Ideal Employers in Cutting-Edge Technology

Tech professionals know that a high degree of specialization can translate into an astronomical salary and generous perks. The tech ecosystem is rampant with stories of A.I. and autonomous-driving specialists receiving multi-million-dollar salaries and bonuses, and even tech pros who keep their development and data-analytics skills up-to-date can expect high compensation (not to mention a good deal of job security).

When it comes to the companies pushing into these exciting, cutting-edge areas, Google is winning the perception wars: the technology professionals who responded to our Ideal Employer survey put the search-engine giant at the forefront of desirable companies to work for in the areas of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, connected home, cloud, chatbots, and cybersecurity.

Is that perception earned? Google is indeed an incredible cloud innovator, although Amazon Web Services (AWS) remains the market leader in providing cloud-based server capacity to businesses and individual developers (Amazon was a close second on the ‘cloud’ portion of the list). Google has also made great strides in artificial intelligence, although many of its advances manifest in ways largely invisible to consumers: when you search for a term or product, you likely have no idea of the machine-learning algorithms powering your results.

However, augmented reality is a great example of a company’s sterling reputation overriding the reality. Although Google has experimented with augmented reality technologies, it’s playing catch-up with Microsoft (which drew buzz with the HoloLens, its powerful augmented-reality headset) and Apple (which recently released ARKit, a framework that allows developers to create augmented-reality experiences for the iPhone and iPad).

It’s a similar situation with connected home. Google nailed the lead in that category among our respondents, and its Nest subsidiary (which produces “smart” smoke alarms and other devices) has certainly popularized the idea of Web-connected appliances. But there’s an argument to be made that other firms have matched or surpassed its advances. For instance, Amazon’s Echo device is a massive bestseller, and, if everything goes according to the e-commerce monolith’s plan, a galaxy of devices and appliances will feature its Alexa digital assistant in coming years. (In its latest update, Alexa offers “Routines,” which allow the connected home to do many separate things in response to a single command, such as turn off the lights while locking the house’s doors.)

What conclusions can we draw from this data? A company’s culture and reputation can make it seem like a leader in categories where it’s actually just one of many competitors, or even lagging behind. (Chatbots are yet another example of this—Microsoft and Facebook have done much of the pioneering work in this nascent category, yet both lag behind Google and Amazon on this list.) That’s a powerful lesson for companies looking to establish themselves as a flagship brand.