Seattle’s Tech Hiring Market: Its Present and Future
Leading decision-makers share their insights on Seattle’s coming tech hiring needs, from cloud to AI.
The greater Seattle area has long been a proving ground for innovation, and a place of limitless opportunity for smart, driven tech professionals. In recent years, Seattle’s role in the tech universe has grown even larger. According to a report by the commercial real estate firm CBRE, Seattle is now the second-strongest market for tech jobs in North America, behind only San Francisco. In 2017, the Seattle tech market employed more than 145,000 people, up 19 percent since 2011.
At WideNet Consulting, we’ve seen this growth up close. This year marks our 10th anniversary as a leading resource for technology contract staffing, managed services, executive recruitment, and recruiting process outsourcing in the greater Seattle area. As a kickoff for this milestone occasion, we’re taking a look at how Seattle’s tech hiring market has evolved in the past decade, and where it’s headed in the coming years.
To help us do so, we recently convened a roundtable of technology leaders—all of them WideNet clients—who have extensive experience in hiring for IT resources in the Seattle area. Here’s what they shared with us.
John L. Scott
VP of Technology
Former Senior Director
Wizards of the Coast
Q: As someone actively involved in tech hiring in the Seattle area, how have your hiring needs evolved over the past 10 years?
Teresa Duran: Hiring needs have changed significantly over the last decade due to cloud and digital transformation. It’s increased the demand for resources with a broader set of skills versus a specialty focus, whether it be in engineering or software development. Companies need their technology departments to move faster and to hire people who can apply expertise across different technologies and environments. There’s also a tremendous increase in demand for those who understand cybersecurity and consumer privacy.
Joel Chaplin: As IT infrastructure is moving to cloud-based solutions, my hiring needs have evolved to focus more on DevOps-type roles. But I still utilize contract labor to fill gaps when needed, as with network engineers. With the high cost of labor in the Seattle area, I also focus more on near-shoring and offshore hiring to offload so-called commodity IT work, like help desk, patching, and release management.
Chad Laske: Over the past decade, we’ve been looking for talent who understand the relationship and human elements of technology and project management. Those who know that understanding the technology is just as important as building it. We need technologists who are not afraid to participate in meetings and ask our business partners why they’re requesting certain features and how it will benefit the customer.
Q: How would you characterize the competition for tech talent in the Seattle region during that time?
Teresa Duran: It’s extremely difficult to find qualified candidates in the Seattle region. With low unemployment and Seattle ranked as one of the top tech locations in the U.S., there is an extremely high competition for talent. Companies must differentiate, as it’s not easy to compete with Microsoft, Amazon and Google. Technology departments need to have a great culture and offer a variety of exciting products and opportunities to attract and retain talent.
Joel Chaplin: Frankly, I feel most of the competition is based on company location. Candidates are more and more drawn to a location, the ease of commuting, and flexible work schedules. I’ve worked in Bothell the last two years after working in Seattle and Bellevue for many years prior. As we started to build out a software development and DevOps team here, I assumed it would take many months due to the location. However, all the roles—more than 12—were filled in 90 days. We found that the talent valued the location versus higher-paying roles in Bellevue or Seattle, which would have added significant time to their commute.
Chad Laske: Seattle has become super-competitive in the technology space, with lots of candidates vying for the same roles. This has driven benefits like work/life balance, unlimited PTO, stock options, paid parking, and social work environments, to the forefront.
Q: Which technical areas have seen the biggest jump in demand?
Teresa Duran: Resources with AWS cloud experience, DevOps, and full-stack developers are in high demand. There will also continue to be high demand for strategic technology leaders who can help executives with changing market conditions and preparing their companies for digitalization; and for product managers, as companies aim to differentiate themselves from competitors.
Joel Chaplin: Cloud, and cloud automation and orchestration, by far. Now that larger enterprises have cloud-first strategies, the demand – and cost – for this expertise is growing extremely fast.
Chad Laske: Data science, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud architects and engineers. These are supporting the increasing demand of technology growth in our businesses.
Q: Which areas have the potential for the greatest growth in the next few years?
Teresa Duran: Data scientists, as companies across all industries invest heavily in business intelligence, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Cybersecurity roles, due to ecommerce, cloud transformation, and overall cyber threats. And change-management roles, because technology moves at a faster pace than most employees are willing to accept – those with a change-management background will be critical to helping companies adopt emerging technologies.
Joel Chaplin: All areas of cloud infrastructure automation and orchestration will continue to grow. I think you’ll see more and more of these roles being hired remotely and/or offshore to lower the cost of labor. Machine learning and data analysis will also continue to grow. We are evolving from large, centralized data platforms like SAP and Salesforce.com, to point SaaS-based solutions that require data integration and new data management skillsets.
Chad Laske: I believe AI will be our greatest growth opportunity in the next five years. People are more receptive to it, and they’re requiring technology to anticipate their needs. People want more and more convenience in their lives, and AI supports this.
Q: Seattle right now is one of America’s hottest tech markets. Do you anticipate that it will keep growing over the next few years?
Teresa Duran: I think in the short term we’ll see an increase in growth in Seattle, with Amazon pulling out of New York, although I can’t confidently predict its growth over the next few years. Businesses may be hesitant to continue growing in this region versus more business-friendly areas; they will also continue to evaluate the rising cost of living, commute times, and overall affordability in Seattle versus other lower-cost regions.
Joel Chaplin: If we define Seattle as Seattle plus the Eastside, then it will definitely keep growing. Seattle itself I worry about due to the influence of Amazon, especially if they decrease footprint and expand in Bellevue. Also, the cost of living in, or close to, Seattle is an issue.
Chad Laske: Seattle will definitely continue to lead the growing tech space. The momentum is too great now. Great companies with great talent equals big growth.
Q: Finally, let’s talk about your business relationship with WideNet Consulting. Has it changed over the years? And what will it look like moving forward?
Teresa Duran: My relationship with WideNet will continue through hiring different technology roles – portfolio managers, developers, testers, project managers, business analysts. I will continue to look for new ways to leverage WideNet’s services; for example, headhunting services.
Joel Chaplin: My interactions with WideNet in the past focused mainly on classic IT roles of network and system engineers, DBAs, and so on. As the classic IT infrastructure is depreciated in favor of cloud, it’s evolved to focus mainly on DevOps. I will definitely continue to use WideNet for these ever-evolving needs.
Chad Laske: WideNet has been a great partner in talent acquisition – spending the time to understand my business needs and partnering with me along the way. One of my core philosophies is to be a destination for talent, and WideNet helps me fulfill that philosophy.