Engineering: mid-year update


Market Trends:

Now that we’re at the mid-year mark of 2019, we can say that top talent is increasingly hard to come by, leaving it up the clients to go the extra mile to attract highly qualified candidates. As many of you know, the Robert Walters Engineering Team focuses primarily on engineering leadership searches at the top. This quarter we have received many requests to place Full Stack Engineers, Devops, and Machine Learning roles. Role titles with “machine learning” and “data engineering” are more sought after than many other software engineering titles. In heavy machine learning and data companies, there is a rise in engineering in specialized areas of software development, such as 3D manipulation of front end technologies. We’ve also noticed a decrease in Blockchain roles, likely due to the volatile nature of cryptocurrency.

NLP and medical imaging are peeking their heads amongst the sea of autonomous vehicle and robotics companies. In the next few years, it would be unsurprising to see more of a boom in these areas of deep learning in the market. We have also noticed that mission-driven companies (such as Imperfect Produce, Hims, etc.) are more compelling to top candidates--especially Generation Y candidates, who are propelled much more by personal satisfaction (versus task accomplishment) than generations prior. Not surprisingly, we’ve seen a sharp decline in virtual reality businesses, due to slow adoption and lack of consumer interest.

While the most common languages remain the same (Python, JavaScript, React, RoR, we have noticed that some startups are moving away from using Java on the back end, and have implemented Python as their go-to back end language. Some candidates are gaining programming skills via “bootcamp” style courses, while the majority of desirable candidates are still those with 4 year degrees in computer science. This may change over the next 5-10 years, as newer generations will require proficiency in technology as basic survival.

Hiring Trends

Startups that are at the bleeding edge of technology with a competitive compensation package attract top talent relatively hassle-free. However, we find that when speaking to candidates, many value opportunity for growth, flexibility, and a strong mission. Startups also offer candidates coming from bigger companies to learn from constant change, wear many hats, and develop closer relationships with teammates. Other holistic compensation packages have gained traction, such as performance-based bonuses that are cashed out depending on the candidates progress and achievements.

Candidates can also be courted with less tiresome interview practices that allow them to prepare beforehand. Keeping things in the interview process moving quickly and eliminating any extended waiting periods can help keep candidates engaged. As recruitment consultants, it’s our job to make this process as efficient and streamlined as possible.

Occasionally, clients pull candidates from other states like New York and LA. We find that LA is a much less saturated market than San Francisco, as it can be slightly more affordable in terms of cost of living. We are also seeing exciting new tech hubs pop up in Denver, Utah, and Texas.

2020 Forecast

Software engineers are always in need, but niche engineers such as those in machine learning, data engineering, specific types of software engineering, and data science will find themselves with a surplus of opportunities with top companies vying to hire them next year.

On the candidate side, we recommend exploration into ML/AI, as engineers are more marketable when they have a good understanding of the full-stack, as well as many other key technologies – whether it’s cloud tech like AWS/GCP, or clustering tech like Kubernetes.

Computer science fundamentals are a good solid foundation for engineers as well as flexibility in multiple languages and frameworks. Infrastructure will continue to grow in importance, as more companies seek ways to protect their data, avoiding a Facebook-type scandal (see: Cambridge Analytica).

Need engineering hiring assistance? Contact Eric Soni by emailing him at


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