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Globalization won't fix software engineer shortage

While a global talent search can fill niche positions and diversify a development team, it isn't a silver bullet for the software engineer shortage, experts say.

The developer shortage continues causing headaches for enterprises struggling to tackle tasks such as application modernization or sufficient software testing.

Looking to the global market can fill niche software engineering positions that require a high degree of skill and might also result in team diversification or slight cost savings. However, it isn't a silver bullet to solve the talent shortage problem, according to experts.

"In the market that we're in for technical talent, there aren't developers hiding under rocks," said Adam Glaser, senior vice president of engineering at Appian, a low-code business process company based in McLean, Va. "You can find them but everyone's going after them."

While larger enterprises with name brand recognition, such as Facebook or Google, have less trouble attracting talent, it can be more of a challenge for mid-sized companies to fill positions because of the talent shortage, said Duri Chitayat, CTO at Safeguard Global, a workforce management platform in Austin, Texas.

"Most companies like Safeguard, they just don't have that brand recognition," Chitayat said. "The competition is incredibly hot."

Where to look for global team members

While globalization won't solve the general developer shortage, a global talent search can benefit enterprises searching for highly skilled talent, Chitayat said.

"Competing for a Ph.D. in machine learning takes a little bit of work, but if you go to a country like Turkey, it's got a great education system and really smart, hard-working people -- they know their stuff," he said.

Enterprises can also look to Nigeria's many small startups producing quality talent, Chitayat said.

the challenging hunt for software engineers
Finding tech talent can be a challenge, even when conducting a global search.

"You can get some really experienced and quality engineers that have not worked for a multinational [company] and that are excited to work with people from Turkey, the UK, the U.S., Albania and Poland," he said.

While Appian hires within the U.S., it has broadened its developer search Germany, Israel and India, Glaser said.

"The Indian talent that we've been encountering is fantastic -- at, or in some cases above, par to the United States," he said. "It causes us to rethink preconceived notions of how knowledge is distributed around the world."

Tracey Zimmerman, president and CEO of Robots and Pencils -- a consulting firm in Calgary, Canada -- pointed to Eastern Europe as another place rich with developer talent. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has reduced outsourcing from those areas, but there are still developers in China, she said.

Challenges of geo-global teams

While a multinational search has resulted in filling open developer positions, adopting a geo-global team has its challenges, Glaser said.

In the market that we're in for technical talent, there aren't developers hiding under rocks.
Adam GlaserSenior vice president of engineering, Appian

"The results take a little time to bake because there's a whole maturation process of a new development center and extensions of your team," he said.

Some of the challenges that enterprises experience with a global workforce -- such as language barriers and dialect differences -- can be mitigated with local line management, he said.

Collaboration can also be a challenge, given the different time zones, Zimmerman said, but companies can turn it into a positive with the right guidance.

"They start to think about, 'OK, let's be better at documenting, better at using Slack, better having a written culture,'" she said.

Cost is not a factor

While globalization can help in finding talent, the cost savings associated with hiring in the foreign developer market are negligible due to increasing supply and demand for talent across the globe, Zimmerman said.

Thus, Appian's global talent search takes more than costs into consideration, Glaser said.

"The cost savings isn't as dramatic as you might imagine because these are still incredibly high-skilled, high-demand people resources," he said. "It's about talent diversification as much as it is about economic benefit."

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