In Seattle, Demand for Tech Workers is Insatiable

What’s New This Quarter

Here’s an amazing stat: Amazon recently hired 12,800 employees bringing its headcount up to 109,800, compared with 81,400 a year ago. That means the company employs more people worldwide than Microsoft does and on any given day has thousands of additional job opportunities listed. (It’s not easy to get in the door, though. Applicants at Amazon’s Lab126 in Cupertino, Calif., which currently has more than 150 positions available, report eight-hour job interviews in front of nine different people.) Back in Seattle, a city design-review board unanimously endorsed Amazon’s plan for a five-story office building formed by three intersecting spheres, perhaps the most eye-catching element of its massive, three-block Denny Triangle campus. Amazon also plans a 38-story tower.

Amazon Headquarters PlanAt Microsoft, morale may improve now that it’s reportedly killed off its controversial practice of “stack ranking” employees. The approach forced managers to choose winners and losers on every Microsoft team, even if everyone was performing well. The Redmond giant is also opening a Cybercrime Center, “for advancing the global fight against cybercrime,” the company says, adding that it will “tackle online crimes, including those associated with malware, botnets, intellectual property theft and technology-facilitated child exploitation.” With any luck, a new CEO will be watching over Microsoft’s innovations soon.

One of the fastest growing companies on the east side of Lake Washington last year was Bellevue-based expense report software company Concur. The firm added more than 1,200 new employees, a 50 percent increase in its headcount. It also dramatically expanded overseas and invested in a variety of startups all over the world. Part of that investment was in local travel-related startups, such as social media travel firm Trover and Buuteeq, a small hotel software company.

Big Data has also been hot in Seattle this year, and not only because of Amazon and Microsoft. Smaller players, such as Tableau Software, which made a $245 million IPO, have fueled this trend as well. As Tableau CEO Christian Chabot said, “Data is the oil of the 21st century.”

Skills in Demand

Fifty eight percent of Seattle technology executives surveyed by Robert Half Technology said that network administration is among the skill sets in greatest demand within their IT departments. Windows administration and database management followed. Local recruiters say they’re seeing continued high demand for software developers (Java or .NET), front-end Web developers (JavaScript), user interface developers and software development engineers in test (SDETs). Desktop support staff is also a perennial need.

“Mobility, mobile application development and cloud services are at the forefront of demand,” says T.J. Doton, Bellevue, Washington Managing Director for recruiting firm Randstad. “With the increasing number of smartphones and tablets in the market, companies are continually looking for ways to enhance their mobile experience for their end users. This year we saw a number of firms establish mobile centers of excellence in the Seattle market to take advantage of the talent pool locally, but there still remains a shortage of skilled resources in these areas.”

Salary Trends

According to TechAmerica’s Cyberstates 2013 report, Washington’s tech workers earned an annual average wage of $110,200 (ranked third among all states), 125 percent more than the state’s average private sector wage. Washington also has one of the highest concentrations of tech workers in the nation, with 8.2 percent of its private sector workforce in tech, the fifth highest concentration nationwide.

Robert Half Technology says that 15 percent of Seattle-area technology executives expect to expand their IT teams in the first half of the year, compared to 8 percent in the previous quarter. In addition, 74 percent plan to fill open IT roles. In the same survey, 64 percent of Seattle CIOs felt confident in their firms’ investment in IT projects at the going in to 2014.

“We are not expecting a significant change in hiring patterns in 2014 for the greater Seattle area,” says Randstad’s Doton. “The demand for IT talent has not slowed during the past few months, and our clients’ resource planning for next year remains just as aggressive.”

Leading Industries

  • Telecom
  • Aerospace
  • E-commerce
  • Software Development
  • Healthcare

Local Employment and Research Resources

14 Responses to “In Seattle, Demand for Tech Workers is Insatiable”

  1. I wonder as well. I have some skills in C#/.NET development thought it is not my primary skill set, that being mainframe/COBOL. While I have steered away from Amazon and Microsoft due to those being high energy places to work, I have applied at plenty of other companies. Yet I can’t seem to get past the recruiter (at least the recruiter never calls me) and to the development team. They just can’t seem, possibly?, to see past my experience in the mainframe world and recognize that much of the thought process is the same regardless of which environment one works in. Of course I also wonder because so many of the job postings seem to have an alphabet soup list of skills, and some of them would appear to be such that if you have one, you probably don’t have the other because they are competing technologies. Old ploy, make the job impossible to fill stateside, then offshore or bring someone on an h1b visa.

    • Please take this comment in the friendly spirit intended. It seems pretty clear why you aren’t getting any interview opportunities..

      * All hiring managers want ONLY high energy candidates. Recruiters know this.
      * For a C#/.NET gig, recruiters want someone who says they are C#/.NET primary.
      * Even to this 50+ year old, your post says old, tired, and bitter.

      COBOL and mainframes were dead & obsolete long before Y2K temporarily revived it 15 years ago. IT managers don’t want to hear about COBOL any more than they want to hear ancient anecdotes about magnetos. When I’ve hired developers with 20+ years experience, I only pick people with ENERGY and FLEXIBILITY and CURRENT skills.

      If you want any interviews (let alone gigs) I suggest a make-over. Prove that you’re an EXPERT in C#/.NET with TONS of relevant experiences and UNLIMITED and DEDICATED energy. If asked, that old timey COBOL/Mainframe experience is REALLY helpful to generate AWESOME code today, but you don’t want to talk about that. You REALLY want to talk about what you can do for THIS client and how EXCITED and ENTHUSIASTIC you are..

      Or you can retire to the glue factory.

      • Fred Bosick

        We’re trying to be hired in IT, not become cheerleaders.

        In 10-20 years, after the cheap workers from China, India, and Eastern Europe are exploited and depleted, Africa is said to be the next locale for economic expansion. Your last IT job will end when some young and fresh faced manager from Cameroon regretfully informs you that you’re no longer enthusiastic enough to stay on. Here’s *your* ticket to the glue factory!

        Mainframes today run lots more than legacy COBOL. Regardless of platform, the same problems need to be solved.

        • You’ll likely have to do a un-paid project in C#. Fortunately for me I know a guy who is always scheming to get into computers and he has given me lots of ideas for apps to write.
          Write a C# app with aspx and wcf and mysql, host it on GoDaddy, demo it in the interview.
          People who do not know anything will say things like you are supposedly a bitter person, ignore all them and their foolishness.
          Believe me, you want to be on THE latest C# stuff. I remember back when they re-named web services to WCF. The clock on how much experience I had with web services was set back to ZERO, as far as interviewers were concerned. I had to put an app up on Godadday showing WCF.

  2. To answer your question, it is a VERY HIGH rate of H1B employees as opposed to the citizens.
    Coming from Microsoft, I am exposed to the, to say the least, overwhelming amount of H1B (mainly Indian and Chinese) workforce being pushed, and even a little bit of a bias when it comes to hiring. Indian managers will hire Indian peers and the team will grow in a similar manner.
    Expedia offloads a good portion of their development to former CIS countries like Ukraine and Belarus (EPAM systems).
    Amazon is somewhat of a fair game, and does emply a ton of people, but their motto is sort of a “you better be thankful for working for us, for a less-than-desired salary”. They have a high turnover rate.
    In any case, it’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know, and here, in Seattle area, that plays a huge role.

      • Josh, I have gone through an interview there, which I got strictly based on my connection with a person, who worked for Amazon (internal reference). Went through the interviews and the last interview with a H1B person, who would have been my peer, which I swear I absolutely aced, turned out in a negative feedback with no reasoning. I later found out his university peer, who was also on H1B, was hired. There you have it…

        • Don’t worry about the feedback, because of mistakes and grudges this kind of thing happens a lot with the feedback, I myself have been fed back that I was a complete idiot many times, unfairly, just re-assure the person who got you the interview that you made a reasonable effort.

  3. Very glad to hear that Microsoft has decided to stop abusing and terrorizing its employees with the “stacked ranking” system. Honeywell, you listening, or are you going to have to wait until GE drops it too?

  4. I have been working part time as a contractor for Microsoft as a PC Tech on and off, I’ve also worked at Boeing as a Desktop Support Tech also as a contractor, and I just finished a month long project for Liberty Mutual as a Server Auditor. My problem isn’t finding work, it’s just finding something that pays more than 14-17 an hour! Living in Washington is not cheap, it’s right up there with living in California, so I don’t understand where they get these numbers from to pay people? But, yes I have noticed they are asking for a ridiculous amount of certifications and experience for lower level jobs. I love it when they advertise it as being an entry level job but they want 3-5 years of experience and some sort of certification to go along with it!