Salt Lake City employers, like those in most areas of the country, say they have more tech jobs available than the local talent pool can fill. And as with other regions, Salt Lake City’s metro area has unique demands that make some of those skills more valuable than others.
From a tech pro’s point of view, one of the things Utah has going for it is growth. “Utah has grown into one of the most recognized places to work in technology, particularly in ‘Silicon Slopes,’” observed Cathy Donahoe, vice president of Human Resources at Domo, a data-management tool provider just outside of Provo.
Billion-dollar companies such as Qualtrics, Pluralsight and InsideSales (not to mention dozens of tech startups) are all competing for tech pros within a 50-mile radius, she said. As a result, “the demand for skilled technical workers to fill positions at these companies is at an all-time high.”
But exactly what kind of tech talent do employers need? Utah companies want engineers, and they’re particularly interested in those with mobile and cloud experience. UX designers and product managers with software industry experience are also hard to find, Donahoe added.
JD Conway, the head of talent acquisition for HR tech solutions provider BambooHR in Lindon, agreed, noting that Swift in particular “seems to be a fast-moving new demand.” React Native is also “on the rise, though time will tell whether it will remain in demand or be another technology that becomes a proverbial flash in the pan.” Whatever happens, mobile developers can clearly command high salaries.
When it comes to back-end development, “cloud skills are also significantly in demand and that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon,” Trionfo said.
Conway agrees with that need for cloud pros: “Anyone with .NET experience will always be able to find a new place to work, while Java shops are plentiful in the Salt Lake and Utah Valleys.” He believes in widespread hunger for PHP and Python experts, thanks to growth in the Internet of Things (IoT); many companies that stuck with these languages are now hitting high-growth modes.
Driving this demand is a rising number of area tech companies that are developing consumerized, mobile-driven solutions, often tied to powerful cloud components. “Mobile web and native apps, plus a strong browser experience, are generally demanded by the consumer,” Trionfo observed. “Exceptions exist, where one or more of those experiences don’t apply to the product or service, but in general customers want access to you the way they want it.”
Looking Out of Town
The demand is great enough for more employers to seek candidates outside of the region, tech executives say. The hunt for tech pros who are “the right fit” does “include attracting people who don’t currently live in Utah,” Donahoe said. Despite a number of industry and government efforts underway to increase the size of the region’s tech workforce, “we are acutely aware that there is not enough talent to support the demand.”
Although numerous local coding campuses are pumping new developers into the job market, that pipeline is barely keeping up with demand. According to Conway, this is because these new graduates come “with a huge variance in skill level.” Most of the grads are entry-level, so the companies that hire them are usually either enterprises with large development teams capable of mentoring them, or startups “who jump on the lower salaries and give the desired experience these entry-level folks are looking for.”
“How strongly can I emphasize that no, we don’t have enough talent here,” Trionfo said. “I have had difficulty finding quality talent for over a decade and that need isn’t going away soon.”
However, efforts to build up the tech community are beginning to pay off—and salaries are on the rise. “Recently at a conference in LA, I learned our salaries here are rivaling, and often exceeding, those there,” Trionfo added. “Because of this, we’ve set ourselves up to support remote developers, and that’s worked out well for us.”
Still, hiring developers from out-of-state is only part of the solution. “In some ways, [we’re] busting at the seams as entrepreneurs and innovators continue to drive demand on our resources,” Trionfo explained. “Many initiatives here from government to the private sector are trying to solve this shortage, yet the problem remains. In my opinion, the demand of tech talent will continue to outstrip the supply for quite some time.”