May Contain Blueberries

the sometimes journal of Jeremy Beker

These ideas have been bouncing around my head for a bit and resulted in a bunch of random tweets but I was finally prompted to write after getting an inquiry from a recruiter that contained this:

Selling Points: -- This is a Hybrid work situation where you can work 2 days from home.

I have worked remotely for Food52 from Virginia for nearly 7 years. When I started as a remote engineer, this was an uncommon situation. There existed companies that were fully remote, but they were the exception, not the rule. This has slowly shifted, but the pandemic has resulted in a rapid realignment at technology companies that is becoming clear in how recruiting and hiring is done.

I have been seeing this shift from two sides; as an principal level engineer myself and as a participant in the hiring process inside my company.

As a company that has hired software engineers remotely (sometimes enthusiastically and sometimes reluctantly), I have argues that pre-pandemic this gave us a significant advantage. As the majority of technology companies restricted themselves to candidates in their area or those willing to relocate, it gave us an advantage of being able to pull talent from anywhere. In addition, it allowed us to offer salaries that were often higher than the local averages in the regions where people lived.

Over the last 6 months the number of recruiters reaching out to me regarding new roles has skyrocketed. I counted recently and in the last 2 months alone I have received over 60. 2 years ago, I might receive 2 or 3 a month.

So what has changed? I have not magically gotten more talented. The market has shifted.

I believe that many companies have realized after being forced to go remote for all of their staff that the fears they had about remote work was unfounded. And the smart ones have realized that they can expand the potential market for new engineers beyond the limited borders they had before. Especially for companies based in previously high cost regions (Silicon Valley) they are able to offer the same salaries but pluck the best talent from regions where those salary levels are unheard of.

This shift has vastly changed the power dynamics. The last time I was looking for new work the employers held most of the cards. I live in a region with more limited employment opportunities. So, an offer like the one above, of working 2 days at home would seem truly like a selling point. But today, I am able to field offers from the entire country (and probably further afield if I wanted) and expect that 100% remote is something I can demand. This is great for me as a software engineer.

For companies, I think it is probably a mixed bag, depending on how much they are willing to embrace these new standards. It will also be hard on companies who counted on only needing to compensate employees based on the local salary expectations. I have seen this in our hiring at Food52 (shameless plug: come work for us). For more senior technical roles, we have found it much more difficult to find exceptional applicants. It is my belief that this is purely because we are now competing on a much larger field.

We are still in the middle of a realignment. It will be interesting to see how it falls out.

Aspirationally, I hope that this change in dynamic will be especially good for underrepresented groups in engineering for whom the additional flexibility will offer them more opportunities to access employment markets they were shut out of. People who may need to stay outside of the tech hot spots because they need to live near family for childcare or so that their spouse can have a job that they love or they can live in a community that is accepting of who they are. We can only hope.