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How the Coronavirus changes the job market for software engineers

Hack Reactor

How does the Coronavirus change the job market for software engineers?

By Brittany Anas for Hack Reactor

The coronavirus has thrust the economy into a recession, and one that’s unprecedented as it’s led by the service and hospitality industries. While there’s still no clear route to economic recovery, tech leaders predict that, with some exceptions, software engineering jobs will remain stable and some tech sectors may even experience growth, which is promising for coding bootcamp graduates who are entering the market or looking to gain a competitive edge in the job market.

As you search for a job or complete a coding bootcamp online, you may be curious as to whether remote work will become a new norm, even after a COVID-19 vaccine is developed or as some people begin returning to work in offices. Experts say you should certainly be braced for interview questions about how you maintain productivity and collaborate with team members while working from home.  

Ahead, is what you need to know about how COVID-19 is affecting software engineering jobs, everything from hiring outlooks to the future of remote work.

Job outlook is still strong—especially in some niches

Tech companies are absolutely still hiring, says Lauren Hasson, founder of DevelopHer, a platform that helps women in tech build standout careers.

“In fact, there is high demand for hiring and low supply of engineers in a number of fields like security,” Hasson says. Security is an especially relevant field for software engineers right now because of the rise in security attacks that have coincided with people being more  digitally dependent during COVID-19. 

“Not only does having in-demand skills (like security) mean lots of opportunities to get hired, it also means you can even get a premium for your skills,” she says.

In some areas of the country, tech councils are taking a pulse on the industry in their particular regions. 

The Greater Nashville Technology Council, for instance, polled 195 of its member companies, representing 111,199 full-time and 9,226 part-time employees. 

The majority are not laying off employees  (86% have seen no change in employee headcount), and a significant amount (31%) are hiring, according to the council, which is an advocate for Middle Tennessee’s $7.5-billion emerging tech sector.

Companies that are hiring now are looking to gain a competitive edge, says tech executive consultant Aviv Ben-Yosef.

But, if you’re looking for a job in this current market, bring your salary negotiating skills.

“Many know that due to increased supply—more engineers looking for jobs than normally, and less companies hiring—they can get better talent without the mandatory salary bump in some cases,” Ben-Yosef says. 

Virtual recruiting and virtual onboarding may have some staying power, predicts Jacob Share, a former IT professional who became a job search expert and created the JobMob blog. 

Even in the near future, Share says he expects to see companies limit office visits only to the candidates most likely to be hired, as opposed to all interviewees in the past.

Software engineers have an edge in a virtual hiring process as they’re accustomed to taking tests online as part of an application process, Share says. Now, the interview process will likely be via video chats.

His recommendation? Join an international open-source project, initially as a bug hunter. 

“It will force you to learn how to work and collaborate remotely from people who have been doing it for years, you'll make new contacts who can refer you to jobs later, and you'll get volunteer experience that you can add to your resume and use to demonstrate your skills in job interviews,” Share says.

Are software engineering jobs recession-proof?

The short answer as to whether software engineering jobs are recession-proof: It varies by industry. But, software engineers are faring far better than other professions amid the COVID-19 pandemic and appear to be much less affected by the tumultuous economic climate we’re facing.

CareerExplorer, a platform that helps people find ideal careers, released findings from a COVID-19 survey that shows almost all careers have been negatively impacted due to the pandemic. 

In general, 20% of users have reported losing jobs as a result of the outbreak. However, software engineers are less hard hit, with only a 5% job loss. Also, 48% of all users polled reported feeling concerned about job security, but only 31% of software engineers shared the sentiment.

Most software development jobs should be fine because of the fact that the roles can be done anywhere, explains Matt McHugh, Exelaration Vice President for Mentoring and Growth at NextUp Solutions, which specializes in agile training. But, software engineers who work with industries that are affected by social distancing measures—such as restaurants and hotels—have less job security.

Development jobs for technology companies, especially those who are providing products and services that are always necessary and in-demand, should be stable, McHugh says. Government jobs should also provide some stability, particularly since we've seen evidence of some critical government systems needing extra support and modernization right now, such as state unemployment systems, he says. 

“Another industry that might see some stability, eventually, is software consulting services,” he says. “As companies that have downsized start to recover and scale back up, they may need developers quickly.” These companies may be hiring on a contract basis as they may not be able to invest in permanent positions. 

Of course, software engineers could also be in demand as more companies rely on technology to keep their remote workforce connected.

Remote work could potentially become a new norm

Tech leaders we interviewed stopped short of saying work-from-home will become the new norm, but they do sense remote work will increase in popularity. 

With the prevalence of high-speed Internet connections, remote video conferencing tools, and online project and task boards, there’s very little reason software developers can’t work from anywhere in the world, McHugh says.  

Companies that continue to embrace work post-pandemic might also find several advantages, including a larger candidate pool, and not having to pay for relocation costs. They will also save on office space, he says.

“Companies that previously fought the idea of remote work will struggle to keep or find employees if they continue to hold that line, especially after their developers have spent months proving they can be effective from home,” he says. 

If you’re a new software engineer entering the job market, you should be prepared to answer not just technical questions, but also how your remote work habits lend to your productivity and how you excel in collaborating, even if you’re not in an office with other team members. For those interested in giving remote education a try, check out Hack Reactor’s online coding bootcamp.