Skip to content

Want an IT job? Look outside the tech industry

Commentary: If you’re looking for a software/IT job, find out why you might be better off searching outside tech. Also, learn what these hiring trends mean for open source.

Woman in front of laptop

Image: nesharm, Getty Images/iStockPhotos

Must-read developer content

Remember when “software was going to eat the world“? Well, it happened. According to Burning Glass data analyzed by Dice, if you want a software job in 2020, your best bet is to look outside the technology industry. Why? Because while two tech companies top the list in terms of hiring the most software developers, the entirety of the remaining top 10 goes to companies in the Financial Services, Defense, or Professional Services. 

Think that’s just a blip? It’s not. As laid out in a Burning Glass report in late 2019, 89% of all tech job postings are listed by non-tech companies. In other words, software has never been more important, even if software companies may not be. Software is just part of what every company now does.

SEE: How to build a successful developer career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Who is hiring?

It’s always been true that most software was written for use, not sale. Companies might buy its ERP software from SAP and office productivity software from Microsoft, but they were writing all sorts of software to manage their supply chain, take care of employees, and more. What wasn’t true then, but is definitely true now, is just how much of that software spend is now focused on company-defining initiatives, rather than back-office software meant to keep the lights on. 

Small wonder, then, that in the past year companies have posted nearly one million jobs in the US, according to the Burning Glass data, which scours job postings. That number is expected to increase by more than 30% over the next few years, with non-tech IT jobs set to boom at a 50% faster clip than IT jobs within tech. As for who is hiring, though tech companies top the list (arguably one of them isn’t really a tech company), the rest of the top 10 are decidedly non-tech.

Digging into the Burning Glass report, and moving beyond software developer jobs, specifically, and into the broader category of IT, generally, Professional Services, Manufacturing, and Financial Services account for roughly half of all IT openings outside tech. Even industries where there are relatively few IT jobs, the percentage of tech jobs is quite high. For example, Utilities accounts for a mere 1% of all non-tech IT jobs, but IT jobs account for 35% of all job postings in that industry.

And that percentage of non-tech tech jobs? It’s growing, as Burning Glass data shows (Figure A).

Figure A


Image: Burning Glass

Software isn’t eating the world. It already ate the world.

What does this mean for open source?

One area of software that we aren’t yet seeing non-tech companies take over is open source. IBM president Jim Whitehurst (former Red Hat CEO) has called on enterprises to contribute back since the late 2000s: “Ultimately, for open source to provide value to all of our customers worldwide, we need to get our customers not only as users of open source products but truly engaged in open source and taking part in the development community.”

SEE: How to become an effective software development manager and team leader: Tips and advice from Drupal founder Dries Buytaert (TechRepublic)

While enterprises haven’t taken up the call in earnest, we’re seeing a lot more activity than in 2008 when Whitehurst made that plea, and even a lot more than 2018. For example, Capital One (one of the top-10 companies for developer job postings) is years into a well-orchestrated open source strategy, with a range of open source projects that it has released or to which it contributes

Nor is it alone in this. Some of the industry’s most popular software was released by enterprise users of software, rather than vendors of software. For example, Lyft is responsible for Envoy, Netflix (among several examples) released Spinnaker, LinkedIn open sourced Apache Kafka, and more. We have a ways to go before we see the volume and impact of user-driven open source software, but it’s coming, with these companies leading the way. 

All of which means that software–open source and otherwise–should get better. Why? Because software is better when written by those who actually use it, rather than by those who sell it. The golden age of software is coming.

Disclosure: I work for AWS, but the views expressed herein are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

Also see