SAN JOSE, Calif. — Thousands of people in Silicon Valley are unemployed and looking for work. But for tech workers with the right skills, work is looking for them.
They have what it takes for the booming fields of social media, mobile software and cloud computing, and juggle multiple job offers — some in the six figures — as they benefit from a tech job market that hasn't been this overheated since the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s. Internet giants like Google are competing with startups for increasingly rare talent: senior software engineers, data analysts, Web designers and application developers.
"If you can write code at a high level, you can write your own ticket," said Tom Silver, a vice president for the technology job site Dice.com.
Just ask Kristal Pollack, a 29-year-old software engineer who programs what's known as the "back end" or innards of Internet-based services. Six companies were actively courting her when she started in April with Yammer, a social network for businesses.
"Engineers are in demand right now," she said. "And everybody that's writing a software platform needs somebody who is a back-end programmer and knows what they're doing."
Gur-Saran Varma, 49, a software engineer with a five-page resume, had offers from seven companies and in February signed on with SeaMicro, a Sunnyvale energy-efficient server company. He's still hearing from potential employers. "Sometimes I turn off my phone, because I get lots of calls," he said.
Although many who lost jobs in the downturn are still on the sidelines, Pollack, Varma and others like them — some still in school — have the backgrounds that recruiters value.
Varma taught computer science for 10 years in India and came to the U.S. in 1995. Having worked for a smorgasbord of Web, networking and chip companies, he was drawn to SeaMicro by the prospect of "taking a totally new technology to greater heights." Pollack is skilled in popular programming languages and is writing software that will allow Yammer to support large numbers of customers and applications.
But there aren't enough like them to fill all the available jobs.
"It's been extremely difficult to hire," said Adam Pisoni, co-founder and chief technical officer of Yammer, which is based in San Francisco. "You've got all these established companies hiring people, and then you've got all these startups. We're all hiring the same people. Exactly the same people."
Thanks in part to that competition, salaries for Silicon Valley tech professionals averaged $99,000 a year by late 2010, up nearly 3 percent from 2009 and 20 percent more than the national average, according to Dice.com. The tech job site said its latest survey of hiring managers and recruiters shows the growth in hiring "has reached a level where positions are staying open for months due to a shortage of qualified technology professionals."