The Central Oregon Developer Shortage
After featuring many local tech startups in this column, it became clear that executive leadership was finding a gap when trying to hire developers to execute their vision. Last column featured Hueya, Inc. a local startup making waves with their approach to internet security, preventative services rather than reactive.
Post-interview Lewis Howell, founder and CEO of Hueya, Inc. shared, “We were super excited to be a featured startup in Cascade Business News this past issue. I answered the question, many tech based companies in Central Oregon have mentioned finding developers as their greatest challenge, is there a developer shortage in our region? in tandem with our lead developer, Ryan Palo. When I reviewed Palo’s responses, I realized that the voice of the developer is the voice that has been missing from conversations about recruiting developers to our area.”
This issues’ startup article aims to highlight insights from developers themselves on addressing the hottest tech startup question, is there a local developer shortage?
Howell urges tech startup leadership to, “tune into the voice of the developer and change the perspective. By doing this, we can change the outcome.”
When asked about the notion of a local developer shortage, Jeff Hazel, senior software engineer for G5 and OSU Cascades faculty professor, notes there are more jobs for developers than there are developers to fill them throughout the country, the gap isn’t limited to Central Oregon. As a senior software engineer for G5 who moonlights as faculty at OSU-Cascades in computer science, Hazel explains, “I’ve seen estimates that by 2020 there will be one developer for every three plus openings nationwide.”
Hazel believes companies are meeting current developer gaps with a combination of fighting hard for local talent (by offering competitive salaries/benefits/remote work, etc) and outsourcing. “The work lends itself to collaboration across continents. This is actually a very interesting part of the immigration debate as well, since we as a country fall pretty well behind other countries at churning out good and competent developers and don’t make it as easy as we could for them to come here.”
Michael Dalby, senior software engineer for Open Sky Software believes, “the real [local]challenge isn’t finding developers, it’s finding qualified ones. A lot of people just don’t have the skill set or experience.” He says Open Sky Software is close to 50/50 on developers hired from within Central Oregon verses outside the area.
Benjamin Gagosian, co-founder and CTO of Portland startup Vivor chimes in sharing, per capita, “There aren’t that many software companies based in Central Oregon. This could be concerning for seasoned developers valuing job security.”
He notes this as the crux deterrent in his own considerations over the years for relocating to Bend.
To boot, Gagosian says mature prospects, “might be coming from an area where the average salary for a software engineer is much higher than the current rate in Bend. Using www.glassdoor.com as a reference point for salaries, many developers will see that Bend rates are as much as $10,000-20,000 less than Portland, Seattle and San Francisco.”
For newer graduates, Gagosian notes, “they are courted by San Francisco, Seattle and Portland and don’t generally think of Central Oregon as a hub for companies. Surveying Craigslist for job openings in software related fields posted in the last week I see the following: 80 in Seattle, 30 postings in Portland and three postings for Bend.”
Combine with lower salaries, Dalby mentions prohibitively expensive housing as a challenge for companies attempting to attract outside developers. Though Hazel says the relatively low cost of living in general could be an attractive variable.
Speaking to what potentially motivates developers, all three surveyed immediately pointed to problem solving. Dalby summed up all queried saying, “I’m not interested in projects that are easy or ones that won’t be around in five years. I used to be motivated to climb that corporate ladder with everyone else, but now I just want to go into work every day and legitimately love what I do.”
Hazel added he appreciates opportunities to be creative, to geek out and the flexibility for work/play in a developers roll.
To gain access to more developers, Gagosian advises companies to:
1. Attend more career fares at Oregon Universities
2. Foster internship programs through OSU Cascades
3. The community should start a website like http://portlandtech.org/
4. The Technical Association of Oregon just opened up an office in Central Oregon. Get involved. Encourage your employees to attend events and create an awesome tech community. This is what will draw future talent.
Proposing earlier intervention, Hazel jokes, “Give kids LEGOs and wait 10 years. He adds, “Educate them. Grow them from within. Support education and exposure at every level. I feel strongly about trying to make the field more accessible to everyone, most especially women. I think that if we could start today with a concerted effort to bring more young people into the fold, we would solve so many more problems than just the Bend developer shortage.”
Special thanks to Ryan Palo for organizing developer input on this pertinent matter.