As Silicon Valley retrenches, a tech talent shift accelerates

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Priya Natarajan, a seasoned software engineer, was restless and looking for her next career move. She wanted two things: a job where her technical skills would be put to good use in a field that could make “a big impact on the world,” she said.

Natarajan, 36, chose health care. In July, she left Amazon, where she had been for nearly 14 years, to join Optum Labs, a research arm of UnitedHealth Group, a big insurer and health services provider. During the recruitment process, she became convinced that the company was committed to being a leader in using data and technology to improve health care.

“I liked the story,” Natarajan said.

In a reordering of the market for tech workers, more technology professionals are looking beyond the well-known Big Tech employers to companies in many other industries that increasingly offer challenging opportunities.

Dispersing talent beyond the major tech companies, some analysts say, should be welcomed. “If this transition redeploys skilled tech workers to other sectors of the economy, that may very well be a healthy development,” said Tim Herbert, chief research officer at CompTIA, a technology education and research organization.

The trend had been underway before, according to recruiters and labor analysts. But the employment reset in the tech industry, they say, is accelerating the shift. Alphabet, Amazon and Meta aren’t hiring? Well, JPMorgan Chase, Walmart and UnitedHealth are in need of tech talent.

For the first time since the dot-com bubble burst two decades ago, the tech industry is at the forefront of an economic downturn.

After frenzied growth and hiring during the worst of the pandemic, the tech sector is going in reverse. Growth has fallen, and stock prices have plummeted. Layoffs, hiring freezes and recruiting slowdowns are the order of the day at a lengthening list of well-known tech companies including Meta, Twitter, Alphabet, Amazon, DoorDash, Lyft, Snap and Stripe, as well as at venture-backed startups.

Still, overall employment in tech occupations has grown over the past year, to a record 6.39 million in November, according to government statistics reported last month. That was slightly up from the previous month and a 12% increase from November 2021.

Today, a majority of tech jobs are at companies outside the tech sector in industries like banking, retail, health care and manufacturing whose operations are increasingly becoming digital. These mainstream companies, unlike their Silicon Valley counterparts, did not go on manic hiring sprees during the pandemic. But they continue to invest in tech skills.

“Nearly every company is going through this — they need tech talent,” said Lori Beer, global chief information officer at JPMorgan.

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