Twitter went to work from home forever. Here’s how that might play out for other tech companies after the pandemic.

I don’t make predictions often, but here’s one: Within six months, both the first and second tier software companies will be hiring people to telecommute. That means new hires can work from anywhere. This will impact all of IT with more demand.

It starts with Twitter’s announcement that its 4,800 employees can work from home indefinitely. Mark Zuckerberg made a similar decision for Facebook. Bill Gates wants a national work from home policy, while Google’s employees can work from home through the end of the year.

Ripple effects

First, the companies that are going to make telecommute work forever will start hiring from anywhere. This means the smart young graduates who really want to stay in Kansas City, or Des Moines, Nashville, or Columbus will have another option. They can continue to live in South Bend, IN, and work for a large software company. This will tighten the local hiring market. People with skills will be more in demand, as the availability of skilled IT dries up.

These people can just work in Funchal, for example, on the seashore and not worry about their location.

Second, my other prediction is the end-of-year companies, such as Google, will begin to lose employees to the for-all-time ones, like Twitter and Facebook. That will accelerate the hiring of people who live outside of Silicon Valley and San Francisco, making the “heartland” and other non-hotbed job markets even harder for employers.

Once that happens, there is a third possibility that could create massive change.

It is possible, just possible, that Silicon Valley, Seattle, and New York City figure out that the rest of the world is cheaper. If that happens, then the floodgates of employment will open. After that a modest fraction of telecom, retail, and other middle-conservative firms could follow.

Given the uncertainty in the market, I would expect contact organizations, such as Pillar (recently acquired by Accenture) to rise up to provide contract workers within a reasonable time zone of Silicon Valley. Another possibility is that the big software companies hire employees directly, perhaps adjusting salary for location, making sure the dollar amount is still remarkably high. For the right skill set, the world is your oyster.

Then again, there are still custom SQL programmers working on outmoded platforms creating reports. For those people, life probably won’t change much. The question is: What skills matter?

The magical place to be is to have skills that are both in-demand locally and in-demand by the big players. 

The ongoing digital divide

If you live in a town large enough to have a major employer building a cluster, then you know DevOps tools like Kubernetes, Docker, and Openshift are on the rise. On the programming front, the new frontier seems to be mobile development. I see Microsoft’s Xamarin or React native as a safe bet, as it cross-compiles results to both iOS and Android. In my consulting I’ve heard more and more about Flutter for iOS. In a interview for TechRepublic, Dave Imendiaraz, general manager of Lucas Group, a nationwide group of recruiters, listed Python, React, Angular, machine learning, and Docker as the five most popular tech skills in 2020. 

The historical problem was getting experience to get the job, and you needed to get the job to get experience. That’s not quite as true today thanks to the online offerings. Pluralsight has a 10-day free trial and Udemy a pay-per-course model. Many of these courses push you to actually create a product, such as a Twitter clone, out of open-source materials. Invest the hundred dollars or so on web hosting and you have the proof of concept.

That might not get you hired at Google, but in this new world, the recent college graduate from the right school who wants to live at home just did. That means the insurance company or bank that wanted to hire a new graduate can’t.

Suddenly, the motivated veteran that created a proof of concept at night looks very appealing.

It is, of course, possible I am wrong. If the new normal becomes more shutdown, that would lead to the end of the travel and tourism industry as we know, leaving a huge number of good IT staff on the job market. As a betting man, I wouldn’t bet on it. In six months I expect my friends at Royal Carribean will be back, dropping off at exotic ports and playing Jimmy Buffet songs over the loudspeaker.

Either way, if you’ve got a little free time, it may be wise to invest in some skills.

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