Chicago’s Growing Tech Scene Needs More Developers

By BrainStation February 6, 2019

The tech scene in the Windy City has been making waves lately and, as a result, demand for skilled Web Developers in Chicago appears to be rising.

Although a few years have passed since Adam McCombs, chief executive of technology at Chicago-based JumpForwardsaid that finding skilled Web Developers and Software Engineers was the “bane of (his) existence,” there’s much evidence that it’s only gotten harder to hire web development talent.

Read on for a few reasons behind the shortage, as well as how it’s affecting employers and Developers alike.

The Shortage Isn’t New, But it is Intensifying

It’s worth noting that Chicago isn’t the only city with a dearth of Developers.

Indeed recently reported that Front-End Developers were the second-most difficult job to fill in tech, while Full-Stack Developers weren’t far behind at the fourth-hardest to find. There’s no reason to believe that will change; the U.S. Bureau of Labor has forecast that the market for Web Developers will grow another 15 percent by 2026.

Still, the Chicago-specific shortage has vexed companies for a long time.

 As far back as 2010, Chicago-based Groupon opened an office in the West Coast after being frustrated that it took about 18 months to hire just 30 Developers in Chicago.

 “When we opened an office in Silicon Valley, it took us a matter of months to match the size of our Chicago team,” said Andrew Mason, Founder and Chief Executive.

 The Developer drought has only worsened as demand has increased.


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In fact, a recent study by Zippia found that Web Developer was the second-fastest growing job in Illinois – not just within tech, but amongst all types of employment – with a growth rate of 32.42 percent.

The Chicago Tech Scene Keeps Growing

Where its tech scene once sat in the shadow of the robust hubs on the coasts – New York and Silicon Valley – Chicago has started to turn heads internationally, and the rapid growth of its tech ecosystem will only increase the demand for Developers.

In a KPMG poll of more than 750 global tech industry leaders, Chicago was ranked the third-most innovative tech hub in the U.S. and it made the Top 10 worldwide. Similarly, the CompTIA Cyberstates Innovation 2018 report ranked Illinois with the sixth-highest innovation score and the fifth-highest net tech employment rank.

Major recent deals have also brought attention Chicago’s way. The biggest acquisitions of 2018 included DocuSign taking on Chicago-based SpringCM for $220 million and Kroger scooping up local grocery meal kit company Home Chef for $200 million.

Meanwhile, Chicago startups raised nearly $1.4 billion in VC funding last year, while major companies from outside Illinois – including Salesforce, LinkedIn and Facebook – have all recently made major expansions to their Chicago operations, pointing to more prosperity in the tech sphere to come.

Specific Skillsets are Hard to Find

If you’re a Developer hoping to take advantage of this demand, it’s worth looking deeper into the skills that are particularly scarce in the Second City.

CultureFit compiled a list of the six most in-demand programming languages in the Chicagoland area, concluding that most employers wanted Java experience, followed by JavaScript, SQL, Python, C#/.NET, and C+++.

Other targets are growing quickly. According to data gathered by Stack Overflow, the fastest-growing desired competencies include ReactJS, Apache Spark and Azure.

Developers are the Ones Who Stand to Benefit

With high demand for their skill set, it’s obviously a good time to be a Web Developer anywhere in the U.S. Chicago does seem to offer its own benefits, however.

SpareFoot teamed with Indeed to find the 10 metro areas in the U.S. with the most job listings for Web Developers, along with the average salary data and the average costs of living.


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Unsurprisingly, they placed Chicago as the second-best city in the country for Web Developers, behind only Atlanta and tied with New York – noting the caveat that Chicago has a major advantage in cost of living.

“The Second City beats out the Big Apple when it comes to housing affordability,” read the study. “That $92,000 average salary goes pretty far here, whether you buy or rent.”

Beyond that, there’s also the palpable energy that seems to come with being part of a tech industry on a rapid rise.

“I see Chicago’s coding community as a startup,” said Anthony Avina, Senior Staff Mobile Engineer at Snapsheet.

“It’s growing at breakneck speed with opportunities everywhere. It’s still young enough that members can really impact the community but it has a purpose and goal. Chicago has the potential to be one of the best tech hubs in the country, we just all need to pitch in and help it grow.”