Markets, Economy Drive Engineering Jobs
By Ron Schneiderman / March 2011
You can Google it. 2011 will be the biggest hiring year in the company’s history, according to its official blog posted in January, with many of the new hires in Europe.
Google already employs about 5000 people in Europe, and Eric Schmidt, the outgoing CEO of Google, announced recently in Germany that Google expects to hire more than 1000 new employees across Europe, at least half of them with engineering or computer science backgrounds.
A recruitment drive launched by Google in late January pulled more than 75 000 resumes for some 6000 open positions the company expects to fill this year, ranging from software engineers to product designers, computer scientists, and engineering management.
“We’re looking for top talent, across the board and around the globe, and we’ll hire as many smart, creative people as we can to tackle some of the toughest challenges in computer science,” Alan Eustace, Google’s senior vice president for engineering and research, wrote in Google’s blog in January.
Eustace said he joined Google eight years ago —“when it had barely 500 employees and Google still used Outlook for email and AIM for chat.” Today, Google’s global workforce is about 24 500. Much of its work across its facilities in Europe is focused on content ID for YouTube, search (including product search and insights for search), and Android, the company’s increasingly popular operating system.
Another prolific recruiter of technical talent in Europe is Siemens AG. “We always need good people,” says Silke Reh, Siemens’ director of corporate communications. “In Germany alone, we have more than 3000 job vacancies — about 80 percent of which are for engineers.”
Microsoft doesn’t plan to hire anywhere near the numbers Google and Siemens are talking about, but it is no less demanding.
“We’re always hiring in Europe,” says Fiona Mullan, Microsoft’s international staffing director. “As diversified as our business is, so too are our current opportunities. Particularly in demand are positions related to online services and cloud technologies.”
Mullan says Microsoft currently has more than 100 positions available in Europe. The company has campuses in the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Russia, Germany and France. Job openings cover product development and research in information technology (IT) to support its IT consulting services. The required skills vary from coding in .NET and SQL Server to designing technology architectures for on-premise or cloud solutions for Microsoft customers.
Intel also continues to hire engineers in Europe, but plans only a slight increase in the number of new hires from previous years, according to Stephanie Lee, the European account manager for European staffing at Intel Corporation UK Ltd. This includes graduates and post-graduates with software development skills.
“We are planning to hire software engineers, graphics software engineers, test engineers, and software application engineers. Around 20 graduate opportunities,” adds Lee.
The European Aeronautics Defense and Space Company (based in France, EADS is best known for the Airbus and as the world’s largest manufacturer of helicopters), lists 962 openings for engineering positions (169 of them avionics specialists), another 260 positions for system and electronics support, and 127 openings in R&D. Meanwhile, the European Space Agency (ESA) is also looking for engineers, mostly for its human spaceflight, robotics exploration, and photonics activities in Noordwijk, The Netherlands and Darmstadt, Germany.
INRIA, a French public research institute in computer sciences and applied mathematics, and a major player in European R&D programs, expects to hire at least 18 scientists this year, including recent graduates and experienced people. It also has openings for 55 post-doctoral students (applicants who have defended their thesis within the last year), as well as 32 PhD-level scientists. INRIA is also in the market for 77 R&D engineers—both recent graduates and experienced.
INRIA has eight research centers (the Microsoft Research-INRIA Joint Centre is one) and also contributes to academic research teams outside of these centers. It currently employs 3800 people, including 1300 researchers, 1000 PhD students and 500 post-doctorates. (In October 2010, INRIA, with Pierre and Marie Curie University and Paris Diderot University started IRILL, a center for innovation and research initiatives for free software.)
“The positions on offer concern the institute’s priority research areas,” says Eric Chareyre, INRIA’s talent detection project manager. This includes life and environmental sciences, applied mathematics and computing/perception, cognition and interaction/networks, systems and services, distributed computing/algorithmics, programming, software and architecture. However, Chareyre says high-quality applications to work on non-priority subjects will also be considered. “Priority will be given to French and international candidates who have also studied abroad, but all high-quality applications will be carefully considered.”
Infineon Technologies AG, which recently boosted its outlook for 2011 due to demand in the automotive and industrial electronics sectors, has well over 100 job openings, mostly for engineers and software developers, many in Villach, Austria and Warstein, Germany. “Our needs now are mainly in microelectronics, power electronics, embedded control, production engineering, and application engineering for our target markets in automotive, industrial, and chip cards and security,” says Ralf Memmel, who heads the company’s human resources talent marketing and diversity office.
Infineon sold its wireless solutions business unit to Intel at the end January. “All of the wireless people we were looking for now become Intel’s task,” adds Memmel. “So, we have reduced our requirement for RF engineers.”
Vestas Wind Systems A/S doesn’t have any immediate plans to add to its technical staff this year, but will only replace staff if necessary, according to Tracy Foster, the UK-based people and culture generalist for Vestas Technology R&D, and those would be mainly for composite design engineers, process engineers, automation and aerodynamic engineers, and finite element analysis specialists.
HARD TO FIND SKILLS
“These skills can often be hard to find,” says Foster, “particularly if we require previous experience with large structures on the size and scale that we are currently working with. We have also recruited graduate engineers with qualifications in a broad range of disciplines such as aerospace, mechanical, and electrical engineering, as these skills are very useful when combined with our strong internal development schemes for wind energy.”
Several other companies, both big and not so big, are very actively recruiting technical talent this year.
The United Technologies Research Center employs about 500 people in East Hartford, Conn., Shanghai, and in Berkeley, Calif., but plans to add 15 researchers with advanced degrees in 2011 to its new United Technologies Research Centre Ireland, with further plans to increase its staff to 50 by 2014. The center will “provide a hub for European interactions and also access the great technical talent throughout Europe,” says John M. Milton-Benoit, general manager of UTRCI. “Currently, UTRCI R&D is focusing on the next generation of integrated energy and security systems. We plan to expand our research scope to aerospace applications in the future.”
Successful candidates for UTRCI will need a PhD or MS degree in a relevant engineering or science discipline, such as power electronics, wireless sensor networks, middleware and software architectures, embedded operating systems, and decision-support, including diagnostics, prognostics, data mining and anomaly detection methods, as well as formal methods, including security policy design and verification and multi-factor authentication systems.
UK-based ARM Holding, which owns the rights to most of the core chip designs used in the smartphone and laptop market, has at least 60 openings for engineers across Europe. Rohde & Schwarz, a leading supplier of test and measurement equipment, is looking for 25 engineers to be based at its home facility in Munich, most of them software development and support specialists. Analog Devices recently posted 184 engineering openings worldwide, and about 40 are in Europe—mostly in the UK and Ireland. And Ericsson lists about 48 European Union (EU)-based engineering positions on its website, including several slots for software design engineers, mostly in Madrid.
A new Nokia-Microsoft alliance formed earlier this year could result in mass layoffs as Nokia switches over to Windows Phone, according to Stephen Elop, the company’s new CEO. (Nokia announced in October 2010 that it would slash 1800 jobs as part of a reorganization of its smartphone production.) Elop has so far declined to say “how many and in what country” any job cuts would take place.
IBM is opening a new R&D center in Lithuania under a five-year agreement with the Lithuanian Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Education and Science. Not much has been said about hiring, but the agreement calls for IBM to contribute existing assets and research expertise from its research laboratories in Zurich, Almaden, New York, and Haifa. Much of the work will focus on nanotechnology, targeting healthcare applications. IBM said it plans to open another nanotechnology center in Switzerland later this year.
RFMW Ltd. began operations in Europe this year, opening offices in the UK, Germany, and Italy. It also signed a distribution agreement with TriQuint Semiconductor in January to support its specialized distribution activities in Europe. “Our goal is to expand TriQuint’s design-in opportunities and to provide a high level of customer support to TriQuint’s current customers,” says Joel Levine, the president of RFMW Ltd.
Wisconsin-based Plexus Corp., an electronic manufacturing services company, recently expanded its operations in Europe, opening a design center in Darmstadt, Germany. “We plan to hire about 20 product development engineers and managers in 2011,” says Steve Frisch, the company’s regional EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) president, “including embedded software designers, digital hardware designers, analog designers [power and RF], and mechanical designers. We will also be hiring project managers and an IT systems administrator. Our goal is to hire more than 30 technical professionals for the Darmstadt Design Center by the end of 2012.”
EVERYONE INTO THE TALENT POOL
There has been a shortage of engineers in Europe for years, resulting in plenty of competition across the EU for highly qualified candidates.
“There’s a war for talent,” says INRIA’s Chareyre.
Intel’s Stephanie Lee readily agrees. “It’s very competitive,” she says. “There seem to be more employers hiring in this area and fewer students choosing these matching disciplines across Europe, making it necessary for us to look beyond Europe to find the skills we’re looking for.”
“One of the hiring trends we’re seeing,” says Microsoft’s Mullan, “is that technology is becoming more and more prevalent in non-traditional fields. Technology experience is becoming valuable in positions that would have previously been considered non-tech.”
Siemens’ Reh says, “The need for qualified young talent will increase rather than decline due to demographic developments in Germany.”
“Increasingly, it is becoming necessary to look outside the EU” for technical talent, says Tracy Foster of Vestas Technology R&D.
NEW IT SKILLS NEEDED
The European technology job market is also very competitive in IT, with surveys suggesting that IT professionals are falling behind in acquiring necessary skill sets to keep up with the emergence of cloud computing and the proliferation of smartphones, tablet computers, and other mobile devices in the workplace.
“Spending has increased significantly [in IT] across most industries,” says Microsoft’s Mullan, “creating a high demand for developers, IT infrastructure specialists and architects with skills in the latest technologies, particularly in cloud computing.”
A report published in December, 2010 by the Centre for Economics and Business Research estimates that around 2.4 million jobs will be created by the shift to cloud computing, primarily from new applications and software that make cloud computing possible. The report also warns that some traditional IT support staff may have to be redeployed to other technical areas of the business to bolster support for cloud services.
A new survey by Walldorf, Germany-based SAP AG says organizations across Europe are refocusing their IT budgets toward IT innovation. (Forty-four percent of the respondents said the lack of spending on innovation has directly resulted in reduced productivity.) Other recent studies also suggest a severe gap in skills needed industry-wide for information security professionals.
EUROPE'S DIGITAL CZAR
Neelie Kroes, the Europe Commission’s vice president for digital agenda, recently sent letters to Google, Microsoft, BT, Vodafone, and about 40 other companies inviting them to a “Digital Agenda” conference in Brussels in March. According to a report in The Sunday Telegraph, Kroes (sometimes known as Europe’s digital czar), will use the meeting to tell the world’s tech leaders that they “must invest more in research and development” and make more of an effort to bring everyone [in Europe] online. Jobs weren’t mentioned specifically, but Kroes said this “special summit” was designed to help advance the continent’s “digital revolution.”
About Ron Schneiderman:
Ron Schneiderman is a contributing editor for Electronic Design and Vision Magazines, and a regular contributor to IEEE Signal Processing Magazine. He's the author of seven books, including "Technology Lost -- Hype and Reality in the Digital Age."