Monday , 4 December 2023

Where the tech jobs are

Recently, tech has felt like career Chernobyl, with well over 200,000 people laid off over the past year. Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft, Meta, etc. Every big tech company, and many smaller ones, seems determined to shed 5% to 10% of their employees because “growth rates [are] slow[ing] as enterprises of all sizes evaluate … ways to optimize their cloud spending in response to the tough macroeconomic conditions.” Thus spake Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky on the company’s recent earnings call, and it’s a familiar refrain among tech executives these days.

Yet it’s not what we’re hearing from other industries. Tech may seem like it’s imploding, but there are scads of tech jobs available. In fact, the United States just reported the lowest unemployment since 1969, with the job market on fire. Yes, even for tech jobs. In fact, though tech companies may be trimming due to irrationally exuberant hiring over the past few years, tech jobs remain in hot demand as enterprises look for ways to digitally transform.

We’ve seen this movie before

This pattern plays out regularly. It’s normal for vendors to take the lead with new technologies or technology trends. Remember when Open Source Companies were everywhere, raising money and selling support for this database or that content management system? Such things still exist, of course, but increasingly open source is an essential, omnipresent element within almost every enterprise. Even for companies that have historically been leaders of open source projects, like Google, changes are coming. Though I’m on the record as being a critic of Google’s recent layoffs of key people in its Open Source Programs office, I’ve had a number of people reach out to me, publicly and privately, to suggest that part of the reason may be that open source now permeates everything Google builds, making it everyone’s job, and not just a select few.

Some of what we’re seeing, in other words, could simply be a shift. Vendors overhired for the postpandemic boom times. It’s not that the need for tech expertise has diminished, but rather it’s not as needed within the vendor class. Tech isn’t something that is sold to enterprises so much as it’s something that enterprises build with.

So many tech jobs

In this new paradigm, Walmart, a global retailer, advertises dozens of cybersecurity jobs, among many other tech positions. Morgan Stanley, a financial services company, is looking for Linux support, full-stack developers, and has a wishlist of 20 skills—everything from Unix to Python to Git.

Even John Deere, which manufactures seemingly low-tech farm equipment, leads with technology on its jobs page: “We are at the bleeding edge in innovating on smart technologies like advanced computer vision, sensor fusion, edge computing, AI, machine learning, and we are deploying them on a fleet of John Deere machines on farms around the world.” And Intermountain Healthcare, the regional healthcare system in Utah and Idaho, needs data and analytics product managers, data scientists, software engineers, and more.

I don’t have a good way of counting all of these up, but I’d hazard a guess that the number of tech jobs being advertised by non-tech companies dramatically exceeds the number of people being laid off by tech companies. Just because Microsoft or Meta overhired doesn’t mean your local bank, retailer, or entertainment company isn’t desperately trying to fill key tech-oriented roles to help them modernize.

As such, here’s some advice for tech workers who have recently lost their jobs: There are still plenty of tech jobs. They’re just not in tech. They’re in all the industries that need technology to thrive but don’t sell technology, per se.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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