September 12, 2022

What I learned hiring experienced Colombian software developers in 2022

The Candidate 

He said “I want a project that has fresh ideas, where the culture is positive, where the team works with best practices, where my recommendations are welcomed and where I can learn”. This candidate in Colombia has fluent English, a masters in software development from a US university and is a senior mobile developer with over 10 years experience, some with international clients. He hopes to earn a salary of $4,500 USD. I think know he should charge more.

The Problem

There is rampant competition for tech talent in Colombia where supply is nowhere near the growing demand. And yes, there are far fewer candidates who speak English and have advanced software skills. The issue raised by the candidate above is that salary is a necessary but insufficient condition of a contented employee or contractor. In the case of the candidate above, he works for an international Fintech, is hired through a nearshore partner and the project he works on is in a state of constant chaos. The nearshore partner is growing fast and has largely ignored him. And the Fintech has been slow to reassign him out of the pressure cooker of his current project. He doesn’t know who to talk to and consequently has decided it is easier to change employer than improve his current role, or even discuss it with his employer. This represents a failure by the nearshore partner who has abandoned him and a failure by the Fintech to understand his frustration. As we all know, this candidate could easily earn > 150k USD if he plays his cards right. That’s why he contacted us.

The New Reality

Macro factors:

  • The pool of digital talent is small (everywhere including in Colombia) relative to the current and predicted demand.
  • Supply of qualified and experienced candidates falls far behind demand.
  • The labor market is ever more international; Colombian developers are inundated with contacts from foreign recruiters.
  • The invasion of Ukraine and the fallout for the Russia IT industry has driven additional demand for LATAM developers.
  • The tech industry in Colombia has not been elastic to wage increases.
  • The Colombian peso has devalued dramatically against currencies in buyer markets.
  • Estimates suggest that the current deficit of software developers is around 60,000 in Colombia, and some suggest this will double by 2025.
  • Approximately 6,000 students graduate from 3rd level software development programs in Colombia every year(!)

Developers who have even mid-level English skills expect to work internationally, earn competitively and enjoy their work. For the most part they are not mercenaries who are only in it only for the money; they are professionals who expect to integrate seamlessly into distributed client teams anywhere in the world, earn competitive salaries, receive great benefits, and work on amazing projects. And it is reasonable to expect that there will be further leveling of salaries for software talent across the world, at least in the medium term.

The cost of hiring in Colombia is obviously driven by price, however we recommend also taking into account the costs of retention and by this we mean the culture, the professional stimulation (ie. no repetitive tasks, lifelong learning, exposure to new technologies, the ability to learn from peers who are experts in their field, to name a few) and the benefits package needs not just to be comparable but to be subject to continuous evaluation and improvement. The reality is that the market is, to an increasing extent, supply driven, in other words, the onus is on employers to re-imagine what it takes to attract and retain amazing technology professionals.

Value beats Price

Yes, in Colombia, and in Latin America costs are still significantly lower on aggregate when compared to the North American and European markets. That said, wage inflation is a reality (20-30% year-on-year) and is predicted to continue. Yes, there are economies to be had however be prepared to pay high salaries that are fast approaching European levels. And even at that, the real value comes in cohesive and stable teams and these take time and skill to create, incentivize and manage especially in such a tight hiring environment as we have in Colombia as well as elsewhere in the region.

Saludos de Cali, Colombia!

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