The Way I See the “Talent War” in Pittsburgh

The Way I See the “Talent War” in Pittsburgh

There have been a number of interesting articles in the past few weeks about the “talent war” that tech companies in Pittsburgh are fighting.  There was one (actually from last year, but I recently saw a link to it) about Pikimal addressing a shortage of developers by finding strong candidates without a programming background and teaching them.  This article has a quote from Kennemetal’s CIO about a shortage of IT talent globally.  It’s nearly as popular right now for companies to believe they have tech talent shortages as it is for individuals in technology to be unemployed or not happy in their employment.  When we talk about Pittsburgh specifically I think there are several factors in play.

  1. There’s a shortage of quality programmers and technologists nationwide.
  2. In Pittsburgh there is a shortage of big companies doing sophisticated projects.
  3. Pittsburgh’s tech startup scene, while healthy for a city our size, is lacking in funding.
  4. The economy, while recovering, is cautious at the moment.  Most companies have seen a turn around in earnings, but are still trying to reduce costs.
These three factors combined lead to a number of consequences:
  1. Many of the top tech people are leaving Pittsburgh, especially CMU grads.  Since a CMU degree is probably one of the top 10 best indicators that you’re a good developer (or technologist), big companies with deep pockets from all over the globe that are facing talent shortages are hiring these students in droves.  The poorly funded startups and companies with simpler IT shops in Pittsburgh simply can’t afford to keep these people here.
  2. Some of the tech people who stay in Pittsburgh (yours truly included), find “national” jobs where we can get access to the more complicated projects and problems that don’t typically exist within Pittsburgh companies.  We take conference calls or fly to these projects nationwide.
  3. The good employees who remain in Pittsburgh are underpaid because companies here are focused on cutting IT costs.  Instead of reaching for top talent that might innovate, companies are hiring cheaper resources or asking top talent to work for less then top wages.  Since Pittsburgh is such a draw for so many, there are a lot of people willing to take those positions.