Tech on a hiring spree, though talent is hard to get

Survey shows more than half of city’s tech companies plan to increase staff by at least 20% this year
It’s good to be king, the saying goes. But right now, being an engineer in New York might be better.

According to a new survey of hiring trends, the city’s economy is growing so fast that 80% of tech companies will be adding engineering staff this year, with 53% increasing their tech workforce by more than 20%.

Perhaps even more surprising for a city that has long had an inferiority complex over its tech talent pool, half of the 80 companies that took part in the survey were confident they could find the product and web engineers they need in New York. The rest were worried about having enough staff to continue to innovate, and will be looking in Silicon Valley, Boston and Seattle.

“The good news here is that a lot of companies are hiring, and they’re looking for technical balance,” said Julie Samuels, executive director of the trade group Tech:NYC, which worked on the survey with Accenture. “For a long time, if you worked in tech, there were forces pushing you to the West Coast. But now, if you’re interested in the things New York has to offer, there is plenty of opportunity here.”

Among the things New York has, the survey found, are diverse people, cultural and entertainment attractions, and industries.

“Just for testing their products, there’s a much broader ecosystem,” said Lynn McMahon, office managing director for Accenture’s New York Metro region.

The city has also benefited from its investment in computer education, with the recently opened Cornell Tech campus now turning out a steady stream of graduates, and NYU Tandon and the CUNY system stepping up efforts.

Some companies that took part in the survey say it remains hard to find senior-level engineers in the city, but that they’ve found ways around the shortage, including training junior people themselves.

“We embed them in teams with the senior people,” said Martin Brodbeck, chief technology officer at Shutterstock, which provides a platform for the sale of images and music. The company now hires eight to 10 Cornell Tech graduates a year.

“We are looking to expand to more universities,” he added.

Other companies that are finding the talent they need in New York say the density of the city and its extensive networking groups make it a relatively easy place to recruit.

“It is better than anywhere in the world when it comes to opportunities to network,” said Joy Sybesma, chief people officer at ad-tech company Kargo. “Having our head engineer go to a meetup and do a presentation on data science is a more productive use of time than sending him to a career fair.”

More than 40% of companies surveyed said artificial intelligence is a top hiring priority this year, and close to a third thought they’d have a hard time finding AI expertise.

— Matthew Flamm, www.crainsnewyork.com

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