Skills in Focus – Embedded Software

There once was a time where people marvelled at one mobile phone connecting wirelessly with another through Bluetooth, but those days of astonishment are now a distant memory.

Now, it seems that inter-technology communication is everywhere. Mobiles are talking to Satnavs. iWatches are talking to TVs. Tablets are talking to kettles and, soon, cars will be talking to other cars.

This requires two key elements - a software engineer to work on the embedded platform and, thereafter, a developer to write the application on top of this software layer. However, hybrid software engineers combine these two skillsets into one and are, therefore, finding themselves in huge demand.

The issue with hiring two separate people for these jobs is that once the project reaches the front end phase, most developers have limited understanding of the protocols used within connective devices at the embedded level. As such, they are working with something inflexible and often run into difficulty where somebody with experience of embedded work could simply revise the original work to smooth over any issues.

Usually, the hybrid software engineer is an embedded engineer who has gained a front end skill (JavaScript, more often than not) and can complete all parts of the project life cycle. Generally it is easier for an embedded engineer to pick up front end skills than for a developer to "work backwards" and get to grips with the lower level work.

Some clients are looking to cover this need with permanent employees, accepting that workers with any substantial experience of hybrid software engineering will likely be looking for contract work and so solving the problem by hiring permanent embedded engineers with some basic understanding of applications, then investing heavily in training the individual into a rounded hybrid engineer. This is a risky approach because it will take time and investment to get the worker up to speed with the new skillset. Also, once the worker has achieved the right level of talent and experience, there is a strong possibility he might leave the client in order to seek more lucrative contract work.

On contract, the resource pool is deeper due to higher earning potential so clients have more choice from those with the best skillsets. However, there are still roughly three open jobs for every one hybrid software engineer and many clients are allowing contractors to work from home in order to incentivise them to accept their job over those of their competitors.

 Whilst, on the surface, the overall deal offered to these contractors seems inflated, when you consider that the client would otherwise have to hire BOTH an embedded engineer and an application developer, it becomes clear that this "expensive" contractor is actually cost effective even when compared to two good permanent workers. Many clients are realising this and not being shy about putting 12 month contracts at excellent rates - and working from home - on the table.

Whether your preference is for permanent or contract hiring, one thing is clear - if you are involved with connective device revolution in any way, it's going to be wise to start looking into hybrid engineers sooner rather than later. There are few enough of them available right now and they are only going to grow increasingly in demand over the next couple of years. 

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