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Following a year of layoffs in 2023, tech companies are signaling an uptick in job openings for 2024. In particular, new hiring for software engineers is responding to a suite of factors, including lasting impacts of the pandemic, economic trends, and political and social shifts happening both domestically and internationally. Across those factors, the accelerating capabilities of AI are reshaping how – and how quickly – software gets developed.

Let’s look at the expanding horizons for software engineering and then consider four key trends expected to shape software engineering this year, all underpinned by the need for adaptability and innovation.

AI, ML, and Cybersecurity Will Drive Software Engineering Demand

Statista predicts[1] that by end of 2024, the worldwide population of software developers will swell to 28.7 million, spelling opportunities for global job growth driven by:

  • Digital transformation initiatives.
  • Creation of new platforms and apps.
  • Continued increase in smartphone users, further spurring demand for apps.
  • Expansion of e-commerce.
  • Renewed emphasis on cybersecurity.
  • Growth of decentralized applications (DApps) and blockchain technology
  • Adoption and integration of AI and ML.

To prepare, engineers will need to consider and anticipate impacts across those factors. That will mean maintaining strong core engineering skills, watching closely for opportunities with innovative startups, and staying up-to-date with AI trends – especially by seizing opportunities to work cross-functionally to understand how other stakeholders are leveraging and implementing AI.

1. The AI Bugs of 2023 Will Begin to Fade

2024 will see AI reach new heights. With ChatGPT and similar offerings, advanced AI models can now generate complex code, provide real-time help with debugging, and even participate in the software design process. They do so by interpreting natural language descriptions or specifications provided by developers, fast-forwarding the coding process by automating repetitive tasks and by serving up first-draft code for further refinement.

The new models and tools won’t replace skilled workers immediately, but they’re already changing both the type and volume of work that software engineers perform, shifting the focus toward code “proofing” and review. The shift is changing the software engineer’s role, requiring a new blend of technical expertise, strategic thinking, and enhanced soft skills, especially the ability to collaborate with peers who are newly-empowered to generate their own code.

Forward-looking companies that invest to educate and empower senior management and technical leaders are poised to reap outsized benefits. And the trend seems likely to spawn new C-suite roles dedicated to AI training and up-leveling across the organization.

AI Will Enable Code Generation by Non-Engineers
Fine-tuning current models with training on internal code bases can make it easy for non-coders to whip up useful code.

Consider Alex, a marketer who was once confined to drag-and-drop tools but can now prototype web pages that rival those of professional developers. Leveraging an LLM like ChatGPT, Gemini, or Claude, she inputs natural language descriptions of the features and aesthetics she wants, which the AI converts into HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code. From there, Alex can tweak the interactive elements and responsive designs through a GUI that interacts with an AI to translate her specifications into robust code. With the basics in place, she can level up to manage her own A/B testing and SEO directly or with minimal input from the dev team.

AI models bring the same advantages across the organization, whether for the Product Manager who wants to sketch new features and changes directly into code or for the Chief Data Scientist who wants to quickly generate analysis and algorithms so he can focus on strategic insights.

2. AR and VR Will Impact Engineers as Much as it Does End Users

A second trend is the rapid evolution of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) beyond their origins in gaming and entertainment to become pivotal tools in software engineering by enhancing team collaboration, simulation, and real-time project visualization. In particular, companies are leveraging VR environments to enhance team collaboration and AR to do real-time visualizations of projects.

VR creates immersive 3D environments for engineers to explore and interact with software systems, identifying potential issues early and enabling remote teams to work more closely. Meanwhile, AR’s ability to overlay digital information onto the real world allows engineers to see code changes instantly and visualize complex data structures or algorithms directly in their workspaces. The integration of AI with AR elevates those experiences, delivering sophisticated interactions with code and components and promising to make software engineering more efficient, collaborative, and innovative. 

AI Powered Object Recognition Drives New Value
Fine-tuning AR with AI object recognition is already transforming how developers interact with their projects.

Take Chris, an engineer who now uses an AR headset to merge digital designs with the physical world. With AI-enhanced AR and object recognition, he can engage with specific components or code structures as interactive, 3D overlays on real-world objects – overlays that include virtual notes, guidelines, and debug info. Doing so shortens his development and testing cycles while reducing errors and opening up new possibilities for remote collaboration.

Pairing AR and AI promises industry innovation and competitive edge. Early adopting engineers will leverage the tools to stay ahead, while development firms integrating the tools into their processes will deliver superior value to clients while fostering loyalty and setting new benchmarks in their industries – not just in software but in design, architecture, medicine, and more.

3. Flexible Hiring Models Will Drive Augmented Staffing Growth

Even as firms push innovation and fight for client loyalty, the market itself has remained unpredictable, driving interest in augmented staffing. In particular, companies are increasingly adopting flexible hiring models to efficiently scale their teams in response to changing project needs. This trend reflects a strategic approach to workforce management, prioritizing agility and adaptability.

Even so, there are new challenges with acquiring and retaining talent. Despite the technological advancements and the growing demand for software engineers, attracting and retaining top talent remains a challenge. With a competitive job market and the tech talent crunch, companies are reevaluating their strategies to not only attract but also retain skilled professionals, increasingly focusing on work-life balance, remote work options, and opportunities for career development. 

AI Will Make Recruiting Better and More Efficient
AI is revolutionizing talent recruitment from the ground up.

Consider Sam, a recruiter who now leverages AI to streamline finding the right talent by quickly filtering resumes and social profiles to spot candidates with the needed skills and experience. Meanwhile, he sets up AI chatbots and virtual assistants to offer real-time interactions with candidates, handling inquiries, scheduling interviews, and updating the status of applications – big improvements to the recruitment experience and candidate engagement.

Once candidates enter the pipeline, AI algorithms harness historical hiring data and employee performance metrics to spot successful hiring patterns. This predictive analytics allows for data-driven evaluations, improving decisions about candidates' potential success and future performance. Simultaneously, AI empowers job seekers with tools to refine their profiles and applications, ensuring they stand out in a competitive job market.

4. LATAM Talent Will Be Ubiquitous

The trend of augmented staffing dovetails with a trend of talent acquisition from Latin America (LATAM). Already in the first months of 2024, LATAM has emerged as a key hub for software engineering talent, influencing global hiring trends. Previously focused on entry-level positions, LATAM now offers a wealth of senior engineers and industry leaders, propelled by strong educational systems in countries like Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia. This shift positions LATAM as a leading source of top-tier tech talent.

Beyond technical expertise, LATAM's tech talent excels in problem-solving and innovation, offering lower costs than their North American equivalents. Their adaptability and diverse perspectives, combined with the region's time zone alignment with the US, facilitate smooth team collaboration. A significant 156% increase in demand from companies seeking LATAM professionals and mandates from US firms for local hiring underscore Latin America's growing role in the tech talent landscape.

At the same time, specialized staffing solutions have become more crucial for companies looking to quickly adapt to changing technology needs. Staffing agencies such as BetterEngineer have evolved, offering not just talent sourcing but comprehensive team-building and project management solutions, catering to the dynamic requirements of the software engineering industry.

Integrating Global Talent
In the digital era's competitive landscape, firms are increasingly turning to international talent to gain an edge.

Meet Mia, a tech team lead who has championed the integration of Latin American (LATAM) talent into her U.S.-based and global teams. This move is part of a wider strategy recognizing the value of LATAM developers for their technical prowess, innovative thinking, and cost-effectiveness. By tapping this rich vein of talent, Mia's company enriches its diversity as it enjoys the practical advantages of closer timezone synchronicity, facilitating smoother project management and team collaboration.

The approach is a testament to the company's commitment to cultural diversity, technical excellence, and operational flexibility – key ingredients for sparking innovation and navigating the digital landscape as it evolves.

In closing
2024 heralds a seismic shift in the employment landscape for software engineering as industries react to change with agile, tech-forward strategies and innovative approaches to managing talent. As these transformations unfold in the US and globally, it's evident that the software engineering landscape is set for an exhilarating and dynamic evolution – even as software engineers themselves lean into flexibility, new skills, and engaging fellow stakeholders across teams and paving the way for a more interconnected and inventive global tech ecosystem.

As you navigate the shifts, look to BetterEngineer to bridge the gap between emerging global talent and the evolving landscape of software engineering in the U.S. and elsewhere. Offering a network of over 10,000 vetted engineers skilled in various technical roles—from full stack, front end, and back end, to data and mobile engineering—BetterEngineer delivers better results through better engineers.