Decade in review: Software developers and cloud architects in demand and well paid

In 2010, U.S. Department of Labor predicted that IT jobs would grow at 22%, faster than average. In 2013, Gartner predicted that public cloud spending would hit $200 billion by 2016. At the start of the decade, there were 62.6 million smartphone users and 140,000 apps in the iOS store. By 2018, smartphone users had hit 257.3 million and there were 2.2 million iOS apps  and 2.6 million Android apps. Windows 10 came out in September of 2014, the Amazon Echo showed up in 2015, and Apple started tracking health stats.

The job and cloud predictions were slightly optimistic. By 2018, Department of Labor analysts had cut the growth rate to 12% for the next decade and cloud spending had only hit $183.4 billion by 2018. Regardless of the forecasts, IT was a great place to be in the 2010s. Developers, database admins, and system architects commanded good salaries and new opportunities. TechRepublic talked to recruiters and looked back at job forecasts to compile this list of the hottest jobs in the last decade.

Emma Liebmann, head of talent acquisition at Collage.com, said that flourishing and enduring come to mind when thinking about the IT job market over the last 10 years. She said not only  had raw numbers gone up but the variety had increased along with specialty skillsets.

"With the increased demand for IT jobs, all types of companies are having to modify their  brands and value propositions specifically to attract highly sought after tech talent, even companies that would not have previously not considered themselves a 'tech company,'" she said.

Software engineers

In 2012, 2015, and 2017, software was at the top of every "hot IT jobs" list. Alexandra Monteiro, vice president of people at OutSystems, said that full-stack developers as well as people experienced in machine learning, cybersecurity, and IoT and were the most difficult to hire.

"Every company today is being defined by its digital strategy, and that trend is fueling massive demand for custom software," she said. "This talent gap is what is fueling the massive growth of low-code development platforms and other developer productivity strategies."

Katie Cox, the director of people operations at SalesLoft, said that the industry preference has shifted from specialists to engineers with a varied skillset.

"Previously, companies were looking for candidates with Java or .Net experience. Now, a 'polyglot' background is much more attractive: IT recruiters look for engineers to have experience in many different languages," she said.

SEE: Low-code platforms: An insider's guide (free PDF)

Cox said that senior and architect-level software engineers had been the hardest positions to fill.

Damien Martin, a marketing executive at Shufti Pro, said that software architects have been at the top of the salary range for the last decade.

*As far as commanding the best salaries go, software architects have remained at the top in the last decade, with an average annual salary of about $130,000," he said.

Mike Collins, an IT recruiting manager at the Addison Group, said that after finding the right candidate, the next challenge is to convince the person to make a move.

"People in these positions know they are in demand given that IT unemployment is at an all-time low and as such, they aren't going to be inclined to take a new role if their salary isn't heightened and if they aren't offered the same or better fringe benefits, such as remote work and flexible scheduling," he said.

Rob Morgenroth, executive vice president at Mason Frank International, said he sees a growing demand for Salesforce developers, based on a survey his company conducts.

"This year we found that while 71% of respondents were Salesforce-certified, only 36% of those were a certified developer," he said. "Clearly this is a prestigious but challenging credential, so we recommend our talent network works toward it, given the skills gap we've observed balanced against the demand for the role in businesses worldwide."

Cloud architects and DevOps experts

As interest in cloud architecture grew, so did the demand for people with cloud experience.  Liebmann said that the hardest roles to fill have been AWS and Azure Cloud architects.

"These positions are hard to fill because they require expertise with legacy systems and expertise with new cutting-edge technologies," she said. "They are increasingly in demand but are not a combination of skills that you can necessarily pick up with the same ease you would with some of the new coding languages like Python."

Cliff Milles, lead technical recruiter at Sungard AS, also said that technical architects experienced with AWS cloud and Mulesoft have been the hardest roles to fill.

Małgorzata Cichoń, a senior recruitment specialist at Netguru, said that DevOps roles are also hard to fill.

"DevOps are often advertised not only as a support inside the organization but also taking care of clients by identifying potential threats and improving internal processes," Cichoń said.

Joe Kotlinski, a partner at the talent acquisition firm WinterWyman, said DevOps/cloud engineers are in the highest demand right now because the role is so new and because so many companies are using cloud technology.

"Because of this, over the last several years, demand for people with this experience continues to explode and capacity simply can't keep pace with the demand," he said.

Kotlinski said it's a great time to be a DevOps/cloud engineer as hiring managers offer raises, six-month bonuses, remote work, and unlimited vacation to attract and retain these professionals.

"The simple fact is these people are usually entertaining four, five or six different offers at the same time," he said. "If you don't want to pay them, one of your competitors will."

Austen Yueh, a technical recruiter at LightStep, said that site reliability engineers (SRE) are the most challenging role to fill at startups in particular.

"Compared to software engineering, the special challenges of a site reliability engineer aren't covered in school, bootcamps, or other typical training programs," he said. "These engineers are the ones dedicated to keeping everything running like butter for the rest of the engineering team."

Cichoń said that managers and team leads are also hard to find.

"We also have difficulty recruiting for typically managerial positions that must combine leadership and human management skills with an extensive knowledge of the subject, such positions are a machine learning engineering manager or product design lead."

What about the next 10 years?

This Udemy 2020 Workplace Learning Trends Report: The Skills of the Future predicts that these skills will be popular in 2020, based on skills that had zero activity in 2018 but surged in 2019:

Liebman recommended that job seekers think about how to align personal values with company values during interviews.

"Many companies are perfectly comfortable with rejecting someone who they don't consider a values fit, no matter how strong their tech skills are, so don't forget to factor values alignment into your search for the right company and to showcase your values in addition to your tech skills," she said.

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