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Software developers in high demand in SA

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The acceleration of remote work, e-commerce and digitisation has led to software developers being among the most sought-after talent in SA, with artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud industries billed as the most exciting industries to watch this year.

This is according to the 2021 OfferZen State of the Developer Nation report compiled by tech talent marketplace OfferZen, which provides insights on the state of SA’s developer community.

The data is compiled based on survey responses from over 3 500 local developers. It found that the acceleration of digitisation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to developers now being more in demand than ever before in SA, with an increasing number of job opportunities available to them.

It points out that South African companies are equipping themselves with data and insights to effectively attract, nurture and retain top developers.

As a result, OfferZen says it is seeing record levels of hiring activity on its platform, surpassing pre-COVID levels.

“This past year, although a tough one, has highlighted the robustness of companies that were able to take their operations online, empower remote work, and, ultimately, adopt tech to power their processes, services and products,” says Malan Joubert, OfferZen co-founder and CEO.

“Adopting digital tools to enable fully remote teams is making businesses anti-fragile.”

Companies are enjoying the increased talent pool that comes with hiring for remote roles, but they now also have to be cognisant of the fact that they are competing globally for talent, notes the report.

While Offer Zen is witnessing record demand for developers, the survey indicates developers learn new languages and upskill themselves every couple of months or years to fuel the skills demand and they change jobs relatively often.

For a developer, switching industries is far easier than for most other professions, it notes.

“In our industry, it’s not about static supply and demand, as developers change skillsets and languages on a regular basis. Based on the volumes of developers we see coming onto our platform, I’d suggest that we currently have the skills in the SA tech talent market to meet the demand. What we’re now seeing is developers moving toward the opportunities present across industries,” adds Joubert.

Biggest pay cheques

When it comes to salaries, the survey found developers in the fintech and cloud technology industries earn the highest salaries. Junior developers earn between R23 000 and R35 000 per month in fintech, while those in cloud-based engineering earn between R27 000 and R33 000.

Intermediate developers with four-plus years of experience earn between R45 000 and R58 000 in fintech, and between R44 000 and R60 000 in cloud-based engineering.

Developers with niche coding languages, such as Go and Ruby, can command higher salaries, notes the report.

The starting salary for a Ruby developer is R30 000, with developers who have more than 10 years of experience earning over R86 000 per month.

“When it comes to the fintech industry, one of the contributing factors to their higher salaries could be that fintech companies are often bigger companies, and bigger companies pay bigger salaries,” says Stephen van der Heijden, VP of growth at OfferZen.

“However, the same does not apply to cloud technology companies, which often have smaller company sizes compared to other industries. The data shows the cloud industry ranks by far as the most exciting industry with a promising future.”

Developers in cloud-based engineering also feel most confident about their career growth compared to any other industry, another indicator of this up-and-coming sector.

While JavaScript continues to be the most used developer language (62% of respondents), the report found that developers are most keen to work with the Python programming language – which is one of the prominent languages used for machine learning (ML) and AI.

Some 38% of total responses indicate Python is the language most local developers want to work with this year.

“Developers are, by the very nature of their work, at the cutting-edge of technology and they’re telling us that ML and AI are not going to be on the edge for very long. It’s pretty clear that our industry is shifting to the data, cloud computing and AI world, and it’s doing so fast,” notes Van der Heijden.

While one in three developers are looking to change jobs in the next 12 months, when asked about the reasons they would choose to stay at their current company, the top three were growth and learning (52%), a healthy work-life balance (51%) and company culture (48%).

When it comes to career growth, developers say the top factors they’re looking for are opportunities to work on challenging projects (56%), learn new languages and frameworks (48%), and access mentoring and coaching (40%).

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