Talent Strategy

Which Countries are Creating the Developers of Tomorrow?

If we look at the impact in software and development in relation to IT staff, it’s clear that the United States would win on a number of levels.  A great number of the most important software companies in the world are headquartered here, and they employ a significant number of developers, though those developers may be globally distributed.  However, the US is doing this with the help of programmers from all around the world, and it’s important to explore why those countries are leading the race to develop the possible Zuckerbergs of the future.


Some time ago Hacker Rank posted an article which has been oft-cited since: Who Would Win the Hacker Olympics?  The method they used was organizing the many challenges they feature on their website by successful completion and country of origin.  The challenges can be in algorithms and data structures, for example, or in programming languages like C++, Java, and Python.

The country that topped the chart was China, with an overall “100” score out of 100, with dominance in math, functional programming, and data structures, though right behind at “99.9” was Russia, which dominated in the algorithms category.

The rest of the top finishers were either in Europe or Asia.  The US?  28th.


The top-scoring European countries were Hungary, Poland, Czechia, and Switzerland, and three of those 4 countries spent decades behind the Iron Curtain and perhaps took more seriously the identification of opportunities that could help them catch up to other European countries, and in time, perhaps even surpass them.  Unsurprisingly all of these countries offer programming classes in both primary and secondary schools, and France, which scored very well in C++, just a few years ago finally started to offer programming at the primary and secondary levels as well, albeit during extracurricular (after school) slots.

If you thought that France was an unlikely place to take up programming as a new educational priority, then you’ll be even more surprised at Apple’s investment in Italy, which ranked 10th on Hacker Rank’s list.  Now in its second year, Apple’s iOS Development Center in Naples is an interesting study in an innovative way that one company chooses to fast-track its own business priorities, which in Apple’s case, is all about app development.  While each student in the 600-member group is issued an iPhone and MacBook, there is no required use of Apple products, simply required knowledge of Apple’s programming language, Swift, the open-source language that powers all the classes at the 6-month program.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, other than Apple’s admitting that it was multi-million euro investment and had been contingent on a tax deal with the Italian government.  The campus itself looks suitably Applesque, in contrast to what formerly stood in this part of the Neapolitan suburbs: the oldest tomato canning factory in Italy.  It’s too late to be part of the 2018/2019 class, but visit the website and take the self-assessment if you’re interested in a future application.


Japan and Taiwan were not far behind the top scorer, China, and it seems in Asia the complement to what is being done in Europe, in-school training, is a proliferation of competitions and hackathons, aimed not just at those in secondary education and beyond, but at those in the primary level, 7 years old and older.  On the other side of the equation, China in particular has been happy to let its best development talent go to “finishing school” in the US – paying for their best and brightest to go to universities in America and even have them pick up jobs at top companies, only to be lured back, after a suitable time, to work on challenging projects underscored by an appeal to patriotism.

Worldwide possibilities

With technology and internet access only on the rise worldwide, it’s clear that the best talents will not only have their pick of which companies they will work at, but also where they will live.  The very popular NomadList is a frequently used resource of the location independent programming set, and is known for its ranked list of best place for digital nomads to live (Vocaworks’ home base, NYC, is ranked 45 out of 171 – not bad for one of the more expensive places to live on the list).  The countries that are training their populations for the programming job boom that is already here aren’t worried about whether their citizens will choose to leave.  They are focused on making sure, as is their duty, that their citizens have the best opportunities, and trusting that only good can come from that.  We think that’s a good strategy too.

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Stephen writes about startups, hiring and career issues for VocaWorks.

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