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Posted September 29, 2017 | Contracting, For Freelancers, Recruitment Advice | No Comments »

Why You’re Struggling to Fill Your Contract Roles

As demand for specialist skills continues to grow, the supply can’t keep up and technology teams especially are facing competition which might not always go their way.

Contracting has for many years been a good flexible solution to the rise and fall of project demands but it has now become apparent that this is not the only factor which influences a business’s choice to recruit contractors. In the UK and globally we are experiencing a market, which is flooded with innovation and new technologies, it’s easy to see why the demand for contractors continues to rise. Couple this with the widening skills gap facing the technology industry at the moment and you begin to get a better understanding of why contractors are doing so well. A lack of skilled workers means that businesses are turning to contractors to find both the exact skills that they need and the reliability of an experienced worker. Even though contractors do come at a premium when compared to permanent staff; many argue their worth as being the best at what they do and that their in-demand skills allow businesses to solve their problems much quicker than it would take to source and hire a permanent member of staff.

The technology sector as a whole is experiencing steady growth, with research by global IT industry body CompTIA (using stats from Burning Glass Labour Insights and the ONS) showing that UK IT staff job postings have increased 10 percent year-on-year at 1.3 million IT job postings. The increase in job postings demonstrates the demand for new and niche skills as the marketplace changes to adapt to new areas of business. We have seen firsthand the continuously changing demand for skills across the sectors that we serve and the successes businesses have achieved as a result of taking on contractors. Contractor UK’s IT contractor skills that look hot for 2017 gave an insight into the predicted top skills that contractors will be recruited for this year. Here at Enigma, we have noticed that software development is still one of the most popular areas in which contractors work and market tracker IT Jobs Watch has set out The UK’s top 12 in-demand programming languages – how does your view of the market compare?

In addition to changing markets, the skills gap and increasing innovation, the contractors themselves are changing. ComputerWorldUK reports that “In 2016 just four percent of contractors were in the 18-24 year old bracket, now it is five percent, and the biggest segment is now 35-44 at 33 percent, instead of 45-54 at 35 percent in 2016.” This tells us that people who would normally not wish to risk a break in income are so confident that their skills are in demand that contracting is no longer as risky as it once seemed. This also puts significant pressure on the ability to hire and retain permanent staff. We have found that it is key when looking to recruit contractors that the change in demographics should be considered when marketing out, creating job adverts and trying to source the correct contractor for your business. Misunderstanding the demographics of your audience can hinder your progress and cause frustration for HR departments and hiring managers, especially when dealing with key projects.

So, how do you capture that essential resource to make sure your projects are delivered on time and to standard?

Simply advertising your vacancy and waiting for applications is not enough. You need to market your company proactively and positively, even for contract vacancies. Whilst polishing up your employer branding and recruitment processes are essential, be aware that your target market has an ever-increasing choice and your vacancy, benefits package and employee perks can get lost in the noise. How do you penetrate a ferociously busy market to find the right talent?

Enigma People Solutions has built and continues to build, a deep network of skilled contractors. This has allowed us to build an exemplary track record of filling technology contract vacancies for businesses throughout the UK for over 10 years now. If you have a contract vacancy to fill contact Ben Hanley on 0141 332 4422 or for expert consultancy advice.


Similar Reading:

[Interview] From the Perspective of a Contractor – Q&A

Who You Gonna Call? Contractors!


You can also find loads more expert information at Contractor Weekly.

Enigma People is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our client services page to find out how we can help solve your recruitment problem. You can get in touch with us or call us on 0141 332 4422.

Follow us on Twitter,twitter  Linkedin LinkedInor Facebook Facebook logo to keep up to date with our latest news and vacancies.

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Posted August 10, 2017 | Contracting, Technology Industry | No Comments »

[Interview] From the Perspective of a Contractor – Q&A

Contractors play a very important role within the technology industry, especially within specialist sectors. The demand for contractors within the technology sector can be a good indicator of the health of the industry; as investment in innovation continues to increase and strengthen the economy, there becomes a greater need for specialist skills, which results in a higher demand for contractors.

Contractors are often vital to successful project delivery they bring with them a unique set of skills and experience, sometimes so niche that they might be one of only a few in the UK who holds that particular skill set. Arguably a contractors’ key skill is to be able to slot into any project with ease and complete the tasks in hand without too much hassle for either themselves or the company they have the contract with. Something which we have had extensive experience dealing with as part of our contract recruitment service. 

There is a balancing act for a contractor between work – life ratio, ensuring they find suitable work and that they cover themselves when they’re not working; it’s clear to see that contracting is a different ball game from a permanent role. The biggest challenge for a contractor, and one that is frequently overlooked, is the fact that they have to constantly self-market in order to win contracts. Highlighting skills, experience, previous projects and personality to potential new contract opportunities whilst undertaking a running contract are just a few considerations a contractor must make on a daily basis.

As the dust settles after the General Election, Brexit and the changes to the IR35 tax regulations, we chat to a few of the contractors we have successfully placed to find out what their experiences of contracting have been like, what they think about the recent political changes and how it might affect them:


Hi Michael, thanks for chatting with us! Can you tell us a bit about you please?

I work within the Operations and Manufacturing Department in the Machine Health division of SKF. We are based at the Research and Development site at Livingston. My responsibility, as Manufacturing Engineer, is to ensure all products developed at the site are capable of being translated from development into volume production.

Can you give us an insight into what it’s like to be a contractor starting a new role/contract?

I had worked for 7 years in permanent roles experiencing and learning in environments from SME’s to large multinational companies. Starting at SKF, there were a number of other contractors from a similar background who were able to offer advice, along with my Manager who also had experience with contracting.

How do you compensate for the loss of employee rights and benefits? 

I save 25% off my net to offset the lack of rights/benefits. The additional flexibility of being a contractor is worth it. My main concern is the lack of any pension / no pension contribution or top-up from an employer.

How easy do you feel it is to interchange between contracting and permanent?

I receive a couple of job offers every month, either contracting or permanent roles. The majority are still located within central belt, however, there are some very good contracting roles in the South East of England. It would not be difficult to transition to another contract or fill a permanent role.

What do you think the market is for contractors at the moment?

It’s extremely good, although it’s rare to have contracts beyond 12-18 months.”

What impact do you feel Brexit and the upcoming general election will have on your engagement opportunities over the next 12 months?

Significant, especially as the decisions by markets/large companies at the top of the food-chain filter down to affect smaller companies that rely on their products/services.


Hi, Lester! Thanks for chatting with us! Can you tell us a bit about you please?

Hello! I’m a Java developer at the moment and I have been doing this role for 3 months so far. Although this is my first role contracting role in a while as I’ve been permanent. Prior to my permanent role, I had been contracting for a few years.

Why do you like being a contractor?

The main reason I like contracting is the flexibility and the constant changing of projects and new roles.

How easy do you feel it is to interchange between contracting and permanent roles?

I think it’s usually quite easy to change between contracting and permanent although it does depend on your personal circumstances. If you have a small family then it can be more difficult.

 Is there anything about being a contractor that frustrates you? What would you say could be improved?

I would say the one thing that could be altered is the availability of information about contracting. I have found that especially after you have started a new contracting role, that there are a number of things which you have to go and find out about. You need to know what the rules are and what you have to do.

 What do you think the market is like for contractors at the moment?

There are a lot of roles within contracting at the moment although I have noticed, and this is with roles I have applied for too, that businesses are looking for you to have used a lot of different and new technologies and have a long list of different technologies as your experience. I haven’t come across anyone who does have all of the desired technology experience though.


Hi Adam, thanks for chatting with us! Can you tell us a bit about you please?

Hi, so the role I’m in at the moment is an electronic hardware technician. So what I do is mostly concerned with the testing, calibrating, failure analysis and assembly of the products. I have previously worked in permanent roles but I feel like contracting suits me best at the moment.

How do you feel about the government’s recent changes to IR35?

I haven’t had a chance yet to properly look into it so I’m not too sure.

If this was to affect your earning power as a contractor would you revert to looking for permanent employment?

All of this depends on what effects it would have for my personal circumstances. I don’t think there would be a high likelihood that I would go back to a permanent role anytime soon though.

Is there anything about being a contractor that frustrates you? What would you say could be improved?

Maybe it’s because of my personal circumstances with this role but I can’t say there’s anything that really frustrates me. I think I’ve been lucky to find this role, so I’m settled into my work. Maybe if I was having to go from role to role a lot it would be different but I have a steady workload so I enjoy it.”

What would you say are the benefits of being a contractor?

Well, firstly it’s obvious that the money is better than permanent role but, to be honest for me, it’s more about the ability to have freedom within your working day. I can choose my own hours whereas with a permanent role you have many constrictions in place such as your working hours, lunch times etc. I am free to come and go as it suits me. I especially find it very useful as I have young children, it allows me to take the time I need for them without having to stick to certain working hours. Plus, with a contracting role, you don’t get the politics that go with permanent.

Can you give us an insight into what it’s like to be a contractor starting a new role/contract?

To be honest, it’s little different to starting any perm role. When you first arrive in your new role, you will be introduced to the people you will be working with and receive all the standard health and safety talks and company policy type things. Once you have been shown the ropes, you’re left to get on with the job.


Hi Khalid, thanks for chatting with us! Can you tell us a bit about you please?

Hi! Okay, so I do a lot of things. I’m a Software Developer and I’ve also worked with software testing and design. I’ve been contracting now for seven years, I changed to contracting in 2010 and before that, I had been in a permanent role.”

How do you think the market is for contractors at the moment?

I think the market has been becoming increasingly difficult over the last two to three years. I’d say this is down to the increase in off-shore workers which are being taken on by big companies such as Sky and Barclays. For example, they work on contingency and one contractor here will be equal to maybe ten people working off shore/ in other countries. I’d say it is much more difficult now to find contracting roles.

What impact do you feel Brexit will have on your engagement opportunities over the next 12 months?

I don’t think it will change much at all. These companies I was talking about previously are based outwith the European Union anyway so I don’t see anything changing, from my point of view.

How easy do you feel it is to interchange between contracting and permanent roles?

I would say it isn’t that easy. There is a big difference between permanent and contracting roles, especially in the mindset that you have to get yourself into. With a permanent role, you’re in the routine of working monthly and receiving your pay every month – the business takes control of everything for you in terms of financials. However, when you choose to contract, you have to think about yourself as the worker. You receive a lump sum as your payment which you then have to divide up and pay tax etc with. You are in charge of paying your own taxes or hiring an accountant to do this for you. It’s very different to permanent, you have to get yourself into this mindset.

Is there anything about being a contractor that frustrates you? What would you say could be improved?

One thing I would say that is frustrating, because I’m quite a people person, is that with contracting you never really know how long you will be on the project and so when you start to get to know the people you work with and make friends, it’s usually about the time your contract will be up. With contracting, you might get your contract extended for another couple of months but once it’s up, you usually never see the people you work with again.

Another thing would be the big breaks in income you can experience sometimes, this can come when you finish one contract without having the next role in place, or if your contract has finished early. That’s the good thing about permanent roles, you know you’re guaranteed to be paid every month.

How do you tackle the big breaks in income you can experience?

When I’m working a contract, I will usually try to keep my wage down at a low level so that I can save some money for the period in between the end of the contract and the start of the next one.


Are you a contractor looking for your next role?  Maybe you’re looking to find a contractor for your business? Get in touch with us at or call us directly on 0141 332 4422 to find out how we can help you.

Enigma People is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in digital, electronics and software in Scotland. You can get in touch with us or call us on 0141 332 4422.

Follow us on Twitter,twitter  Linkedin LinkedInor Facebook facebook to keep up to date with our latest news and vacancies.

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Posted January 17, 2017 | Contracting, Recruitment Industry, Technology Industry | No Comments »

Who You Gonna Call? Contractors!

As you may well know, the rise of the contractor is not a new thing.

Across all sectors, contracting has steadily been on the up for a while, with many people harnessing their skills and opting for a more flexible way of working.

Taking a look back over the years, it seems contractors have been able to survive a multitude of economic failures; from the recession of 2008 and much more recently the Referendum. I’ll bet they’ll come out alright in the wake of Brexit, too.

We have been working with clients for over 10 years now, aiming to deliver the best candidates, in the least amount of time and with the least amount of stress for the client. Our work with SKF is a prime example of a partnership we are immensely proud of. Take a look at our blog here to find out how we solved their recruitment problems.

One constant factor that has remained throughout these erratic times, has been the need for progression and development; something which is always in high demand, especially in the technology sector.

This is where contractors come in.

They have a specialist ability to solve the variety of niche problems our clients present us with; which can range anywhere from developing software for a complex project to heading up a client’s innovative new venture as their Project Manager.

Chancellor Philip Hammond recently stated, “We will invest over £1BN in our digital infrastructure to catalyse private investment in fiber networks and to support 5G trials.” This push for a digital infrastructure is only one example of an action which presents a variety of opportunities for contractors.

The 2016 Tech Nation report showed that in the Digital Tech sector, jobs were growing by 11% compared to only 4% in other sectors. Although 2016 was not the best year economically, thanks to a collective holding of breath for Brexit and the US elections, this hasn’t been reflected as much as was feared.

Furthermore, a 2017 Tech City poll highlighted the fact that 49% of respondents expected the business environment to get better throughout the year.

Support from the Government, alongside the rise in businesses becoming increasingly involved in technology has been a catalyst in developing the demand for contractors.

To keep up with this steady growth and to be able to fully satisfy our clients, it’s important that we really understand who they are.

We found that our clients looking to take on contractors, usually raised the same issues;

1) we need someone to solve our niche problem

2) we need someone to solve it as soon as possible

3) we need people who understand our sub-sector of the industry.

Our team of dedicated specialists covers niche sectors of the technology industry; from Electronics to Digital Media and Software Development – meaning that we have the knowledge and reach to solve our clients’ challenges.

With some clients, they have such a specific problem that cannot be solved by someone in the UK. We have, on more than one occasion, sourced the right candidate from outside the UK. We have the ability to look globally if it means we will be providing our clients with the solution to their problem.

As the demand for tech jobs continues to grow, so will the demand for contractors.

We understand the need for fast action when our clients present us with their recruitment problems. We strive to ensure that each client is matched with the right contractor and that their problem is solved with as little hassle as possible.

If you have a need for a contractor, call us on 0141 332 4422 or email our director Ben Hanley at

Enigma People is an award winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in digital, electronics and software in Scotland.

Follow us on Twitter @enigmapeople@enigmapeople  ic_lkdin_22  and LinkedIn

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Posted June 06, 2016 | Contracting, For Freelancers, Recruitment Industry | No Comments »

To Freelance Or Not To Freelance?

Freelancing continues to be a popular option for workers in the UK – 4.55 million Britons are now choosing to freelance and work short term contracts. Scotland is a popular place to be a freelancer, with Edinburgh and Glasgow among the UK cities with the highest number of registered freelancers skilled in development, web design, content writing and research.

Contracting has become popular for many reasons. It allows skilled workers in certain industries to choose which contracts they want to work and when. It provides freedom and flexibility from a traditional 9-5 way of working, often allowing freelancers the choice to work from the office, or remotely from home or abroad. Working a large number of jobs over a relatively short period of time means a freelancer’s CV racks up a broad range of experience and diverse skills. It allows you to be your own boss and benefit from higher rates of pay compared to those working the same roles on a permanent basis.

Cloud based platforms, apps and websites such as act like an “uber for jobs” making it even easier for freelancers to find work and for businesses to find contract hires.

Businesses choose to hire freelancers when they have a short to medium term project and/or need to hire in a specific skill set. In particular we see a huge demand for this in the Software Development industry, where skills are so in demand many businesses hire on a contract basis as this is all they can get. Candidates skilled in software development enjoy a premium rate of pay and are never short of job opportunities. The latest Markit UK Report on Jobs: Scotland, reports demand for contractors increased during January 2016 with the rate of growth the fastest for 3 months and above the average for 2015 as a whole.

While the freelance lifestyle may seem appealing on the surface, there are many downsides to consider. Job security completely disappears when working on a contract basis. There is no notice period if you were to be let go or if a project were to fall through. Working from home or working at a company temporarily, means contractors miss out on a sense of team, collaboration with colleagues and making friends at work. Other benefits such as holiday or sickness pay, company pension contributions and other health schemes are also non existent for contract workers.

Another downside of working for yourself is ensuring you are paid fairly and on time. Late payments are a huge struggle for freelancers – with invoices paid on average 18 and a half days after their due date. Almost half of all UK freelancers have considered quitting the freelance life due to late payments, chasing clients and having to rely on borrowing money to get by.

Despite these downsides, it is predicted that the freelancing popularity will grow – one in two people in the UK will be freelance by 2020. The BBC predicts we will see more professionals in sales, marketing, finance and law adopting a gig-economy mentality.

Freelancing has certainly changed the way the UK works and certainly has its benefits. We believe that contracting is a great solution to work, however it isn’t the right solution for everyone.

At Enigma People we have seen a trend in the contract technology industry – a high demand for short term work for those with up to date skills. In particular software developers who posses in demand programming skills, are well suited to freelancing. This is because they is no lack of job opportunities for them, which then reduces the need for job security. As soon as one contracts end, developers in Scotland often have two or three others to choose from.

Freelancing also benefits those who are flexible, open to risks and are able to up and leave a city if a job opportunity comes up. However for those whose skills are less up to date, or have a young family and bills to pay, freelance proves to be a risky option. For these individuals we believe working on a permanent role basis offers the necessary job security and benefits. Many modern companies address employees need for flexibility and freedom and will offer flexible working conditions, provide the required technologies for home and remote working, and can offer benefits which outweigh those which come with freelancing. Below are just some benefits and rewards which our clients offer their permanent employees.

Benefits & Rewards to Retain Employees | Recruitment Advice | Enigma People Solutions

With these in mind, would that sway your decision to stay in a permanent role over choosing a contract role? Let us know your thoughts! Drop us an email or tweet @enigmapeople

Enigma People is an award winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in digital, electronics and software in Scotland.

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Posted April 28, 2014 | Contracting, For Freelancers | 1 Comment »

Is it High Time the IT Contracting Market Got a Wake Up Call?

Is it High Time the IT Contracting Market Got a Wake Up Call?

What we are seeing in the IT contracting market is the industry beginning to level out and pay rates reaching a saturation point, with pay cuts reflecting the disparity between what contractors expect and what companies are prepared to pay for them, according to Enigma People Solutions Director David Mains.

For too long now, large companies like RBS who employ thousands of IT contractors across the business have been a “cash cow” for some recruitment agencies and contractors, undermining what some companies are trying to achieve. Not only are some companies to blame for pushing up pay rates but David says IT recruitment agencies must take their fair share of responsibility for this rise.

Contracting is popular as it allows companies to outsource skills and talent for a fixed period of time, providing a flexible workforce to cope with the ebb and flow of demand. It can provide a gap fill for specialist skills for certain projects, bringing in skilled staff who can get the job done and then move on. The companies needn’t spend time or money training staff or providing benefits and instead can offer contractors a higher rate of pay. It allows them to very easily bring in specialist skills they may otherwise not have access to, cover workload in case of holidays or sickness or just temporarily increase manpower and bring in fresh ideas for a specific project.

This symbiotic relationship works well and can have many benefits to employers, recruiters and employees. With the IT industry however there became a supply and demand issue, where supply of skilled talent was low and so demand rocketed. Those who have abused the system have created the market situation we face today.

RBS, who is predominantly owned by the tax payer, has caused outrage in the past for ‘throwing money at contractors’ whilst in the process of cutting thousands of permanent staff. Companies like RBS attempt to circumvent hiring rules by taking on contractors to start expensive new projects. Projects which have only become so expensive due to the price paid for the contractors brought in to complete them. There are then recruitment agencies out there who will sell these services to the highest bidder and companies more than happy to pay this top price. What this has done is create a vicious circle continuously pushing up the pay rates contractors have become used to.

IT Contractors at RBS have now been hit with the decision to take a 10% pay cut or to quit, with many contractors’ 2 week notice only taking them to the end of the month. Contracting is deemed as a service and for any struggling business looking to cut costs, services are the first thing to get axed. With RBS looking to save £1 billion by the end of the year, a 10% pay cut across their thousands of IT contractors will help them save £65 million towards that goal. This decision interestingly comes just after Barclays announced a 10% cut in IT contractor wages across UK and America in March 2014, again in a bid to save money.

efinancial careers argues that the ‘most effective way of chopping contractor remuneration without experiencing an exodus of talent is to follow a ‘unionised’ method whereby all the major banks pull back at a similar time’. It seems this is what is happening at RBS and Barclays, however the Recruiter argues that their decision is short sighted and can only result in contracting talent leaving the business in search of pay rates they are used to getting. Contractors at Barclays reportedly refused to accept their pay cut and left, I wonder if RBS contractors will follow suit.

With wages 3 times the national average, IT contractors are the most in demand talent in the UK. This is a direct result of the skills gap we are currently experiencing for certain skills sets and the war for those that do posses the skills has created an unprecedented demand. IT contractors saw year-on-year pay increases spike up to 13%, between 2013 and 2014, according to Robert Walters Salary Survey 2014.

David argues that contractors who provide their services through their own limited companies should by all means also expect to be treated the same way as other suppliers, when end users ask them “to sharpen your pencils” in order to cut costs. Although the skills gap is far from being filled are we beginning to see the demand wane for the top rate contractors?

Unemployment has reached its lowest level for 6 years and this means a drop in the availability of a flexible workforce. More and more businesses are confident in their growth and hiring more on a permanent basis. What does this mean for the contracting market?

I suspect the market will pretty soon level itself out and businesses will no longer be able to pay out large scales for specialist skills and that’s exactly what we are seeing at RBS and Barclays. It isn’t just the Banks who are cutting down their contractors pay rates. In March this year the Office of National Statistics also issued its IT contractors with a pay ultimatum, stipulating they cut their rates by six per cent or face termination according to Contractor UK.

Is it high time the IT contracting market got a wake up call in order for demand and supply to reach equilibrium? Will other companies follow RBS and Barclays and cut the top rates they offer their IT contractors in order to save money?

Let us know your thoughts! Follow Enigma People Solutions on LinkedIn and Twitter @enigmapeople

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Posted November 12, 2013 | Contracting, For Freelancers | 2 Comments »

Contracting is Expanding: Is Contracting the New Reality?


Our recent blog ‘Contracting: The Excitement and the Dark Cloud Above it’ talked about the rise of contracting across the IT industry. With technology changing so rapidly the trend towards contracting means more and more businesses are bringing in short term contractors to solve their recruiting needs. In the past year Enigma has doubled the number of contractors placed with client’s right across the IT Industry. It’s evident that there is a rising demand. It’s interesting to see that clients require us to source contractors for roles right across their businesses, from first line support engineers to project managers and highly skilled specialist roles. It’s also interesting to see that the demand is growing right across all markets. We’ve recently placed contractors in a number of local and international software companies and electronic engineering companies as well as fixed term contractors at the likes of the Scottish Football Association and the NHS. The range of clients looking for contractors is quite remarkable. In the Electronics market particularly, contracting has been popular due to the lack of skilled local talent and the immigration constraints on international talent. As a result, demand for contract Software and Electronic engineers has been significant. As a short term fix offering flexibility and diversity for all those involved, contracting is great. For businesses whose long term growth may be unclear but whose immediate project requirements are, contracting allows them to bring in skilled staff, get the job done and then allow them to move on. The companies don’t need to spend time or money sourcing and training staff, and can focus their efforts elsewhere in the business. It allows them to very easily bring in specialist skills they may otherwise not have access to, cover workload in case of holidays or sickness or just temporarily increase manpower for a specific project. Clients and contractors have the added flexibility of various contract types to find their perfect fit – hourly paid, day rate and fixed term. Whilst we may take the trend of increase in contracting opportunities as a welcome and clear sign of the growth in the sector and the economy in general we are unclear whether this is also evidence that businesses remain uncertain about hiring long term due to uncertainty of how their businesses will grow and what their recruitment needs will be. Or, is this the new reality? Will businesses favour, as many have predicted, a much more fluid work place. Will technology professionals no longer nail their colours to one mast in favour of a more portfolio/project related existence? Whilst Enigma continues to source and provide clients with the specialist skills they require, for whatever length of time they require it for, I still believe we as an economy need employers to place an emphasis on long term hiring, investing and retaining employees. There is no doubt that the Technology industry in the UK is growing rapidly, last week the Chartered Institute for IT reported that the industry grew by double the rate of the economy as a whole. The sector’s Gross Value Added (GVA) is now £72bn, 5% of the UK total. With such high growth rates will faith be restored in the economy, and will businesses account for this in their long term recruiting? Are employers now paying the price for being unable to invest in technologists sufficiently over the past 15 but especially past 5 years? Clearly for some skill sets there are not enough candidates to go round so some companies are being forced to resort to contractors to get work done! Let me know what you think – will contracting be the way forward or does long term hiring still have its place? Follow Enigma People Solutions on LinkedIn or on Twitter @enigmapeople for more updates, news and vacancies…

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Posted August 12, 2013 | Contracting, For Freelancers, Industry Interviews, Software | 2 Comments »

[INTERVIEW] Phil Leggetter on Developing, Contracting and Evangelising

Hello, Phil! First, tell us a bit about who you are and what you do.

My name is Phil Leggetter. I graduated from the University of Stirling back in 2001 with a degree in Software Engineering. Since then I’ve worked for a few companies including Caplin Systems, ESRI, Bigmouthmedia and Pusher. I presently have a permanent role back at Caplin Systems and run my own company, through which I do occasional realtime web consultancy work. I’m fortunate enough to be able to do this via remote working from my garden office in Clackmannanshire.

Phil Leggetter on Developing, Contracting and Evangelising

My last two roles have come under the title of “Developer Evangelist”. I create demos, write tutorials, author screencasts, run workshops, give talks at events, facilitate hackathons, write content for destinations such as Smashing Magazine, .net magazine, on my own blog and have recently co-authored a book (Realtime Web Apps). Companies such as Twilio class this role as marketing – and it probably is – but it’s a technical marketing role with a reasonable amount of development and a hint of product management.

I think my situation reflects a change for a lot of developers who have to be aware of much more than just technical details; they have to market themselves, their applications and in many cases they are the ones being enterprising and running the businesses.

When you first started as a developer, did you relish in contract work or were you always looking for a permanent position?

The market has changed a lot since 2001. Back then I was just pleased to get any job.

Now there’s much more demand for developers from large institutions to individuals looking to hire for technical solutions to problems they have. Not to mention that every company seems to want an “App”.

So the choices when coming out of University – or leaving high school – are contract jobs, permanent jobs or creating and running your own product or service. A lot of University graduates definitely have the skills to do the latter now.

Do you think that contract work is beneficial for developers, or should companies take more people on permanent contracts?

As above, I really think it depends on the individual. Some prefer the apparent security of a permanent role whilst others are confident enough to believe they’ll get contract after contract, along with the associated higher rates to compensate lack of company benefits (holidays, pension contributions etc.).

The problem that I see with permanent roles at the moment is that some of them don’t offer the flexibility and opportunities to learn that different contracting opportunities do. This can be even why developers who are in permanent roles can change their jobs reasonably frequently.

If companies are looking to attract developers into permanent roles then I feel they need to offer flexibility of role, working conditions, location, technology, and plenty of learning opportunities.

Do you feel that the industry is in a position of growth at the moment?

Yes, and it has been for at least the past two years. At almost every event I go to nearly every company will be hiring.

What important developments do you see coming up in software development and the industry?

Mobile and web are going to continue to grow. And more established industries are going to continue the adoption of these technologies along with more recently developed technology platforms. This won’t result in a 100% swing away from established development technologies like .NET and Java, but it will mean that the demand for Ruby and Node.js (JavaScript) developers – and for those with knowledge in open source stacks built on these – will increase in areas outside of the startup scene.

What skills do young developers need to be learning in order to enter a level playing field when starting work?

Based on my experience working for a London Startup for the past couple of years, young developers need to be able to demonstrate that they already know how to build applications. They should have a portfolio of apps and creations; probably in github. The real point here is that it proves they are genuinely interested in programming. The ability to demonstrate an ability to write well structured and tested code is increasingly important and a knowledge of agile working practices can also be very beneficial.

Larger “industry” companies probably put less emphasis on actual creations and still put a high value on certificates and accreditation; diplomas, degrees and awards. But being able to demonstrate you can write reasonable code and follow good practices will also be important.

No matter where you work I think it’s important to have a passion for what you do. Now is a great time to be a developer as you have the opportunity to take a role that will be enjoyable and challenging. I feel it’s a very different playing field from the one I saw when I got my first job.

What are any problems you can see arising that will need to be solved?

I’ve been surprised over the past few years by some very successful contractors that I know moving to permanent roles. However, these developers have both been over 30, have families and have taken highly influential roles within the companies they’ve joined. I do wonder if this is a trend which may result in contractors tending to be younger and permanent employees being older? The only problems with this is that I think there is benefit in having a range of ages within a team and company to ensure different views, experience, influences and ideas are expressed.

In the circles I’ve recently been in there’s no doubt that the good developers are also entrepreneurial. This tends to mean that contracting with a view to building their own company is a strong possibility. For a company to be able to hire these developers they need to offer compelling reasons; an interesting product or service, good working conditions and benefits, and potentially stock options.

With the economy still struggling in places it’s strange to be in the technology bubble where opportunities are aplenty. But, don’t take this for granted as things may change. For now: work hard, be creative, learn, share knowledge and build relationships.

Connect with Phil on Twitter, and remember you can find Enigma People Solutions on Twitter @enigmapeople!

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