(Photo by Olivia Obineme)
At Technical.ly, we’ve heard again and again that talent is the lifeblood of any tech ecosystem.
From bicoastal venture capitalist Josh Kopelman’s advice on hiring a balanced team to Baltimore-based SmartLogic’s strategies for identifying natural pipelines in a connected community, we’ve learned that a deep understanding of local environments can make all the difference between a frustrating cattle call and a smooth, targeted recruitment process.
We’ve also seen that even a nuanced view of talent can be altered by broad-sweeping (and potentially false) hiring narratives. Success swings on everything from whether an interviewee has a good sense of a company’s culture to how regional differences affect technical skills.
That’s why our recent dev talent survey is so important.
With input from 140 job-seekers in Philadelphia and Baltimore, we’re challenging myths and generalizations that impact the way companies think about hiring. It’s about time we work toward a more accurate depiction of the people behind the mid-Atlantic’s remarkable tech growth.
Our information comes from a living, breathing dataset, so we’re always working with new and exciting input. Help us make this data an even more reliable reflection of your community by answering a few questions in the link below. You don’t need to be looking for a job to respond.
Here are our responses to five of the most persistent recruitment theories:
1. “Millennials are job-hoppers who lack company loyalty.”
Our Verdict: False
Back in 2012, Forbes contributor Jeanne Meister fretted that the “new normal” of job-hopping millennials could become a “human resource nightmare” for recruiters. This depiction of young workers as careerist mercenaries seems a bit off the mark, according to our data. Our survey shows that tech workers above the age of 35 are slightly more likely to show interest in new opportunities despite holding a steady job.
This trend is especially striking in Baltimore, where nearly 75 percent of tech workers aged 45 to 54 are willing to make the jump to a new career. In Philadelphia, where older job-leapers outpace millennials just slightly (61 percent to 58 percent), the urban core is experiencing something of a youthful renaissance as more college students choose to stay with local employers.
2. “The most talented and flexible programmers tend to be young hotshots.”
Our Verdict: False
Today’s tech environment may be a young person’s paradise, but the genius whiz-kid stereotype doesn’t hold up quite as well as we’re led to believe. For many Baltimoreans, tech versatility grows with age: 64 percent of the city’s older job seekers claim proficiency in five or more programming languages, compared to just 33 percent of millennial workers.
This trend is reversed in the Philadelphia labor market, with 55 percent of millennials and 40 percent of non-millennials reporting their expertise in a similar set of diverse languages.
Is Baltimore just a talent outlier? Not according to this 2015 CBRE report showing Charm City neck-and-neck with Boston and Austin, two cities known for their lively startup cultures. Skills clustering promoted by powerhouses such as Under Armour and Johns Hopkins University may even encourage older employees to learn different skills as new talent arrives in droves.
3. “Men are more likely than women to be familiar with coding languages.”
Our Verdict: Needs More Inquiry
Basic familiarity with a wide array of programming languages, especially for front-end development, is consistent across all men and women in the Philadelphia and Baltimore tech scenes. But the gender gap is more noticeable when it comes to professional proficiency: among Philly’s HTML5 coders, for instance, 47 percent of men but only 32 percent of women have intermediate or higher skill levels. It’s worth noting that this is self-reported data, which could be skewed by men over-reporting their skills or women under-reporting their skills.
Regardless, these findings underscore the need for a “welcoming and supportive network” that promotes female technologists’ skill set growth, as embodied by Black Girls Code, this past November’s ELA Conf in Philadelphia and national coding education nonprofit Girl Develop It.
4. “Men seek out smaller, trailblazer companies, while women prefer larger, nurturing environments.”
Our Verdict: False
At first glance, there is some strong data to back up this statement.
In Baltimore, men are more likely to seek out the startup or “growth stage” life, with 25 percent reporting that they are exclusively interested in workplaces of less than 30 people (compared to 19 percent of women who responded to the survey). Additionally, women responded more favorably to workplaces of 30 – 150 people and 150 – 1,000 people.
Philadelphia’s tech culture, however, turns this assumption on its head. In the City of Brotherly Love’s dev scene, 38 percent of surveyed women — compared to just over 29 percent of men — are explicitly interested in working for a company smaller than 30 people. While organizations such as the PACT Foundation, AWE Ventures and TechGirlz have played huge roles in shaping an empowering environment for women entrepreneurs across the Philadelphia, it’s hard to overlook the scrappy, DIY attitudes held by Philly’s female tech leaders. As Comcast’s Denice Hasty puts it, “You have to create visibility. You cannot depend on someone else for career advancements.”
5. “Baltimore and Philadelphia have very similar talent pools.”
Our Rating: False
Baltimore and Philadelphia are sometimes called “sister cities,” but there are a few big differences between the two urban areas’ talent pipelines.
Baltimore is a strong front-end town: 33 percent of the city’s surveyed job seekers, compared to only 18 percent for Philadelphia, are proficient in Java. Likewise, Philly is a huge repository for back-end developers, outstripping Charm City’s knowledge of SQL 34 percent to 9 percent.
It’s this kind of specialization and knowledge diversity that makes the mid-Atlantic corridor an exciting center for new hires. Even large West Coast outfits like Amazon are taking note.
Check out our full data visualization of tech talent here:
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