I’ve covered this topic many times before, but I keep coming back to it, because everytime I turn around I’m talking with both startups and established companies in Southern California who are telling me they are looking for technical talent to join their company. My conclusion: if you’re a software engineer, with good technical background and ability, you can pretty much write your own ticket in Southern California. There’s even an opportunity here if you’re not in the area, but would love to tap into the startup opportunities, livestyle, and good weather to be found here.
Why do I say that? Every week, I run across many companies who tell me they’re looking for good referrals of software engineers, and particularly those with a good background in web-based or mobile technology. It’s not just one or two companies; it’s dozens; and it’s every week. Those companies ask me where those folks hang out, where to find them, where to hire them away from, and what to do to get them to join their company.
What’s in demand? For sure, Apple iOS development skills (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch applications); anything web related (particularly, User Interface/UI talents, web front end work, database backend, etc.); cloud computing (Amazon AWS and EC2, etc.) and even bigger, architecture-level talent (particularly software architects who know how to scale a web based service or software). Social media related skills are also big, i.e. Facebook app development, and so on. There’s probably much more.
It’s gotten to the point I’ve even had a few companies tell me if I know of startups who they might buy out–not for their software, but for their talent. It’s also to the point where the best folks (particularly on the architecture area) seem to all be going independent, working as CTO’s for hire or in similar positions. These are the software folks who a few years ago may have been a Director of Software Engineering, VP of Software Engineering, or even just a Software Development Manager — and they’re now running their own companies (usually, a combination of local talent + outsourcing of grunt software work overseas).
On the other hand, I do hear from technical folks complaining that companies aren’t seeing how they match their needs. My answer: yes, folks are looking for experience and certain keywords, but you can fix that. What would I do, if I were a technical person who wanted to take advantage of these opportunities, but my current company is still doing something off the beaten track and you just don’t have the relevant keywords in your current job? Or, what do you do if you’re just coming out of school and all you’ve done is Java coursework?
1. Buy a Mac and get Apple’s iOS development SDK. Build an app, get it into the App Store. Use that as your resume (even if you’re not making money on the app–the point is to show you can create an app). Alternately, do the same for Android.
2. Build a software-as-a-service web site, even just a dead simple one, using the latest technology. In particular, be sure to use the latest Web 2.0+ technologies (interactivity UI etc.). For bonus points, make sure the back end uses Amazon EC2 and S3.
3. Show you can code in any number of popular web technologies, such as Ruby on Rails, PHP, Python, etc. — even with just a demonstration web site, coding up something for a small project or even your local nonprofit or community sports team–wherever you can show your talents.
4. Build a Facebook application or other social networking app. Anything that shows you know the Facebook API and how to create something that is truly social. Social games are an extra bonus, but even simple social marketing/ecommerce apps are good too.
5. Get involved in open source, as much as you can. Get expertise in building out key components being used by companies, make sure you’re visible in key contributions to those projects.
If you’re a skilled technical person, you’re in demand — despite whatever you hear about the economy. The opportunities might be hidden, but given the number of firms who tell me each week (heck, who even list their positions in our job board), it’s a good time for you.