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Talent Trends in the Chicago Technology Market

Posted on December 2020 By The Selby Jennings Chicago Technology Recruitment Team

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2020 has provided us many twists and turns which has taught us how to adapt to our new “normal.” Ranging from extreme market volatility, indefinite remote interviewing, onboarding, and work, a huge push for a diverse workforce, and an increased need for technology, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated change and growth across the tech industry.

Hiring During Covid-19

In the beginning of the pandemic, markets were able to function as much of the workforce transitioned to working remotely. With the on-going pandemic, protests across the country, and presidential election, firms that held their position noticed substantial returns and have exceeded performance.

Despite extreme market volatility, most buy-side firms held a great position amidst the volatility and sell-side organizations were able to adapt immediately. Most importantly, the need for strong technology and engineering teams became even more apparent as global workforces transitioned to new, flexible work environments. We have seen from both Fintech and sell-side companies the need for strong technologists and hiring has continued throughout the duration of the pandemic. The need for support functions, alongside continued need for strong developers, was apparent as technology teams adapted to this new normal and looked to move forward.

Demand for Talent

Across software development, data engineering, and infrastructure technology engineering – including Systems Engineering, Site Reliability and DevOps, FPGA and Hardware Engineering, Network, Telecommunications and Trade Support – we’re seeing a spike in demand across these disciplines, alongside a decline in supply of talent. We’ve noticed a move away from physical, on-premises environments to the cloud due to remote working. In particular, the need for talent that can implement infrastructure as code and couple their systems skillset with programming skills only continues to heighten. The demand for developers specializing for in low-latency programming has been key for systematic or quantitative trading firms and most asset management firms in order to stay competitive.

Many firms across fintech and both the sell-side and buy-side have shifted to targeting out of industry talent to meet demand for these roles (particularly coming out of “Big Tech,” defense, or start-up industries). On the flip side, “Big Tech” companies have been dangling the option of permanent remote work for engineers and it remains to be seen how the financial industry will look at remote work over the long-term.

Adapting the Hiring Process

Indefinite remote work has become the new phrase that buy-side, sell-side and fintech firms are using when bringing on new talent. It has allowed candidates to feel comfortable knowing that they can work remotely while waiting for the pandemic to end. “Big Tech” pay cuts or delayed promotions have motivated technologists to consider leaving Silicon Valley to consider working remotely in cities with a lower cost of living. We have also seen a substantial uptick in compensation packages for these roles as financial services firms compete for this talent. The increase in compensation, coupled with the ability to work remotely for the time being, has kept a stable stream of passive candidate movement in the market. Outside of performance payoffs, retention has generally been great. Where we have seen departures is more on an individual level, say, if a candidate is stimulated by the collaborative aspect of the trading industry and feel silo-ed in their day-to-day.

Interviews have changed beyond the switch from in-person to video call meetings. At first, it came down to coaching candidates on the proper etiquette (look presentable, ensure the room you are interviewing in is neat, avoid household distractions); and coaching hiring managers on how to react to the unusual circumstances because sometimes distractions at home are inevitable. Firms have smoothly transitioned from whiteboarding to online platforms such as CodePair, but keeping to one interview round has become extremely important in a remote setting. While a traditional “onsite” gave each candidate an opportunity to feel out the surroundings, the “team call” portion of an interview has become much more crucial in a candidate’s decision-making process. It is important to train all interviewers, including those who would be peers, to express what a day-in-the life looks like on their teams.

Looking Ahead to 2021

As 2020 comes to an end, discussions with both candidates and clients have provided considerable insight into what to expect for 2021. We are eager to see more movement on the candidate angle as we and our clients focus to further expand diversity recruitment. Firms that employ a diverse workforce with diversified backgrounds report higher rates of collaboration and greater financial returns than their less diverse competitors. The uninterrupted market volatility will continue to drive the demand for technologists and we are excited to see a significant increase of software development and infrastructure technology opportunities as competitive firms have continued to improve their work-from-home practices.

If you are looking to secure talent for your team in this rapidly growing market, get in touchwith the Selby Jennings Chicago Team today.

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