Posted on February 4, 2015February 01, 2015
Boston Sunday Globe Business – G4
In tech hiring, there’s ‘demand for everything’
By Sarah Shemkus
The past two years have been busy ones for Sean McLoughlin, head of the technology practice at Cambridge recruitment firm HireMinds. The economy is on the upswing, the tech sector is thriving, and clients are clamoring to find talent for their companies.
“We’ve definitely seen the market heat up,” McLoughlin said. “There’s demand for everything.”
Employment in the information sector has surged 8.5 percent in Massachusetts over the past year, far outpacing overall job growth of 1.8 percent, according to state data. But where in that sprawling field is hiring the hottest? What skills and talents are managers looking for?
Programming, as always, remains a skill in high demand, recruiters said. Fluency in Java, Ruby on Rails, and mobile app programming languages is highly desirable. In addition, demand is growing for people who can write code for the so-called Internet of Things, the growing number of networked home and personal devices sending and receiving data.
“Anyone who has the latest-and-greatest experience is going to be in high demand,” McLoughlin said.
As the software space becomes more crowded, businesses increasingly hope to differentiate themselves with clean, easy-to-use websites and apps, McLoughlin said. And that means the demand for designers is growing even faster than interest in engineering skills, he said.
About 35 percent of the jobs McLoughlin is called on to fill today are design-oriented, up from less than 10 percent three years ago, he said. For example, he is asked to find workers with psychology or design backgrounds to hire as user researchers, who investigate the ways people interact with particular applications. In other cases, he places user interface designers, candidates with art backgrounds who create the look and feel of software.
Technology hiring is strong across the board, but two of Massachusetts’ most robust industries — health care and cybersecurity — are doing a lot of it as companies in these fields receive infusions of venture capital, said Beverly Kahn, founder and president of New Dimensions in Technology, a Marblehead recruiting company.
Massachusetts health care and life sciences companies have received more than $8 billion in venture funding since 2009, according to investment analyst firm CB Insights. Boston-area cybersecurity companies raised more than $100 million last year alone.
As the Big Data revolution continues and businesses amass unprecedented amounts of information about products and customers, they need employees who can manage, manipulate, and squeeze insights from the numbers, Kahn said.
“It’s anything to do with data: cleaning the data, securing the data, personalizing the data,” she said.
While technical skills are valued, more employers are looking for candidates who can blend business savvy with knowledge of coding and circuits, said Dave MacKeen, chief executive of the Wakefield staffing firm Eliassen Group.
Increasingly, he said, marketing and information technology roles are merging and overlapping. Jobs in the sphere of DevOps — positions that bridge software development and business operations functions — are also very hot, he said.
“They are combining a high IQ in software development with experience on [the] business end,” he said.
The explosion of the tech labor market is good news for younger and less experienced candidates. Eliassen has worked with some companies willing to take on interns they can train to take on the full-time positions. At HireMinds, the most common requests are for employees early in their careers, those with between two and seven years of experience, McLoughlin said.
“They’re people who have a little bit of experience, who know best practices, who have professional experience, but they are still up-and-comers,” he said.
With higher demand comes bigger paychecks. The average salary of the technology workers McLoughlin places has jumped 13 percent over the past two years, he said.
Even with generous offers, employers have to act quickly to hire the talent they need because of the demand for workers, MacKeen said. Too often, he said, new hires back out at the last minute because they receive better offers elsewhere.
“Clients really have to lock in the candidates quickly and make sure there’s no uncertainty,” MacKeen said. “Until they are on board, those recruiting efforts don’t stop.”