Tech hiring in Seattle, already strong, received a boost this year from tech firms looking for experts in virtual and augmented reality platforms.
Microsoft, for example, is hiring aggressively to support the development and production of its HoloLens augmented-reality headset, which overlays holograms on the user’s surroundings. Meanwhile, Facebook subsidiary Oculus VR, which plans on releasing its much-publicized VR headset early next year, is on the hunt for people to staff its facility in Redmond, Wash. And Valve Corporation, busy developing a virtual reality platform alongside HTC, wants to add to its tech ranks in Bellevue, Wash.
Bob Berry, CEO of Envelop VR, which develops ways for businesses to use VR, suggests that the Seattle area has become a player in virtual reality: “It’s the perfect market because we have so many video game companies here, which means a wealth of real-time 3D graphics talent.”
Although some might question whether VR will live up to its hype, Berry argues that 2015 is a turning point for the technology: “We’ve finally reached the confluence of maturing technologies at the right time to deliver presence—where your brain actually thinks you’re somewhere else—without the motion sickness that has affected earlier attempts.”
Venture-capital firms have certainly bought into the concept. Rebecca Lovell, startup advocate for Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, noted that local funding of VR startups is on the uptick, helping drive hiring: “From an investor perspective, Ignition Partners recently raised a new $200 million fund, and they’ve expressed interest in the sector, as has Paul Allen’s Vulcan.”
Companies on the Lookout
When it comes to the skills most valued by companies on the lookout for VR talent, some key ones stand out. Microsoft, for example, wants software engineers, data-analytics engineers, user experience professionals, and UX designers working on its HoloLens. Valve has openings for VR engineers who specialize in everything from user interfaces and human-computer interaction to 3D graphics and vision science.
Smaller startups want pros with similar skill sets, including UX designers who specialize in interactions with 3D environments, as well as developer-relations experts.
Shannon Swift, CEO of Swift HR Solutions, emphasized that Seattle startups always want people with quality engineering expertise: “In the past, companies only wanted developers with a very narrow set of skills,” she said. “Now they’re also looking for people who are more versatile and with a broader set of skills.”
Jobs in Demand
According to CompTIA’s “Cyberstates 2015,” the top occupations with job openings in the Seattle metro area are:
- Software Developers, Applications
- Business Intelligence Analysts
- Computer Systems Analysts
- Web Developers
- Computer User Support Specialists
Employers in the Seattle metro area are having a particularly hard time finding network systems engineers, software architects, data scientists, mobile app developers, and UX designers, said Michael Schutzler, CEO of the Washington Technology Industry Association.
While it’s no surprise that developers and designers are in high demand in Seattle, Lovell also noted a surprising uptick in sales hires: “This is in keeping with Seattle’s trend toward enterprise solutions, where sophisticated business development professionals are in demand.”
The 2015-2014 Dice Salary Survey lists the average salary for a Seattle tech professional at $99,423, up 4.6 percent from the previous year. (Seattle placed second in the ranking of top tech metro areas by average salary.)
Schutzler noted that Seattle salaries are trending upward, with candidates enjoying the benefit of a very tight job market: “It’s an embarrassment of riches.”
Data from the 2015 Washington Technology Industry Association “Information & Communication Technology Economic and Fiscal Impact Study” showed computer and information systems managers earned the most of all tech professionals in the Seattle metro area, with an annual median wage of $140,990. Computer and information research scientists and computer programmers earned $127,040 and $115,050, respectively.
Leading Companies and Industries
The Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County lists Microsoft as the metro area’s second largest employer. Amazon placed fifth in the rankings.
According to the Washington Technology Industry Association, the major tech industries in Seattle are as follows:
- Software Publishing
- Business Services
- Electronic Retail