Salt Lake City’s Most In-Demand Tech Skills

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.

“I’ve seen recently that Javascript, iOS (Swift), and Android (Java) are in demand continually and growing,” said Mike Trionfo, CTO of Homie, a Draper-based company that maintains a platform for automating real estate transactions. “We use all of these tech skills and we also use .NET.”

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.

In terms of JavaScript, the “MVC framework wars have calmed,” Conway observed. Companies were desperately seeking “experts,” which was unrealistic considering the relative newness of such frameworks (and created challenges for front-end developers who had to guess which frameworks would survive). “Now I’m seeing more and more companies asking for general background and experience in JavaScript frameworks, but not necessarily expertise in any particular tool,” he said.

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.”

Comments

6 Responses to “Salt Lake City’s Most In-Demand Tech Skills”

November 01, 2017 at 11:28 am, Steve said:

Salt Lake City and Utah have a few problems: for me, the first problem is climate, which is also why I gave up on Colorado after many years: I got tired of the cold snowy weather all the time, and generally having to hemorrhage money several months out of the year just to keep from freezing-to-death. That aside, the location also has a stigma, which may no longer be true, but I don’t see anything that really counters it: essentially, if you aren’t a ‘Mormon’, everyone and every institution there treats you like a 4th-class citizen.

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November 01, 2017 at 12:38 pm, Carl said:

I find it interesting how the tech industry is always crying about how hard it is to find people yet they do not hire entry level or junior level skill sets. Another ignored source is older workers (those over 40) that already know how to learn and understand where the tech came from but may not know the company’s tech stack. Instead they rely on government to train new students (with no real experience either) and make wailing cries for the government to open the doors to more visas from overseas. The real problem is they do not wish to invest and build their own tech workforce.

There are plenty of people with the base skills and experience in Utah to cover a portion of the shortage, but the same companies cited waste no time in shunning the resource pool right in front of their face. I know of many people that would love the opportunity to pivot into a new tech stack, but they are shunned because they are not the purple squirrel the hiring manager or the applicant tracking system is looking for. I know of many product managers that have to look outside of Utah for jobs because they worked on smaller software projects and not Google scaled solutions. Not everyone wants to work for Google. I don’t. But very frustrating to hear how there is a so-called shortage of talent when they will not even entertain those without a pedigree of large companies in the experience profile nor those with some experience and skill that could easily ramp up and be productive with just a little more time than than the so-called expert from “Big Brand X”.

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November 02, 2017 at 6:32 am, Jeff said:

I definitely agree with Carl. Companies are seeing a shortage because they are looking for unicorns in a sea of horses. They are relying on HR and Tech recruiters that have no idea how to spot an amazing horse that could have a horn glued to its head.

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November 02, 2017 at 2:47 pm, Bryan said:

After an extended (over a year) period of unemployment; with a bachelor degree in Computer Science, and already having worked low-end, low paying tech jobs for several years; I’ve come to the conclusion that the “employers” that have been crying about a desperate need for people with tech skills are lying, and that it’s time to move on to something outside of tech.

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November 02, 2017 at 11:08 am, Mitchell Praag said:

I 100 percent agree with the above two posts. I am currently a junior level developer and I do some freelance projects. I see the qualifications that are required for an entry or mid-level position, 5 + years, in development and a number of other things I will never be able to gain without getting a job.

How am I supposed to get a start in the industry if nobody is willing to take the time, invest in entry-level employees and teach them the skills they need to be successful in the position.

Utah has the tech talent, people just need to take time, invest and help that talent mature and grow.

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November 03, 2017 at 12:31 pm, Gabriel Lobo-Blanco said:

Although I do agree with the previous posts, that is only part of the picture. I have been working in I.T for over 30 years. I have over 20 years experience with Oracle, RAC, and Datagard, I also have experience with Java, Agile, Spring, Sybase and others. However, when I get the interviews, the salaries offered are extremely disappointing. I have companies offer me as low a $25/hr on a 1099 basis. However, I do have a home, and a family that I need to help with college. With a salary this low, I can’t afford to do anything else. Sometimes I have though that if there is the opportunity for OT I could manage the difference, However, companies don’t want to pay for the OT. I am sorry to say, but companies are only interested on the cheap labor that H-1B can provide. I rather work as a truck driver making $80,000/year than work for these companies. In spite of these all, companies continue to say there is a lack of talent in the area. What a bunch of horse radish.

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