Category Archives: Market update

Contract Java roles!! Are we finally seeing the pick-up we predicted for September

I have had multiple contract roles come out for 2 major investment banks in the past 24 hours.

Hopefully that will put an end to all of my doom-mongering over the last few months!


My advice for Java developers considering moving to UK

The London UK market is currently fantastic for developers with extensive Java development experience. There are lots of jobs and therefore lots of opportunity to find a really good position with a good salary. Of course you will need a visa, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone come to the UK without the right to work in this country, but if you do have that visa, then there hasn’t been a better time all year than now.

Coming to work in the UK can be an exciting, challenging and rewarding career choice that will give you an international experience that can’t get anywhere else in the world, and will shape your career for the rest of your life; however if you aren’t properly prepared you will struggle to get what you want.

What you will need:

The right to work in the UK
It is still next to impossible to be sponsored by a company in the UK, as such if you do not have the right to work here, it is advisable to not relocate to the UK.

The technical skills
Check on the English job websites that you have the right technical skills for a role in the UK. Some countries tend to still be using the old “EJBs and app server” model which is generally (although not totally) defunct in the UK today. Unless you have extensive low level core Java (think writing your own threads, TCP/IP sockets etc) you will also need at least basic Spring. If you don’t have it, getting an online certification will be very useful. In general you should brush up on all your technical skills and make sure there is nothing on your CV that you would not be prepared to be grilled on in that first interview. One good tip is starting your own blog and posting some of your best bits of code / ideas on there, this can be very helpful to candidates without an established track record in the UK

The English
The London IT market, especially in finance, is probably the most international job market in the world – it is not simply that you will often find yourself in a team where everybody comes from different countries, but its not uncommon to find teams without a single British developer in the team. So communication skills are EXTREMELY important. Basically if you can’t understand spoken English and speak it easily and fluently, you will not find a programming job easily and if you do, it won’t be very good. A good rule of thumb is whether you can answer a set of technical Java questions reasonably easily. If the standard of your spoken English is poor, you should either take a course before you leave or one better – if you can afford it – relocate to the UK and don’t start your search until you have improved it.

A Curriculum Vitae
(The word Resume is American, and is best left on that side of the Atlantic) Globally there are roughly 2 types of CV, the Curriculum Vitae that many of us know and love and the “Europass” CV – hated by all in London. Hated of course because it is completely useless as a professional document in this country. As a recruiter I need to know what companies you have worked for, what dates you were there for, what you were doing for each company and which technologies you used. Instead the Europass is a hideous piece of bureau-bum designed EU-construct aren’t-we-so-different cr@p which is genuinely completely useless and many a good developer has been over-looked simply because their experience was delivered in the utterly indecipherable format of the dreaded Europass. If you have one AVOID, REWRITE or FORGET it

Most hiring managers can get through the first and often the second stage interview in their process on the telephone or through Skype. However no-one is going to employ someone they haven’t met and therefore an appetite for coming over to the UK for interviews and being flexible about it will be very helpful. Today it is rare occurrence that a British company will pay for a candidate to fly over to the UK for an interview. Any good recruiter should help to arrange the process to make it as easy and cost effective for you as possible but you have to realise you are competing with developers who are already in the UK – afterall what is the point of companies paying to see you when they don’t have to pay anyone who is already in the UK. You will also need to have made up your mind that you really do want to relocate to the UK and be prepared to move over as soon as possible once you secure that dream job. Talking it through with wives / girlfriends / Cuban-US-visa-seeking-lovers before hand will be a very good idea.

It is a good market in the UK for good Java developers and its rare that I hear of foreign candidates who have the right to work in the UK, the marketable technical skills, good English communication skills, a proper Curriculum Vitae and flexibility to attend interviews going home having failed to find a job. However, nothing good comes easy in this world, and no matter how active the market is you will always take a couple of weeks or maybe even months to find the right position for you. So be brave, be tenacious about your applications and have patience that the right role will come along.

Postcard Market Update

I just got out of a meeting with a dev manager at a top American bank who asked me for an update on where the market is at the moment, this is what I came up with:

  •  hardly any new projects in the market
    (which means very little senior hiring or work for BAs, PMs or Dev Managers)
  • demand for contractors remains small, although we have heard mutterings that it will pick up in September
  • the lack of Tier 1 visas has started to affect the market in terms of its restriction upon supply
  • “new” technologies continue to shape the market (HTML5, F#, Scala, Clojure, Objective-c – if that still counts – Coco, NoSQL…)
  • Government Regulations continue to be one of the few forces driving new projects
  • demand for junior techies (up to 5 years experience) is sky high, pushing up salaries and expectations

Has the Government’s restriction of Tier 1 visas started to affect the London IT market?

When the Government stopped issuing Tier 1 visas (previously known as the Highly Skilled Migrant Visa) I knew that it was going to affect the IT recruitment market because at least half of the Java developers I had placed that year had either been on a Tier 1 visa, or had residency following 5 years of living and working in this country.

In my opinion this was the first disappointing thing the Conservative-lead coalition Government did. An amateurish and ham-fisted effort to cut down on headline immigration figures, whilst in fact doing nothing to help the domestic labour market and instead hitting the UK economy where it really hurts – in the financial service sector. Not only does the economy need these people, but each Tier 1 visa the Government granted made them thousands of pounds in fees and the migrant would pay tax at the highest rate.

The criteria to qualify for a Tier 1 visa was quite tough: you had to earn something like 40k sterling in your own country, have a significant amount of cash in your bank account and have a specialist skill that the UK had indicted that it was lacking its domestic labour market. And the point is that we really do lack these skills, we just don’t have enough home grown computer scientists, software engineers and IT developers who can hit the high benchmark the financial services industry requires. This is almost definitely a result of the lackadaisical approach to standards we have had in this country for the past 20 years (or more).

But until last Christmas it didn’t really feel like this restriction on immigration had had much affect. I think much of the affect that this should have had, has been masked by a continuing trend to outsource or nearsource by the big investment banks (the banks have long had a presence in global outsourcing centres like India, Singapore and Russia; but more recent the likes of Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse have also opened centres in Hungary and Wroclaw respectively).

Another mitigating factor has been that many contractors hired in the good years have been let go. Now in the main that doesn’t mean that they have taken up the jobs that permanent developers with Tier 1 visas would normally have taken (these contractors have tended to hold out for another contract rather than take a permanent position), but what it has done is created more opportunities for staff in big companies to move internally; meaning that the big IT employers have had to go to market less than in previous years.

One area where that internal movement has not been able to satisfy staffing requirements, is for graduate and junior positions, and surprise, surprise demand for developers with this small level of experience has increased. So its become much harder for recruiters to find promising junior developers, and starting salaries have been pushed up.

One knock on affect of this tightening of the labour market has of course kept contractor rates artificially high. Normally contractors provide labour market flexibility, and as such their rates go up and down with demand. That is happening to a certain extent, but many contractor rates are remaining at, or around, 2010 levels.

So what’s going to happen next?

The country used to grant Tier 1 visas to make up for shortfalls in very specific, highly skilled workers, that the UK could not provide domestically. The logical result of this is going to be more off and near-shoring, incidences of companies providing visas will become commonplace (as is already starting to happen), migration across the EU will continue to increase (we are already seeing lots of Greek programmers coming to London for instance) and sadly smaller IT dependent companies are going to start looking to establish themselves elsewhere.

Talent and entrepreneurialism are the only things that we can rely on to get ourselves out of this recession and remain a leading force in the market, we need to invest more in education now!

Redundancy money = fool’s gold?

It’s a sign of the market when the amount of people I’m talking to have been made redundant is steadily increasing. And the annoying thing is too many people only come to me months after they have left the company, sometimes 6 months of unemployment, and I ask – is the pay-off worth it?

Gone are the days when it was 2 years up-front salary, today its more likely to be 1 year’s if you stay at the company until the end of the consultation period. In return they want you to stay working for them, handing over everything nicely until they are ready for you to go. This is the bargain.

In my experience its not worth it. Yes you get a big sum of money you can put towards your mortgage or whatever, but is it worth the period of unemployment that inevitably follows? Is it worth the disruption to your career path? Or the stigma of having been “made redundant”?

A lot of people seem to first react with a head-in-the-sand approach whilst the consultation goes on, and then I suspect that rather than tackle this change of plan head-on, the idea of a couple of months “holiday” starts to grow on them. And it’s always a surprise to me how long people last, I suppose the injection of all that immediate cash keeps the show on the road for a while. I get the impression the holiday idea wears off pretty soon once the cold, hard reality of what is essentially unemployment kicks in.

And then it seems to be a period of time before they contact a recruiter as well – madness.

In short I just don’t think the cash is worth the potential misery of 3 months unemployment.

So here is my advice to anyone put “at risk” of redundancy:

– Start your jobsearch immediately. Get real. You have been fired. It wasn’t through any fault of your own – which really sucks – but now you have to focus all your energies on getting a better job right away.

– Update your CV, brush the cobwebs off your Linked IN profile and add your contact details to your home page, start applying for adverts and get your CV on the jobboards.

– Network! Think – who do you know who might be worth getting in contact with. Whether they can help you directly or they will know someone who can, it is always worth getting the message out that you are looking

– Start preparing for interviews. Annoyingly the chances are that the first interview you get will be for a really good job. So start preparing early! If you are a techie – there are plenty of resources out there, from the answers to all the threading questions there are to taking a brainbench test and working out where your weak points are before an interviewer does.