French engineers aren’t waiting for labor reform to work for great startups

Mar 7, 2016
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The beginning of 2016 has seen a few big changes in the political hierarchy in France – a ministerial swap that Hollande thought would better position him for a re-election, and the labor reform law that Prime Minister Manuel Valls through his support behind has come to a standstill. TheFamily cofounder Nicolas Colin wrote, as he tends to, a great commentary on the disjunction between the 20th Century politicians and the 21st century problems its citizens are looking to tackle.

However, what has become clear is that highly-talented professionals aren’t waiting for labor reform – labor reform won’t make them more employable, and they don’t need more job opportunities (any engineer worth his salt learns that recruiter harassment is just a compliment to ignore) – what is stopping them, in France at least, is the economic constraints of scaling up an team in France. Cert, hiring engineers in France is cheap (if not entirely free, with the right combination of tax breaks and tax status incentives); however, despite Unicorns hiring left & right (we have about 100 recruiters hiring technical & non-technical talent at HIRE Fair on March 19th), here’s what we’ve learned about top talent in the past 3 years of organizing HIRE, our bi-annual digital recruitment event:

Top Talent is Mobile

Survey-questions - Mobility

Whether is Europe, the UK, the US, or even outside of Paris, one thing is clear: the top talent doesn’t ask “where” it asks “who.” For HIRE, we survey every candidate to get a feel for who is attending – in addition to building a balance of engineers, designers, operations, marcom, sales & other profiles (about 33% are technical profiles each edition), we get a feel for their mobility. Every edition this number has gotten larger, and we’re now at a phase where a majority of attendees are willing to work outside of France is the job is right.

Size Doesn’t Matter

Survey-questions -- Company Size

The past 10 years have been filled with the ongoing story “engineers don’t want to work for big companies anymore,” which has fanned the flames of startup growth with senior engineers high on the prospect of 1) building new tech, and 2) getting rich while doing it. That storyline is slowly shifting. Apple & Google are no longer startups, and continue to hire aggressively. Existing companies like GE & Philips, or even SNCF in France, are reinventing themselves as digital-first companies, and that discourse is getting talent excited. While we’ve noticed that the ‘sweetspot’ for engineers is between 25-49 employees (existing team, but room for growth), it is clear that size doesn’t matter.

 

Foreign Top-Talent wants to come to France

Survey-questions -- VISA

Despite its big FrenchTech Ticket announcement last week, France is still seeing a large flux of non-European talent that struggles to come into France (or Europe, for that matter). The ‘brain drain’ story that expat Frenchies have been telling for the past few years – you know, the one that goes “all the best engineers are going to Silicon Valley and making it big,” is not playing out as predicted. Sure, global mobility is on the rise, so there are French emigrants all around the world – Israel, UK, US, North Africa, Asia – but this isn’t a ‘brain drain’ as much as it is a newfound ability to travel virtually anywhere.

The inverse, however, is not talked about enough. Foreign talent is looking for startups to work for – I’ve talked about the FACCNYC fast-track program before – but there are still far too many hurdles for French startups to employ US talent.

It’s not just for the young & inexperienced

Survey-questions -- experience

At HIRE, in addition to having about 33% of Top Talent come from a technical background, we’ve always found that about 33% (or more) has 5+ years experience as well, with 16% having 10+ years experience. Working for ambitious, innovative companies isn’t just for the young and inexperienced – plenty of senior engineers are leaving their Fortune 500 job for a chance at building the next Unicorn.

No one wants to work part-time.

Survey-questions -- Job Category

 

Top Talent doesn’t want to dip its feet in the startup game. They want to dive in head-first. We leave signups open to anyone, which means students could sign up all day long looking for internships, but they don’t. Less than 10% of Top Talent is looking for an internship. Working for a great company is a long-term commitment.

On March 19th, we’re organize HIRE Fair, where 5000 candidates will come meet 100 high-growth digital companies. Whether you’re looking to be employee #1 or #1001, grab your ticket today and find a company that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning, no matter what the Code du Travail says.