Remote Work and the opportunity for Latin American coders.
The Covid Crisis forced many companies to adopt remote work practices and it may trigger a massive switch in talent recruitment opportunities across timezones. Latam developers should take notice and will benefit from the trend.
The Covid crisis did not invent remote work, it just forced everyone to discover it works. And this changes everything.
Remote work is nothing new. It's been years since the office has been decried as the last place people mention to actually get any work done (watch this TED talk if you want details and a good laugh) and a bunch of high flying startups in recent years such as Zapier, Olark or Hotjar have been proving that a remote workforce by default does not prevent you to grow at incredible pace. What's actually new is that the COVID quarantine forced every company on Earth to go full remote for a couple of months. And most companies liked what they discovered.
Mark Zuckerberg in a recent interview declared that within 10 years, he's aiming at having half his workforce working from home, and as of today all the open positions for recruitment now allow "remote workers" to apply and be considered. Google, Twitter, Square, Box, Shopify, Zillow, Upwork or Coinbase officially declared similar ambitions on remote work. Something changed.
"Change happens slowly and then all at once." (Some dude on twitter)
Facebook also declared that all of its employees could opt to move to any location in the US, but a salary cut would be considered to adapt to the local cost of living... I doubt that many opt for that.
But what's interesting is how long will it take for recruiters all over the world to realize that once the pandora's box of remote worker is opened, you literally can recruit anyone from anywhere...
And that's where, I think, Latin American developers have a tremendous opportunity to be considered as a viable recruitment option for American tech companies. Not just outsourcing or nearshoring, but fulltime team members connecting everyday to their colleagues only from a longer distance than usual.
Lots of conditions for this to happen were already in place:
Scarcity of skilled workers in the US, that's always been the case and will keep being the case given the growth of digital need (reinforced by Covid once again).
Quality of LatAm coders, Coding communities of LatAm hubs from Buenos Aires to Belo Horizonte, Medellin to Mexico are growing pools of talents getting global attention. It's no wonder Rails was first demo'ed by DHH in a conference in São Paulo in 2005. Anyone having hired local Software House such as Plataformatec or bigger ones such as Globant (a unicorn startup from Argentina) will not be surprised here. New promising languages such as Elixir are being developed by top notch developers down here once again proving the ability of LatAm coding geniuses to play the big game.
Educational gap of LatAm is being attacked by international schools. Since 2016, all of the big players of international tech education have been setting foot on the continent, from Coding Bootcamps (Le Wagon, Ironhack) to the new kind of "no teacher" Computer Science programs (Holberton and 42) and of course online courses platforms such as Udemy or Udacity. And this doesn't even take into account the local players, some of which have raised substantial amounts of venture capital to address the same issue such as Digital House or Trybe.
Cultural, language and timezone advantages. As you might have noticed there is the word "America" in Latin America. And yes historically, English dominance was an issue but it has been improving a lot locally and the increasing portion of Spanish speaking Americans in the US is also helping connect the regions.
But now the last conditions that needed to be filled have also been reached:
The Cultural acceptance that remote work is work, and pretty good work and it may be a good helper to avoid the nuisances of open space distraction and the plague of back-to-back meetings. (I know Zoom meetings exist, but working on something else without getting caught is way easier on Zoom than in a meeting room).
The coming crisis and the need to reduce costs will make cheaper workers from remote regions - who are not only just as good and autonomous, but also a third of the cost with the current USD FX rates - a hard-to-dismiss proposal for any CEO.
The new difficulty Trump administration has imposed on work visa for tech talent. Trump's policy of "Hire American First" is no surprise to anyone following his MAGA agenda but that has been limiting the one solution Silicon Valley had to keep ahead of the world on talent : international brain draining people to the Bay Area. Work visas approvals rates have on decline even before Covid (source) and it's doubtful Apple and the likes will settle on hiring from a less competitive pool of local talents rather than opening the gates of recruiting anywhere on Earth with no need for visa at all.
At Le Wagon, we recently invited Felipe Couto, founder of Vulpi a platform for hiring developers for a talk. Felipe told us the story of Covid made them pivot from local job openings to international remote offers and described how much American companies loved Brazilian talents (the talk in portuguese). And as if I needed another sign of the new times for my article. I learned this morning that one of our Le Wagon alumni (a former lawyer turned coder) who lost his local job had to wait only 3 weeks to get hired for a remote job by a US startup. He was and still is a junior developer, not a superstar coder (yet...).
It is happening, folks! You should get ready.
Employees today who are loving working from home should be aware that while in the past they were competing for jobs with people from their cities or towns, or at least people willing to move or commute there, they now will have to compete on a global level, skilling up will be vital to making sure you remain ahead of the pack. New kind of connections will be created, it will not open a less socially connected world (especially in Latin America where relationship matter so much) but different kind of connections. Working among friends and family, more freedom for your lifestyle choice, less time wasted in forced daily commute.
I'm optimistic. Are you?
Mathieu Le Roux, Cofounder of Le Wagon in Latin America, the n°1 coding bootcamp on Course Report and Switchup based on students reviews. Bringing technical skills to creative minds since 2016.