tongue. So I babbled something about the opportunity being there, but that as always, it had to be “the right fit” for both the candidate and employer.That was a cop-out answer. As someone who has jumped industries (and functions) multiple times, and especially having made the reverse move (from manufacturing to tech), I should have answered more coherently.

Different Worlds?

Although many manufacturers claim to be in the software business, the truth is that the cultures are typically very different. Consequently, not everyone can easily transition from one industry to another, and especially from tech to manufacturing where the histories, motives and climates are so divergent.

Top 5 Challenges Facing Tech Workers Moving into Manufacturing:

  1. Culture: Tech companies and manufacturing companies may have different corporate cultures, values, and ways of doing things. 
  2. Work environment: When, where and how work is conducted in manufacturing may be more structured and standardized compared to the more flexible and creative work environments found in tech companies.
  3. Skill sets: Tech workers may need to acquire new skills or adapt their existing skills to be successful in a manufacturing role. On the other hand, this is where manufacturing might benefit most from the tech experience and the reason for bringing in fresh perspectives.
  4. Career paths: Tech workers may need to adjust their career goals and expectations to align with the advancement opportunities available at a manufacturing company.
  5. Technologies: Manufacturing companies may use different technologies and systems compared to those used in tech companies. Manufacturers are not known for having state-of-the-art tools, which many tech workers take for granted.

Most manufacturers have been around decades, if not longer. They have built their brands based upon great products and repeat business established over years by building relationships. They have survived economic cycles with a stereotypically conservative Midwest “show me” or “prove it” mentality that has served them well overall. This same “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset can also create complacency among many, leaving them vulnerable to disruption. Tech companies, of course, are much newer, and are often formulated around a concept or solution rather than a tangible product. The software is a means to an end and must start with the customer and the use case at the center, or otherwise there is nothing to sell. The mentality is much more around innovation and agility and certainly less formal and structured than most manufacturers.

Caveat Emptor

Of course I am speaking in generalities, but from those very different beginnings and mindsets are spawned a whole host of differences that affect both customers and employees—everything from business priorities and subsequent investments in technology to expectations regarding hiring and compensation to remote/office/hybrid and work/life balance. Culture matters... a lot. Consequently, those from the tech industry considering a migration should query closely during interviews to tease out the cultural nuances and weigh them carefully before plunging in. Make sure that you talk to a wide swath of current (and past) employees to see if the vibe suits your style.Having lived on both sides now, I absolutely see the benefits of a blended work force where those from the tech and manufacturing industries learn best practices from one another, working side-by-side. For those companies and candidates with the right mix of temerity, grit...and emotional intelligence/empathy, the current job market is conducive to accelerating manufacturing’s ability to be more software/solution-centric. The long-term outcome will benefit everyone, including the American economy. Guess I should have said that in the interview. I need to be faster on my feet.

Here to Help

As an aside, for many years I have taken calls from job seekers from 6-8 p.m. EST to guide them in their transitions. If you have recently been laid off and are considering positions in manufacturing, please feel free to reach out to me via LinkedIn. Happy to help any way I can. Just be forewarned, as proven above, it is highly likely that I will have better answers as soon as we end the conversation. Caveat emptor indeed!

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