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Headhunt for Latin American Tech Talent Follows Wave of Startup Layoffs

Talent such as software developers is sorely lacking in the region, with the crisis bringing opportunities both for companies and individuals

Foreign companies hiring systems engineers in Colombia are paying salaries of up to $104,700 per year, or $8,725 per month.

Bogotá — The wave of layoffs by startups that is sweeping Latin America is a painful moment for hundreds of employees in the region, but in the midst of the crisis and a deficit of digital talent, many companies are also taking advantage of the situation to seek out and hire such highly skilled workers.

Colombian technology entrepreneur Freddy Vega, founder of Platzi, has highlighted the importance of companies adapting to change, given that it is not necessarily the strongest that will survive, but those that move the fastest and are willing to make the necessary changes.

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He also mentioned the importance for companies to prepare their finances for at least two years of crisis, which will leave better positioned those that manage to close their investment rounds and have secured their ‘runway’, referring to a startup’s ‘shelf life’ before its cash flow runs out.

Regarding the workers who were laid off, Vega says that, in the technology industry, it will be easier for them to re-engage given the deficit of professionals in the sectpr in regions such as Latin America.

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“You will always have a job, even if you get laid off, if you stay in the technology industry (...) Technology is unique, and that is why it is so worthwhile to work in technology. There are probably not going to be as many crazy salaries and as much stability as in the last five years, but this place is always going to be the place, there is no other industry that has this power,” he said in a video posted on his social networks.

In the event of being laid off, he recommends workers augment their value by studying and trying to return to the market as soon as possible, as other initiatives emerge to help solve the negative effects of the crisis that are beginning to be felt in Colombia startups.

In a bid to help out, Daniel Bilbao, co-founder of Truora, has launched Pivot, a platform that allows laid-off employees in Latin America to connect with the offer of companies interested in hiring them.

People who have been laid off from startups can register on the platform to obtain exposure or report a layoff, while companies can search for talent in a number of Latin American countries.

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Profiles include professionals in customer services, design, sales, engineering, data analytics, business development, operations, purchasing and finance, among others.

A trend that is on the rise and that is allowing companies to face the lack of IT talent are hybrid profiles, who are professionals that straddle two areas of knowledge, such as cybersecurity and data, or product and design.

Daniel Camacho, director of the technology division of PageGroup Colombia

And there are also other alternatives, such as the employment platform Torre, founded by Colombian entrepreneur Alexander Torrenegra, which keeps hundreds of remote job offers active in the midst of the crisis.

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According to the employment platform Deel, systems engineers and project managers are among the positions most sought after by foreign companies for remote hiring for senior positions at present in countries such as Colombia.

Deel, which analyzed more than 100,000 international contracts, indicated that senior project managers can earn up to $112,600 per year, or just over $9,300 per month.

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Meanwhile, foreign companies hiring senior systems engineers are paying up to $104,700 per year, or $8,725 per month.

Natalia Jiménez, Deel’s head of expansion for South America, highlighted that in the first five months of the year, international hiring in Colombia on the platform grew around 165%, and the technology industry is the largest, with developers being one of the most sought-after profiles.

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On the other hand, “the countries that hire the most Colombian talent through our platform are the United States, the United Kingdom and Singapore. The important thing is that today the labor supply no longer has borders, and this type of position can access opportunities all over the world, without the need for a passport”, she said.

IT Talent

According to a 2021 report by British recruitment firm PageGroup, “although there are more and more efforts and initiatives in Latin America that are impacting the percentage of profiles with 4.0 skills, not all countries show year-on-year growth”.

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In fact, shortage in the supply of digital profiles in Latin America reached 48% in 2021 as positions related to software development such as JavaScript Angular (+78%), JavaScript Ember (+67%), Objective-C iOS (+63%), JavaScript Vue (+49%) and Java Android (+44%) are more in demand.

Daniel Camacho, director of the technology division at PageGroup Colombia, explains that Latin America has long been an important source of technology talent for North America, initially focused on manufacturing and business services.

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Over the past five years, he tells Bloomberg Línea, the region’s IT workforce has grown roughly twice as fast as that of the U.S.

“While costs have risen with this rapid growth, average salaries in Latin America are still about one-third of those in the U.S. The three largest IT talent markets are São Paulo, Mexico City and Santiago, while the fastest-growing is Bogotá,” he said.

Mexico, Rio de Janeiro, Bogotá, Santiago and São Paulo make up the top markets with the most IT professionals, ranging from 21% to 9% of the region’s total, according to PageGroup.