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Three Influencers Driving Engineers to Change Careers

Businesses today are facing two primary challenges: hiring and retaining talent. The fact is, we’re living in a candidates’ market, and they want more.

People want higher salaries and positions, and they want to feel happy with how they work and the work they do as well, which could mean wanting the choice to work remote/ hybrid or wanting their work to have a positive impact. Nevertheless, these benefits aren’t just wants, they’re needs; needs that employers should recognize to both attract new talent and retain talent as well. And we know companies are listening, especially Big Tech.

With the U.S. being one of the largest tech hubs in the world and home to millions of startups, tech companies are racing to scale their operations by developing the next groundbreaking product. To do that they require a team of high-caliber engineers with the qualifications to build it, leading to a high demand for senior-level engineers. This is a demand we’re seeing for a majority of tech companies, from seed-stage startups to Big Tech enterprises. So, now is the time engineers need to ask, “am I happy with my job?” If the answer is “No.”, then there’s opportunity for improvement. If their employer can’t make that happen…then a competing company will.

While navigating today’s market, we decided to learn what it is senior-level engineers want more of. Recently, our two engineering managers in California Joori Leem and Ryan Scott surveyed 80 engineers to learn the top three influencers that would drive them to change careers. Respondents were asked to choose one of the four options: better compensation, higher position, working with inspiring people, or having an impactful role at a startup. This is what they found:

Engineers want better compensation

In the past, Big Tech companies had strict salary bands when it came to salary negotiation, this policy has lightened up in today’s market to secure senior-level talent. In addition, startups are more willing to negotiate salary with candidates, creating an opportunity for senior level engineers to earn more money at a company they could also have a higher position and/or impact at. Rather than feeling like a cog in the machine at a larger tech enterprise.

It’s no surprise that better compensation would rank the highest for engineers with inflation and high cost of living in major tech hubs (i.e.: California). Ryan adds that “compensation packages for experienced software engineers have never been higher."

"Changing jobs is still the most effective way to earn a significant increase in total compensation.”

However, engineers are also prioritizing equity as it’s the easiest part to negotiate in an offer package and is typically apart of most compensation packages even from startups. Joori notes “equity is a big part of compensation, and now a lot of engineers are moving to pre-IPO startups.” There are many variations of equity, and they’re worth should be understood by all before making a career change.

Engineers want to work with inspiring people

When high-performing teams are made up of talented, driven professionals who always deliver, it’s inevitable that team members will support and motivate one another. Further, a McKinsey and Co report found that high performers in highly complex roles, such as software engineers and developers, are 800% more productive than other people in high performing roles who perform 400% more than average people. These teams can be found at both startups and Big Tech companies, however, the opportunity to make an actual impact is statistically higher for startup software engineers, and in large part it’s due to the inspiring people on the backend who are driven by the ambition to create tech innovation. Joori adds, “caliber engineers who have had successful startup experience already seek to work with inspiring people who want to do something more meaningful, such as change the world with technology.”

For software engineers and developers based in the U.S., the opportunity to transition to a new career with a startup company is higher than ever. The Bay Area alone has 13,000 venture-backed startups, while Los Angeles hosts nearly 4,000. However, numbers are growing in the major hubs throughout the country such as New York. So, with such a large quantity of startups to work for, imagine the talent that’s helping scale these companies. Ryan notes that “this is an important factor in why software engineers especially change jobs. The sentiment in the industry is that there are a vast pool of experienced founders and teams to choose from.”

Engineers want higher positions

Landing a higher position is key to establishing the path to personal success within your career, and is typically mapped out for specific professions such as engineering. Joori explains that “typically in a span of 5+ years, engineers want to move to Manager, then Director and Vice President until they reach CTO.” In other cases, if an engineer wants to keep focusing on programming, they’ll want to be staff engineers.

Nevertheless, a person’s ability to take on a higher position doesn’t just come down to their qualifications, they need to have confidence in their ability to lead a team that can build a great product and as they grow in their field, the proof becomes clearer. Ryan adds “securing a more senior title when changing roles is still very important to most software engineers. It’s still the simplest way for engineers to demonstrate they’ve grown their skills & experience.” This goes for engineers who are pursuing a higher position at a new company as well as working towards securing a promotion at their current company. Regardless of the situation one is in though, every engineer should be prepared for that next phase of their career.

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