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Embedded talents: market, features of recruiting, expectations of employers

 

 By this article, we open a series of materials, in which we will share our experience and observations on the market of specialists in various technologies and the features of their search and selection. Let's start with a narrow, but difficult to find specialization - Embedded developers. We are involved in their searching for more than 8 years.

According to a number of studies, the embedded systems market is constantly growing, CAGR determines the average annual growth rate of this market as 5.5%. Its value in 2017 amounted to 68.9 billion, and according to experts, in 2025 this figure will already be 105.7 billion. In addition, over the past 2 years, due to the wider use of embedded equipment in everyday life, without taking into account the growth of the market itself, the number of developers in embedded projects increased by 20%.

 

Who is Embedded Engineer?

An embedded engineer is a specialist who creates software for working embedded systems (those that operate under computer control, for example, routers, smart calls, various sensors for smart  houses, etc.). He participates in full development cycle of the device, from the choice of hardware, to the features of the OS. Embedded Engineer should be good not only in the code, but in the operating of the hardware or electronics of the created product as well.

The degree of integration in hardware development may vary depending on the project. For example, in some projects you need the skills of kernel space development, system and application engineering, and in others they will never come in handy.

According to our estimates, today in Ukraine there are about 10,000 Embedded engineers of various levels and profiles. For comparison, in Russia their number is 30,000, and in Belarus - 3,000. They are mostly demanded in the automotive, networking, and IoT sectors in general.

The most typical requirements for embedded developers look like this:

 

If we talk about languages, then most engineers use three languages: C (45%), C ++ (26%) and Python (8%), the share of the rest does not exceed 3%.

As for the OS, here you can see a regional separation of preferences:

 

The most popular languages

World

USA

Europe, MEAF

Asia

Embedded Linux 

31% 

32% 

31% 

26%

FreeRTOS

27% 

25%

24% 

37%

Android

14% 

12% 

10% 

26%

 

As you can see from the requirements, Embedded developers must be very versatile people. And their experience is a set of a number of technologies: from programming languages and build systems to chip architecture. At the same time, the stack of the Embedded engineer changes and is supplemented depending on product that he is developing. For example, those who work with networking have added technologies related to signal transmission (different network protocols, knowledge of Wi-Fi / Bluetooth transmission standards, etc.).

Career opportunities

In recent years, the number of vacancies for Embedded engineers has significantly increased, both, globally and in Ukraine. This is due both to the development of the IoT market in the world, and the opening in Ukraine of R&D offices of many product companies.

The most famous product companies and startups developing embedded devices in Ukraine for today:

  • Ubiquiti Networks;
  • Mellanox
  • Cypress semiconductor;
  • Intel;
  • Samsung Electronics;
  • Ajax Systems;
  • Ring Ukraine;
  • PetCube etc.

Work in such companies has a number of advantages: greater security and stability (there are no risks that “the project will be closed tomorrow”); the opportunity to work in an excellent office, where there is all the necessary and modern equipment; social package; teamwork; the ability to create something that has no analogues in the world. But to get into such a company, you must have extremely high skills, good knowledge of English, and be prepared for high loadings and overtime.

There is another scenario: a number of IT consulting companies (outsourcing as well) have embedded projects. The most famous companies in this direction: GlobalLogic, Lohika, Luxoft, SoftServe, PLVision and Larch Networks.

Pros: good social package; a large selection of projects within the company, often there are offices not only in Kiev (but also in Kharkov, Lviv, Odessa, etc.).

Cons: there is no direct effect on the product, and engineers most often work only with a certain part of the project, uninteresting and similar tasks can come across, because of this developers can feel "stagnation" in development.

Also, with the digitalization of manufacturing in Europe, Embedded engineers are in high demand for relocation. This is especially true for the automotive sector.

Pros: huge scale of projects; access to manufacturing.

Cons: problems associated with relocate; high taxes in highly developed countries.

On ukrainian site DOU in Embedded specialists category today there are 48 vacancies open; on rabota.ua - 22 vacancies; Linkedin - 20 vacancies (some vacancies are duplicated on different sites). But one vacancy does not mean one job, most companies with such projects feel the need for a large number of Embedded engineers.

Ring, Mellanox and Ubiquiti Networks are constantly looking for Embedded engineers, although this is mainly Senior positions. Ajax, GlobalLogic, Samsung hire not only experienced professionals, but also grow specialists from Junior, in the company. For several years, GlobalLogic has been organizing for Embedded Career Day in different cities of Ukraine, and Ajax has been organizing Embedded meetup and visits to attract new people.

Each company, in addition to technical skills, appreciates  interest in the company's product and company itself.

For example, Ubiquiti Networks' HR, Tatyana Kraepel, describes company’s hiring approach:

“We draw attention to the fact that a person enjoys his work and wants to develop. That he has energy that he wants to invest in creating something new, because our company is a product company and new ideas constantly appear. And, of course, is he interested in our company.”

 

Salary

According to DOU, salaries of Embedded developers start from $600 for Junior and up to $5000 for Senior and Team Lead.

From our experience, if you “knock” on specialists yourself, then salary expectations will look like this:

  • $ 2,000 - 3,000 + net - Middle;
  • $ 3,000 - 5,500 + net - Senior.

 

Psychological profile

An embedded engineer is usually a candidate of 25-30 years (Junior - Middle level) or 32-45 years (Senior level). He changes his job once every three years, most often, according to the recommendations of his colleagues on market.

Embedded developers rarely change their focus, for example, they don’t want to switch from developing cameras to wi-fi routers. In fact, it is quite difficult, because you need to deeply immerse in the study of new technologies, so, respectively, they become experts in one direction.

 Embedded developers often have related software / hardware hobbies or side projects (they collect telescopes and various devices, write articles on electronics, etc.).

Embedded engineers are generally not very sociable, they are characterized by directness, a craving for specificity and a critical assessment of what is happening. When communicating with potential candidates, be prepared for skepticism and concise answers. At the same time,  developers are ready to describe their experience in the smallest details and will be happy to help you understand the unfamiliar technology.

First-hand experience: what are embedded developers looking for?

“Basic things: salary, arrangement of the office (and its location), as well as the ability to rent house nearby. It is also important to understand skills, development of which promises this position. In general, my assessment of what is happening begins from the interview, its quality, how adequate questions are asked and what kind of situation is around. It is important to understand the prospects of the company as a whole and the vacancy separately. ”

“When I was looking for a new place, the following points were important: the presence of management and company size, because I really wanted a little one. Projects to work with: I really wanted bare metall + linux. People with whom to work; finally I went to my friends (previously worked together). While I went for interviews, there were different places and offers. The bureaucracy was the most annoying when there were useless people (whom I would have to work with) at the interview. Having useless managers for “efficiency” was one of the decisive factors. ”

 

Recruiting Insights

1) Where to look for? You need to search for embedded developers as broadly as possible - do not limit the search to LinkedIn only, use different keywords, look for places where such people "hang out" - chats, forums, groups.

For reference, according to the study, top-10 favorite resources of embedded developers in 2019:

  1. EE Times (10.9%)
  2. Google (8.4%)
  3. Embedded.com (7.6%)
  4. Stack Overflow (5.3%)
  5. Digikey (4.7%)
  6. EDN (4.1%)
  7. IEEE (3.9%)
  8. TI (3.9%)
  9. Analog Devices (2.3%)
  10. Github.com (2.3%)

2) The average time to fill the vacancy for Senior Embedded engineer (according to Skillers’ internal analytics) is 93 days. This is much longer than the closure of other vacancies (for example, Frontend– 24 days, C# - 28 days).

3) The market of specialists is so narrow that employers can afford not to give a test task, relying on recommendations and a technical interview.

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