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The 5 most in-demand tech roles

July 20, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic affected almost every aspect of life, from transportation to technology. As the world slowly climbs back to something like normal, companies of all types are gearing up to rebuild their businesses.

That includes technology companies, of course, which are finding their markets as competitive and dynamic as ever. Even as many areas of the economy wobbled over the last 18 months, others gained momentum as customers got used to new ways of working, playing and generally living.

That means the competition for tech talent is as intense as ever. Recruiters need to understand which roles are becoming more important to employers as they work to keep pace with their customers’ changing demands. Here’s a look at five tech roles our data shows are getting more attention than others from players in the industry.

UAV/Drone Engineer

What laypeople call “drones” are referred to as “unmanned aerial vehicles” by professionals. These are aircraft that take off, fly, carry out their missions and land without the guidance of an on-board pilot. For years, we’ve seen them put to use by the military and government agencies, but more recently a number of private companies have experimented with using drones in business. In 2013, for example, Amazon announced it would use drones to deliver purchases to consumers. Today a growing number of companies employ drones to handle everything from aerial photography to building inspections.

According to Gartner, drone shipments will grow at a CAGR of 24% between 2019 and 2029, pushing the installed base from 989,000 units to over 13 million around the world.

It follows, then, that there’s a growing need for engineers who are familiar with the intricacies of designing, developing and operating pilotless aircraft. By some estimates, the industry will create 100,000 new jobs by 2025. While the drone industry is global, most of these positions are in its leading markets: the U.S., France, the UK, Germany and Switzerland.

These positions will require at least some education in related fields, such as aeronautical engineering, robotics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, artificial intelligence and software development. As with other technology-centric industries, an affinity for STEM skills will be important to look for. Military veterans, especially, may be promising candidates because of the armed services’ extensive use of pilotless aircraft in challenging conditions.

Autonomous/Electric Vehicle Engineer

Autonomous vehicles (AVs), or self-driving cars, log thousands of miles every year in progressively advanced testing. Electric vehicles (EVs) have become increasingly popular as concerns about global warming and climate change become more acute. As each model’s range extends and charging stations become more common, the market penetration of these vehicles is expected to grow.

The development and production of EVs requires professionals with expertise in multiple fields, such as chemical engineering, electronics, embedded software and electrical engineering. AVs, meanwhile, impose an added level of complexity. Specifically, working with them requires skills in technologies such as sensors and computer controls that allow vehicles to recognize and navigate various features of the environment.

In addition, employers focused on autonomous vehicles should look for engineers who can design and test cutting-edge technology while ensuring AVs are properly designed, built and safe to drive. These include experience with AI, computer science and robotic sensor systems. In both cases, engineers well-versed in mechanical, automotive subjects, control systems, electronics, electric and nanotech can be solid candidates here.

Virtual/Augmented Reality Engineer

Virtual and augmented reality have become more popular over the last several years as businesses ranging from broadcasters to retailers adopt them. Some applications use visualization and 3D modeling to engage potential customers with a product’s design, while others generate dynamic visual displays of data for use in engineering projects. The automobile and aerospace industries make extensive use of VR technology, and entertainment studios are experimenting with new ways to wow their audiences with immersive experiences.

Engineers who work with virtual reality should have a clear grasp of how 3D modeling and visualization can be incorporated into the design process. Although there’s no college major in VR or AR, pretty much any STEM degree path provides a solid grounding for work in the area. Also important are skills in graphics programming, 3D modeling, design software and game development.

AR/VR developers often work with video game engines that allow them to create 3D environments, such as Unity or Unreal. On top of that, they should understand programming languages like C++, C#, JavaScript or Swift.

Game Developer

Analysts predict steady growth for the video game industry over the next several years. Statista, for example, estimates the global market for games will grow from $178 billion in 2021 to $269 billion in 2025. As it expands, the industry is attracting notable players. Netflix, for example, recently hired several industry executives as it prepares to add games to its streaming platform.

Game developers design and build video games for consoles, mobile devices and the web. Generally speaking, they’re responsible for the core engine that runs the game as well as the design of game levels, characters and quality assurance testing. They need to be proficient in software development and programming languages such as C#, C++, Perl, Assembly and Lua.

Photorealism is also an important skill for game developers. Platforms like Unreal Engine allow developers to, er, up their game by generating features of worlds and environments–like buildings, landscapes and weapons–that help draw users in. Communication skills are also important, since teams often work closely to meld the animation, video and technical aspects of each title.

Serious candidates will have a portfolio that shows off their work even as it gives them experience building real games with real code. It helps if they’re a fan of video games, too, since exploring titles from different studios helps them learn about industry standards and get an idea of what’s possible to build.

Developer Advocate/Technical Evangelist

Exactly who attached the term “evangelist” to the technology industry is a matter of debate, but many trace it to the early days of Apple’s Macintosh division. Venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki, who was one of the role’s early practitioners, once said his job was “to protect and preserve the Macintosh cult by doing whatever I had to do.”

Whatever technology is involved, the evangelist’s mission is to influence the adoption of specific technologies, platforms and tools. By educating, enabling and exciting users and customers about a company’s products and services, they work to turn audiences into advocates within their own communities. For people who want to combine a love of technology and programming with communications skills and a lot of personal contact, evangelism offers opportunities for a dynamic and impactful career.

The best evangelists are passionate about the products they represent. A technical evangelist working at Apple, for example, may spend their time advocating for the iPad, while someone working for the digital insights company Heap would focus on the company’s analytics platform and data tools.

To be effective, evangelists must be excellent communicators, able to converse with a range of people, from platform developers to end users. They should be comfortable with public speaking, as well as making media appearances on podcasts or television programs. While evangelists themselves say there’s no one clearly defined path into the role, many companies look for background in business development, technology and communications. Project management skills help, too.

Wrapping up

The tech business is facing increasing demands from both businesses and consumers, so matching the right candidate to the right job is critical. When you understand the demands of a role and the skills needed to make it work, you’ll develop a clearer picture of the candidate you’re looking for.

Need help finding tech talent with the right attributes for your business? Check out this 5 tips for recruiting software engineers.