The Myth of The Tech Talent Shortage

February 10th, 2016

tech talent shortage

By Michael Solomon, 10x Management Co-Founder

[Also on Medium]

If you are looking to hire top notch attorneys for $100/hour, you will quickly find there is a tremendous shortage of attorneys. Based on this, you might come to the conclusion that there aren’t enough great attorneys but guess what, there’s no shortage of top-level attorneys as long as you’re willing to pay what the market has deemed them to be worth.

And why do many companies pay over $1000/hr for top attorneys? Because the work they do is too important to entrust to anyone but the best.

The same is true in most sectors but especially in Tech.

In my role as co-founder of 10x Management, I negotiate payment terms for some of the top coders in the world. We place elite technologists (developers, UX/UI, data scientists, etc)  into projects that are simply too important for our customer companies to risk on technologists who don’t have the chops, drive, communication skills or vision to build world-class technology.

We have no trouble placing the world’s best and brightest tech talent at top firms because these companies believe in the old adage: Buy right, buy once. In today’s hyper-competitive business environment, companies don’t have time to source the wrong people. Speed to market has never been more important.

For a long time, top companies like Google and Facebook gobbled up all the top talent in the Valley. Today, the greatest minds in tech seek representation from a company like ours because they want the freedom to work on multiple projects for multiple companies. And they also want to be compensated in accordance with the value they provide.

Is $250/hr a lot for an exceptional senior coder? Not really if you consider that one person can solve harder problems faster and more elegantly than a handful of lesser coders (who might never be able to solve that same problem anyway). Not really if she is building a solution that will increase the value of the company exponentially, as was the case with one of our developers last year.

So, let’s not talk anymore about the “tech talent shortage.” Is it hard to find world-class talent? Yes. It is impossible if you are willing to pay for it? No. The real problem is that companies are stuck in an old way of valuing labor. They believe “non-executive tech employees” should report to the office everyday like employees in other industries and earn somewhere in the low six figures like comparable employees in other industries. While there is an aggregate shortage of people to build technology and that is not a myth, the idea that great people can’t easily be found is a fallacy that only comes into play when you add in a pricing limitation.

The rub here is that top-tech talent can provide 1,000’s times more value than non-tech employees by virtue of the scalability and efficiency of the solutions they are building. And they can often do so better from the privacy of their own homes, without the near-constant distractions of cubicle/office life.

If companies were making offers to technologists that were commensurate with what they pay their attorneys, I think we would find the supposed “tech shortage” would rapidly disappear for those companies. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. There is no question that there are not enough of these people to go around but the companies who increase rates first will see huge rewards in the form of great talent at the ready.

Sure, lavish cafeterias and ping-pong tables will work well to attract the twenty-something engineers fresh out of school, but more senior developers who have been around long enough to realize their true value aren’t wooed by all-you-can-eat buffets and free dry cleaning. They value far different perks. They value freedom, autonomy, diversity of experience and the ability to work on projects they’re passionate about.

Our fledgling talent agency for technologists, has a waiting list out the door of over several thousand high level engineers, data scientists, designers, cryptocurrency experts, cyber security experts, and more. I would love to say our success is due to the fact that we are brilliant and wonderful marketers, but the reality is that as soon as we built it, they came.

We came into to tech after 20 years in the entertainment  industry recognizing that true value lies with the talent and not anyone else. Once they recognized our perspective on this, they lined up to join us acknowledging that we created a business model where their wins were our wins and vice versa.

But our clients aren’t the only ones delighted with this new model. Our customers, the product managers and VPs at top-level enterprise firms and start-ups who hire on our 10x-ers are just as thrilled. Vetting, hiring and on-boarding a top-level engineer used to take months. With our deep bench of world-class talent at the ready, we have had eyes and fingers deep in the codebase of our client companies in literally days.

The talent is out there. Your development problems can be solved, and quickly. But you need to think outside the W-2 box. There is no talent shortage for companies willing to think about their tech talent the way they think about their outside legal counsel: The stakes are too important for sub-optimal talent.

Or, as they say: Buy right, buy once.