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Recessions are scary. Here’s why technologists can breathe easier

Index.dev CEO Sergiu Matei has a front-row seat to how this looming recession is impacting developers and engineers. He’s not worried.

If you're a developer, the recession need not make you this stressed yet. (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

Written by Technically Media CEO Chris Wink, Technical.ly’s Culture Builder newsletter features tips on growing powerful teams and dynamic workplaces. Below is the latest edition we published. Sign up to get the next one.


During the worst economic period in US history, most Americans had jobs.

In May 1933, 1 in every 4 US working-age adults was unemployed. After brutalizing a generation, The Great Depression shaped modern economic and monetary policy. So much went wrong. Yet the majority of people were still working.

It’s a reminder that though business cycles can feel capricious and cruel, there’s no use letting your anxiety run roughshod. That’s especially true if you’re fortunate enough to be an economic darling, like the tech workers who have come to define dynamism in the early 21st century.

Whatever looms economically, Sergiu Matei, the founder and CEO of Index.dev, a platform for hiring remote software workers, told me: “I don’t see this being very traumatic for tech.”

That may sound uninformed, given the rush of high-profile tech company layoffs this year. But the majority of those laid off weren’t in technical roles. In the parlance, they were jobs in tech, not tech jobs. In contrast, the latest employment numbers from a CompTIA analysis showed that tech jobs across industries increased and are up for the year.

The economic signals have been mixed for much of the last year. The Federal Reserve is intentionally slowing down our pandemic-stimulated economy by raising the cost of money; But employment, spending and other signals remain high. We just don’t know how this will play out.

“This could be the most advertised recession that never comes,” said Matei, who is based in London.

What tech skills are in demand right now?

Matei is seeing trends in Index.dev usage. Entry-level job postings are slowing and senior roles are increasing. Roles in cybersecurity and data protection remain resilient. Emerging technologies like blockchain and working in the metaverse have cooled.

Proficiency in Javascript, Python and Java is still in high demand. Ruby, too, though he’s seen a decline in roles listing the web standard PHP. Why?

“PHP is like English and Ruby is like Swedish,” said Matei. Nearly any web-experienced developer works in PHP, but Ruby still is something like a specialty despite its popularity. So most firms are more likely to already have PHP expertise but may still need Ruby experience.

Matei said he’s also seeing a decline in frontend postings, whereas backend and full-stack developers remain steady in demand. DevOps and data science roles remain in steady demand, he added. (Read here about building your data team).

What tech jobs are recession-proof?

What, then, are the eternal lessons about the most recession-resistant roles?

No one lays off an engaged and productive senior developer working on a core product, reminds Matei — unless they have no other option.

When an economic downturn comes, experimental projects and underperforming departments are cut. The closer you work to a company’s core business — especially if that involves scalable software — the safer you are. Companies have proved more likely to “labor hoard” senior technologists. When layoffs are necessary, companies do also look at intangibles like what a person brings to team culture. How engaged and supportive of the team are you?

In short, know how your company makes money, contribute meaningfully and treat your coworkers well. You’ll be fine.

What comes next?

It’s a fool’s errand to predict whether a recession will hit again or not. But as our economy sorts itself out after this historic pandemic, Matei expects the new economic normal to appear in the next six-to-eight months. Most tech workers will still be in demand.

“I am confident about that,” he said.

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