Gulf companies look to poach tech talent as Amazon, Twitter lay-off thousands

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Businesses across the Gulf are looking to poach employees laid off by multimillion dollar companies such as Amazon and Twitter, resulting in a larger pool of talented tech workers available to smaller businesses, recruiters told Al Arabiya English.

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“The average SME (Small and Medium-sized enterprise) would not [normally] be able to go to Microsoft and get employees,” James Toffrey, Managing Director at recruitment firm CloudSource told Al Arabiya English.

However, with big technology companies, including Amazon, and Google parent company Alphabet, having in recent weeks and months announced mass layoffs, and leaving highly skilled people unemployed, this may no longer be the case.

“It opens up the talent market,” Toffrey said. “The effect of this is people don’t see big tech as being safe and secure… [and] the opportunity is for growing businesses to acquire more talent.”

Media reports last week said that Washington-based Microsoft could again cut its staff, even after reducing its headcount twice in 2022.

Another company that announced redundancies was Amazon, who said at the start of January, its layoffs will increase to more than 18,000 roles as part of a workforce reduction. Google’s parent company Alphabet announced last week it would be cutting 12,000 jobs – six percent of its workforce.

“It’s always top of our agenda to have these people on our books,” GCC Lead Crypto Headhunter at MWek Justin Sağlam added.

Toffrey’s firm, which is actively looking to recruit former employees at big tech firms is currently hiring for about 200 positions across the globe, with a lot of its clients in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Around 70 to 80 percent of hires CloudSource makes on behalf of companies in the Gulf come from outside the region, Toffrey told Al Arabiya English.

MWek where Sağlam works also looks to recruit for tech jobs at companies based across the Gulf, particularly in the UAE’s Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

Saglam said he receives at least 10 messages a day from people in Europe looking at roles in the region, on top of messages on WhatsApp, email and applications for roles via the company’s website.

“We can draw good talent across the technology [sector],” he said.

Recruitment driven by COVID-19

A lot of the tech-led recruitment in the Gulf and Middle East has been led by the COVID-19 pandemic when people were forced to stay at home for many months across the world and transition to a digital environment.

“A lot of companies were trying to bring their systems and platforms up to speed in a digital era,” Sağlam said, adding that in 2022, it led to an increase in roles for software developers with salaries for those positions sometimes rising by 30 percent.

Despite many firms and recruiters finding it an optimal time to hire from the big tech companies, James Kevan, cofounder at UAE-recruitment firm Wayfinders told Al Arabiya English, businesses are always on the lookout for talent from tech giants, not just now.

Kevan said that a lot of the time employees at those companies often get a sense of redundancies that are about to happen so recruiters “need to do something further ahead.”

Wayfinders has around 20 tech-focused recruiters, with each one currently looking to hire for about ten roles each.

“There’s a lot of good talent at the moment,” he said.

But despite recruiters’ optimism of snagging employees laid off by the big tech firms, the talent might opt for other career paths rather than just joining another tech-based company.

“A lot of individuals who lose their jobs in the US will often start their own consulting companies or startups,” he said. And while the UAE is currently flourishing as a hub for those in tech, Saudi Arabia’s moment could be just around the corner, due to the funding the industry receives through digital projects including the futuristic city NEOM, as well gaming and e-sports.

“Saudi is a rising power; I think in the next 10 years it will be really strong,” said Saglam.

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