Photo by Ales Nesetril on Unsplash

If you’re a talented software engineer, you’re on the wanted-persons list among Seattle and Eastside technology companies.

“Companies can’t find software engineers of any language fast enough,” said Chris Bloomquist, partner and senior technical recruiter at Viri Technology, which specializes in tech talent acquisition from its offices in downtown Bellevue and Seattle. “Pick a language: Java Script, C#, PHP — you could quite literally pick a language, and there’s going to be positions for them.”

Bloomquist, a former software engineer, said other positions in high demand include Dev Ops engineers, positions related to cloud technology, and cybersecurity roles related to audit, software, infrastructure, and networking.

King County’s booming tech sector has translated to jobs galore, with Viri seeing job demand in the sector increasing yearly for about the last decade.

“I think what’s exacerbated that is the amount of scrutiny going into hiring has also increased at the same time, which is counterintuitive,” he said, adding that it challenges people like him to get the employee-employer match right. He likens his role to a real estate agent representing the buyer and the seller or, in this case, the job-seeker and the employer.

“The best candidates will sometimes say, ‘I’ve got three or four offers; I know my worth, and what are you going to do for me?’” Bloomquist said. “I think that the smartest candidates are saying, ‘OK, look — I’m going to get compensated well wherever I go; what’s the best fit?’ and not squabble over $5K here and there.” 

The tech hiring need probably comes as no surprise with the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and other well-known names expanding in the region. They get the press, but Bloomquist said companies like Hulu, HBO Live, Disney, and Discovery Channel are arriving here, too, plus new startups that are offshoots of all those companies. 

“So it’s more and more large organizations landing and expanding here with the presumption that they’re going to have more available talent,” he said.

The region’s companies don’t want just any talent, though.

“There’s a ton of demand, but we are in an elite class of worker and companies, and that’s part of the reason why I feel like the hiring bar has increased,” Bloomquist said. “As demand increases, there’s this presumption … that there are a lot of smart people here, and so I’m going to scrutinize more. So it is counterintuitive, but I think that some of the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ (why it’s harder to land jobs in the region even though there are more of them) is just that the talent level here is just so high.”

Quality vs Quantity

Facebook has been expanding rapidly in the region, where it now has its largest engineering office outside of its Menlo Park, California, headquarters, with 5,000 employees in 18 offices. The majority of its jobs are tech-focused.

Asked if Facebook could fill its hiring needs in a market where so many other companies, big and small, are hiring, the company’s Seattle spokesperson, Tracy Clayton, said Facebook is always looking for talented, mission-driven people.

“In the Greater Seattle area specifically, the tech community here is world-class, from the incredible academic institutions to the vibrant startup ecosystem to the bevy of global companies who have teams here,” Clayton said. “The Seattle area is a highly competitive market for recruiting talent. Facebook is defined by our unique culture — one that rewards impact. So we’re looking for a unique person, a culture fit. (It’s about) quality of individuals versus quantity for us.” 

Clayton could not share hiring forecasts for 2020, but as of mid-January, he said, Facebook had more than 450 job openings in Redmond and Seattle combined. That amounted to about 17 percent of all Facebook job openings across 82 international locations on a variety of teams.

Engineering jobs are in the most demand at Facebook here, he said.

“We’re hiring engineers at all levels — from recent graduates to experienced leaders, in areas such as iOS, Android, machine learning, and system generalists,” Clayton said, adding that engineers in the Seattle region play a central role in developing a number of Facebook’s global products and technologies, including Marketplace, Facebook Groups, Messenger, and Ads.

Innovation is in Region’s Genes

Tanya Faulkner, a strategic account manager at TEKsystems in Bellevue who partners with businesses in the greater Seattle area to deliver technical talent and professional services, said talented and motivated tech workers have many options. The demand for tech talent now is the highest she’s seen in her 20 years at TEKsystems, which has two offices in Bellevue and one in downtown Seattle.

“Our area has a very rich heritage in technology and innovation,” Faulkner said. “Boeing, Microsoft, (and) Amazon may be the first that come to mind, but frankly, our area has been on the cutting edge for decades. Over this period, companies and startups have opened offices here to tap into that highly skilled workforce.”

Major Silicon Valley tech firms have opened offices locally, and “the legacy of our innovation industry has also resulted in a vibrant startup community in the area, creating new demand for a highly skilled and creative workforce,” she said, also noting the benefit of neighboring University of Washington and its technical training programs and talent pipeline.

The region has many talented, innovative people who are in high demand, so even though job openings are numerous, it can sometimes be challenging to find the right person to contract for a project or fill a full-time position, she said. With top people, TEKsystems often will try to place them as contractors in companies where they get myriad opportunities to work within different business lines or on different projects to keep fueling their innovation, she said.

Positions in high demand, she said, include data scientists, AI, machine learning, software engineers, network engineers, user experience (UX) designers, project managers, and business intelligence analysts.

Faulkner doesn’t see the need for tech talent waning. “I would say up and down the West Coast or anywhere around here, I think we’re just in a very unique market because of the education, the talent pool, the innovation, the diverse lines of business,” she said, naming Starbucks, Concur, and PACCAR as examples. “Besides the Microsofts and Amazons, we just have so many diverse business verticals that are headquartered here.”

Viri’s Bloomquist said the demand for tech workers is driven not only by companies growing, but workers shifting jobs within the market. That’s driven, in part, by an industry that moves fast and avoids stagnation.

“People are more accepting at companies that engineers are going to move around more frequently, so the industry tends to lend itself to a … higher number of moves in your career,” he said.

For those working with recruiters, Bloomquist encourages job-seekers to ask recruiters why they do what they do and inquire about their client list, and “any good recruiter should be proud of the service they offer and make it more of a service call than a transaction. … Vet them a little bit; make sure you feel comfortable being represented by that person from a professional standpoint.”

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