silicon valley engineers

In Silicon Valley, the IT job market is hypercompetitive. Startups hoping to be the next Google, Facebook, or Snapchat use a wide range of tactics designed to give them a shot at snagging top engineering talent — the skills that can make or break a technical company, and mean the difference between billions and bust.

But the latest play in the engineering talent wars, being launched by startup Weeby.com, embraces a radically different philosophy from typical Valley tech startups. Instead of luring in talent with the promise of world-changing tech and substantial equity that will theoretically make them millionaires if their hard work pays off, Weeby.com is offering to make engineers millionaires from the start — by paying them a million dollars for their first four years of work.

The strategy: A transparent and “backwards” pay structure

Weeby’s salary structure represents a near-complete reversal of traditional Silicon Valley startups. While other companies establish ultra-low startup salaries and rely on finding passionate engineers who believe in the founder’s vision, Weeby.com intends to pay their talent like they’re already superstars, right from the gate.

The company’s founder, Michael Carter, believes that even the average market range salary of $111,000 for engineers in Silicon Valley isn’t enough. The Valley is one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world, and employees at a very low six-figure income still worry about making mortgage payments and raising families. At usual startup salaries, which can run $50,000 to $75,000 plus equity, those worries become serious concerns — and drive top talent straight to higher-paying doors like Facebook and Google.

The restructured compensation at Weeby begins with a base salary that’s at least $100,000 and commensurate with experience — always more than what engineers were previously paid. Engineers are then given performance-based monthly bumps of $10,000 until they reach $250,000. At that point, the monthly raises continue on a smaller scale, but ultimately the salary amounts to $1 million in four years.

In addition, Weeby is offering up to four times more equity than Silicon Valley startups of similar size, in a structure that will have employees collectively owning more of the company than its biggest investor.

The opposition: Higher salaries will attract mercenaries

Not everyone in Silicon Valley agrees that paying engineers higher-than-market rates is a smart idea, especially for startups. In an interview with CNet, Y Combinator president Sam Altman called the strategy “a horrific idea,” saying that if a company is known for paying huge cash salaries, they’ll end up attracting terrible cultural fits. Altman adheres to a more traditional view, stating that startups should recruit an initial batch of core employees who are “maniacally dedicated” to the company’s vision and products, and believe they’re working for a purpose that is bigger than themselves.

Three-time Silicon Valley founder Steve Newcomb, in the same interview, asserted that paying exorbitant salaries can harm a startup company’s reputation before they get off the ground. “If you have to pay people more money than market to come work for your company, then that’s a statement of the value of your product and the value of your company,” Newcomb said — also mentioning that above-market salary investments could upset investors.

However, Weeby’s investors are on board with the strategy, including Karl Jacob, who served as an advisor to Mark Zuckerberg’s six-man board during Facebook’s early days. Carter hopes that the idea of paying top engineers what they’re truly worth will spread, and more Valley startups will be able to build superstar teams that can change the world — and still get paid.

“Silicon Valley’s about getting a great team together and trying new things,” Carter said. “When you do something for the first time, it allows you to approach something with a fresh eye, [and] sometimes, you get a result like Google, Facebook, or Snapchat.”

machine learning

As technology continues to advance rapidly, the machines we use are getting smarter. Machine learning is the technology of constructing “learning” algorithms that drive a broad range of smart technologies — and the new generation of this discipline, called deep learning, has the potential to power more advanced artificial intelligence capable of everything from sophisticated speech and image recognition, to self-driving cars.

What is deep learning?

Deep learning, also called deep structured learning or hierarchical learning, is a type of machine learning that uses high-level data abstractions, nonlinear transformations, and layered cascades applied to learning representations of data, in order to help machines “learn” tasks through observations and examples.

Algorithms with deep learning applied are often inspired by communication patterns found in neuroscience — the study of the human nervous system. For example, a deep learning algorithm might be based on the relationship between a stimulus and a neural response, which registers as electrical activity in the brain. This type of machine learning attempts to create neural networks for machines that “think” in ways similar to humans.

Following are a few of the applications currently being developed with deep learning algorithms.

Automatic speech recognition

Technologies such as Apple’s Siri are built on machine learning algorithms that work to recognize speech, including words and sounds. Deep learning has led to the advancement of automatic speech recognition using the TIMIT data set — a limited-sample database using 630 speakers and eight major American English dialects, each with 10 different spoken sentences — to large vocabulary speech recognition through DNN models that rely on deep learning algorithms.

Deep learning differentiates from other forms of machine learning through the use of raw features at a learning level, rather than pre-constructed models. With deep learning, speech recognition can be highly accurate using the true “raw” form of speech — waveforms, or visual representations of sounds using curves.

Image recognition

Similar to speech recognition, a limited size data set called the MNIST database has been the popular model for powering image recognition applications. This database includes 60,000 training examples and 10,000 test examples, composed of handwritten digits. However, MNIST relies on shallow machine learning for image recognition — and deep learning allows for more large-scale image recognition at a higher accuracy rate.

One practical example of deep learning algorithms applied to image recognition can be found in the automotive industry. A car computer trained with deep learning may enable cars to process and interpret 360-degree camera views, allowing for heightened “awareness” in self-driving or assisted-driving vehicles.

Commercial applications

Many in the tech industry view deep learning as a strong step toward realizing truer artificial intelligence. In 2013, Google hired three DNN researchers tasked with not only dealing with the search engine giant’s constantly growing stores of data, but also to improve Google’s existing machine learning products, such as semantic role labeling and search results.

Facebook has also created an artificial intelligence lab, largely dedicated to the development of deep learning techniques that will improve the user experience. Automatic image tagging was developed in Facebook’s AI lab — a technology that is still being refined for greater accuracy using deep learning.

As machine learning continues to increase in sophistication, more companies will look to hire IT professionals interested in developing deep learning algorithms and improved artificial intelligence applications. Machine learning is an exciting field with a wide range of possibilities ahead.

best practices external recruiters

The competition for top talent is on the rise, and IT managers are looking for the most effective ways to find and hire top candidates. One of the best strategies for bringing in IT talent is to work with a third-party recruiter that specializes in the tech industry.

External recruiters can help you relieve the burden of talent management by sourcing highly qualified candidates for your open positions, quickly and cost effectively. But like all business solutions, there are things you can do to leverage your relationship with an external recruiter and ensure a smoother process with improved results.

Here are some of the best practices for working with third-party recruiters, temporary and staffing agencies to bring top IT talent into your organization.

Make talent acquisition a priority

When you’re looking to fill an open position, finding the right candidate quickly is a top priority. Professional external recruiters will understand this, and do everything possible to ensure that the recruiting process takes the least possible time.

However, it’s essential to keep in mind that finding high-quality candidates is a time- and labor-intensive process. You should expect a high-priority candidate search to take around six weeks — and during that time, be prepared to prioritize dedicated time and resources to the process on a daily basis.

Keep communication lines open

Staying in touch regularly with your external recruiter is crucial for the success of your talent search. In order to maintain strong communication and cooperation, the following best practices are recommended:

  • Maintain a direct working relationship between the third-party recruiting team and the decision makers in your company, without relying on “gatekeepers” to relay communications.
  • Be responsive, returning important calls and emails within one business day of receipt — particularly when a decision is required.
  • Deliver timely, detailed feedback on interviews and candidates submissions, also within one business day.

Maintaining a high sense of urgency and responsiveness throughout the recruiting process will enable an external recruiter to deliver the timely results you want.

Have realistic candidate expectations

Every IT manager wants to hire the “perfect” candidate — but keeping your expectations reasonable and realistic is essential for success. In order to ensure that your positions are marketable, and you receive an adequately sized candidate pool to choose from, work with your external recruiter to develop:

  • Quality job opportunities that will interest top candidates
  • Well-written, streamlined job descriptions with the best chance of being read
  • A strong employer brand that attracts the right candidates with good cultural fits
  • Realistic sets of desired skills and competencies (no “purple squirrels”)

The Armada Group is committed to the success of your organization. With our top-priority requisitions, you’ll receive at least one qualified candidate for your review within 48 hours of initiating the talent search process, or a progress report detailing key findings for further discussions. Contact us to learn more about our IT talent recruitment solutions.

tougher competition

Since the economic recession, employers have been slow to return to previous hiring levels. It’s taken quite a while for the job market to bounce back, but according to the 2015 hiring forecast from CareerBuilder, things may be finally turning a corner with the strongest forecast since 2006.

An increase in hiring is good news all around, but it also means that both employers and job seekers will face stiffer competition in a recovering job market.

All types of hiring will increase in 2015

The CareerBuilder survey found that employers plan to hire more for full-time, part-time, and temporary positions within their organizations.

This year, 36 percent of employers will hire more full-time, permanent employees — up from 24 percent of employers last year. What’s more, full-time hiring is anticipated to be over the national average for some industries that have recently seen accelerated growth. According to CareerBuilder:

  • 54 percent of employers plan to hire full-time IT employees
  • 42 percent will hire for financial services
  • 41 percent will hire in manufacturing
  • 38 percent of employers plan to hire healthcare professionals

Also this year, 46 percent of employers plan to hire temporary or contract workers, compared to 42 percent in 2014. Part of the reason behind the increase in temporary hires is that employers are looking for ways to maintain a more flexible workforce, in order to adapt to changes in the market. In addition, more employers are hiring temporary staff to fill high-demand roles where talent is in short supply.

Finally, 23 percent of employers plan to hire more part-time employees in 2015, up from 17 percent last year.

The STEM jobs market continues to increase

Hiring for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs has increased sharply over the last few years, and this trend is expected to continue in 2015 with 31 percent of employers planning to create and hire for jobs in these areas.

Related positions that are tied to innovation, customer loyalty, and revenue growth will also see an increase in hiring for 2015. Employers plan to hire more full-time, permanent staff for positions in:

  • Sales (36 percent)
  • Customer service (33 percent)
  • Information technology (26 percent)
  • Production (26 percent)
  • Administration (22 percent)

More jobs with better pay

In 2015, many employers plan to pay staff higher salaries, with the minimum wage battle and increased competition for in-demand skills cited as the primary reasons for raising pay.

While it’s still uncertain whether the federal minimum wage will increase, at least 21 states are raising minimum wage — and some employers are increasing their own minimum salaries within the company. In 2015, 45 percent of employers expect to raise their minimum pay, with 50 percent increasing by $2 or more per hour and around one-third increasing by $3 or more per hour.

Employers are also offering more competitive salaries in order to attract and retain the best talent. This year, 82 percent plan to increase salaries for current employees and 64 percent plan to offer higher starting salaries — up from 73 percent and 49 percent in 2014, respectively.

Educational requirements are increasing

In a more competitive job market, employers are looking for candidates with more advanced education. According to the CareerBuilder survey:

  • 28 percent of companies will hire more employees with master’s degrees for positions that were previously held by employees with four-year degrees.
  • 37 percent of companies will hire employees with college degrees for positions previously held by employees with high school diplomas.
  • 65 percent of employers attribute the increase in educational requirements to evolving skills required for the positions.

Today’s job market is more competitive — and more rewarding — for professionals in many industries, with particularly strong growth and opportunity for IT pros and STEM-related skills.

automation engineer

Today’s IT professionals have a diverse range of career paths, options, and specialties to choose from. If you’re creative and detail oriented, enjoy working with machinery, and want a well-paying job with plenty of opportunities, you may be a good candidate for a career in automation engineering.

What is an automation engineer?

Automation as a field involves creating and applying technologies that control or monitor production and delivery. There are automation opportunities in both product- and service-oriented industries. Two professional associations, the International Society of Automation and the Automation Federation, are involved in promoting and supporting the field of automation.

The duties of an automation engineer include designing, programming, simulating, and testing automated machinery or processes that are intended to complete precise tasks — for example, robots used in packaging, food processing, or vehicle manufacturing. Automation engineers work with automated machinery from concept to prototype, and are responsible for providing detailed documentation including design specifications that enable the production or application of their products.

Educational requirements for automation engineers

In the United States, there are not many degree programs specifically offered for automation engineering. Most automation engineers start out with a bachelor’s degree in either electrical or mechanical engineering, which may include courses in relevant subjects such as robotics, fluid dynamics, statistics, and databases. Some automation engineers continue to earn master’s degrees before entering the job market. The bulk of relevant automation engineering training is then gained through hands-on career experience.

Licensing and certification for automation engineers

As with most IT fields, licensing or certification can enhance your prospects for landing a career in automation engineering. One of the most popular certifications in this category is the control system engineer license, which demonstrates an understanding of instrumentation and automated controls.

Obtaining status as a certified control systems technician can also qualify you for a wider range of career opportunities, as more than 40 organizations that use automated systems recognize this title. The top level certification for automation engineers is certified automation professional — a title held by only around 400 professionals in the world.

Important skills for automation engineers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the following qualities are required for automation engineers:

  • A firm understanding of software development and computer programming
  • Equipment troubleshooting skills
  • The ability to perform complex system tests
  • Creative thinking and detail oriented
  • Excellent manual dexterity
  • Strong communication skills to support interactions with other members of the development team

Employment outlook for automation engineering

Manufacturing is moving increasingly toward automation, and the demand for qualified automation engineers is rising as more manufacturers turn to automation for efficiency, cost savings, and increased output. A survey from Automation.com reports that the average annual salary for automation engineers is $103,910.

employee contractor

Hiring managers must work within their budgets to hire the staff their companies need in order to remain productive and competitive. Once you’ve determined a need for acquiring talent, the next important question is often whether you should hire a permanent employee, or a contractor.

Each choice comes with advantages and disadvantages. When making this decision, it’s important to understand the needs and core requirements of the position you’re hiring for, and know which type of employment arrangement will be a better fit for both your organization, and the candidate.

What full-time employees can offer

Depending on the type and responsibilities of the position you’re filling, hiring a new permanent employee can allow you to strengthen your organization and improve overall productivity and performance. Some of the advantages of full-time employees include:

  • Collaboration: Employees typically work from a central location, enabling your company to foster collaboration and connectivity among staff
  • Communication: Most full-time employees share similar work hours, which improves organizational communication
  • Long-term productivity: With a full-time employee, the company receives continuous output by dictating all or most of the employee’s assignments and work projects

When should you consider a contractor?

Independent contractors can benefit your organization in a variety of situations. Hiring a contractor is typically a better choice when:

  • You’re hiring for a project with a set start and end date
  • Your company’s current employees can’t handle the entire project workload
  • The current project has tight deadlines for deliverables
  • You need temporary, specialized skills or expertise on a project basis, but not for day-to-day company operation

Hiring considerations for independent contractors

Before you begin searching for a contractor, confirm that you have the proper approval for hiring more staff. With project work that requires a contractor, determine your budget ahead of time, and include the target bill rate for the contractor in your calculations. Depending on the type of contractor you need, you may have to adjust your budget and the expectations of management prior to looking for talent.

Armada provides real-time, accurate snapshots of your local market conditions that will help you gauge supply and demand for specific IT employees, both permanent and contract. Accurate data on direct hire salaries and hourly rates can help you create an effective budget for your staffing needs. Contact us today to learn more.