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Not Coming to America: Nearly 40% of Engineers in Canada and Mexico Would Rather Not Move to the US

  • Terminal’s new research finds cost and quality of life issues are deterring engineers from moving to Silicon Valley
  • 70% of engineers who don’t want to come to the US need $100K+ salary bump to change their mind

Terminal, a company that builds world-class remote engineering teams for high growth tech companies, announced their inaugural Engineer 2020: Solving The Tech Talent Shortage Report. The research, commissioned by Terminal, aims to benchmark and offer insights into the market outlook of engineers in Mexico and Canada to give tech companies greater insight into how to recruit and build high-performing remote engineering teams. In exploring a wide swath of topics ranging from the tech talent shortage to salary perceptions, a consistent theme surfaced that’s imperative for growing technology companies to address: Canadian and Mexican engineers alike believe there are cracks in the armor of American dominance as a global tech hub.

Simply resistible?
There are signs that US-based tech companies no longer have the deck stacked in their favor to lure talent to their physical offices.

  • Thirty-nine percent of Canadian and Mexican engineers surveyed would rather not move to the US.
  • Quality of life concerns are major blockers. Of the engineers who said they don’t want to move to the US, the top reasons included the high cost of living (90%), daily frustrations like traffic and parking (45%), preferring their current community (46%) and immigration issues (40%).
  • Moreover, those who said they don’t want to move to the US are hard to convince – 70% would need a salary boost of $100K or more to move.

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Real ramifications
Two out of three engineers think there is a talent shortage, with repercussions impacting all aspects of their experience, from career growth to company success to broader innovation.

  • Engineers concerned about the tech talent shortage said it stifles technical development (55%), stunts innovation (25%), cedes leadership to other companies (11%) and holds back societal improvements (8%).
  • They also believe it impacts their personal careers; nearly half said the shortage overworks software engineers and more than 45% said it limits their ability to grow.

Rewiring recruiting
Changing priorities for engineers means businesses need to rethink their recruiting strategy to attract a broader pool of global talent.

  • The critical route to find engineers–and solve the tech talent shortage–is broken. A whopping 90 percent of engineers had at least one issue with the job interview process. Top gripes include disorganization (70%), being interviewed by people who don’t understand (66%), long delays (66%), too many rounds of interviews (58%) and generic/uncustomized interviews (39%).
  • Engineers felt companies should look beyond degrees which often dominate recruiting wishlists. When asked how they acquired the skills they value and rely on most during their job day-to-day, three in four engineers (74%) said they were self-taught–the top response. Conversely, just 29% cited a degree, 10% said a technical certificate and 5% referenced boot camp.

Remote work reality
More companies are embracing that the future of work is remote, but going remote comes with a new set of challenges that companies must address.

  • The majority of engineers who say they don’t work in their companies headquarters instead work alone remotely from home (55%). Others work from a satellite office (27%), shared office space like a WeWork (8%), coffee shop (3%) or other (8%).
  • Engineers reported serious shortfalls working in a different physical location from headquarters. Nearly 45% say the lack of day to day in-person interactions, 35% cite not feeling part of a team, 30% worry about lack of visibility into their career development, and 22% feel isolated or lonely.

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Understanding today’s engineers
Engineers in Canada and Mexico offered insights on key topics ranging from pay and benefits to the future of innovation, providing fresh insights on what it takes to excite the professionals working in the heart of innovation.

  • Money matters most: 27% rank pay as the most important factor they consider when choosing a company. Additionally, nearly half of engineers (45%) say they’re underpaid and only 10% said overpaid–largely due to comparisons to US engineer salaries.
  • Balancing stability and risk: Large companies are perceived as offering stability (87%), strong salary (60%), killer benefits (59%), and mentorship (45%) while early-stage startups are viewed as offering more opportunities to make an impact (54%) and create something new (79%). The most desired stage of a company to work at is a late-stage startup / pre-IPO company (44%), likely because it’s a good compromise between the prior two.
  • AI is the future: The area of software development that most engineers think has the most potential to reshape society and business is machine learning and artificial intelligence (70%). Number two: biotech and healthcare (39%).
  • More engineers learn on the job: three in four engineers (74%) say that the skills they value the most and rely on most heavily during their job day-to-day are self-taught. 40% say they’ve obtained skills working at startups, 34% say working in big tech, 34% from online training or schools like Lambda
  • Talk the talk: On average, today’s engineers are skilled in three coding languages and 87% of engineers are multilingual when it comes to coding. Engineers are split on what language is the most important to know as a software engineer for the future. Twenty-nine percent selected JavaScript while 29% selected Python.

“Tech companies can no longer ignore that the once-sacrosanct dream of moving to the US to lead the next generation of innovation is fading,” said Clay Kellogg, CEO of Terminal. “Moreover, the tech talent shortage means it’s harder to innovate and makes life harder on engineers who are already in the trenches. US tech companies seeking to scale their business must adjust their strategy and find creative ways to attract and keep global talent no matter where they live.”

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