The Tech Talent Gap in Singapore and SE Asia

A report published by Google, Temasek and Bain & Company on the Southeast Asian (SEA) economy suggest that there’s a tech talent gap in the …

Singapore Future Talents

A report published by Google, Temasek and Bain & Company on the Southeast Asian (SEA) economy suggest that there’s a tech talent gap in the market and it threatens the growth of the region. We speak to our Tech talent consultants in Singapore on their thoughts.

In previous year’s e-Conomy SEA reports, Funding, Internet Access, Consumer Trust, Talent, Logistics and Payments were identified as six key challenges that had to be tackled in order to build a thriving Internet economy.

For those who may not have the time to read the full 2019 report (Download here), we’ve helped summarise it with the key insights below:

  • SEA’s Internet economy hits $100 billion: Ecommerce, Ride-hailing, Online Media, Online Travel (consumption fuels growth)
  • Growth focus in SEA: MY, TH, PH, SG grow 20-30% annually but ID and VN tops at 40% growth
  • Digital Financial Services reach the inflection point: Digital Payments adoption higher. Almost half by 2025.
  • Ecosystem challenges are being resolved: Lack of players in eCommerce logistics is resolved when players step up to fill the gap. BUT the remaining gap in talent is still suppressing the potential of the region.

From the information above, it has become apparent that SE Asia is transforming digitally, rapidly due to adoption and consumption of technology.

The rapid growth can only be sustained with talent but there is a dilemma – a talent gap exists and may pose a threat to the region’s progress.

Who better to speak to about the existing tech talent conundrum than our own Tech Talent Consultants sitting in Singapore? After all, they speak to candidates and clients daily and have a front-row seat to the industry.

The tech recruitment experts in Singapore

Meet Lebelle Ang and Harry Daudhar!

Lebelle started her career as a Human Resources Generalist working with Consumer brands and electronics MNCs before moving into executive search where she specialized in recruitment for Finance and Healthcare sectors.

Since then, she transitioned into digital recruitment and currently helps companies build their technology capabilities in a competitive and talent-short market. She focuses on mid to senior mandates in Asia across Technology and Commercial functions.

Harry is our Senior Consultant with over 10 years of working experience handling global creative and niche recruitment requirements. The clients he worked with, span across industries like Technology, Digital, Healthcare, Life Sciences, Renewable, Oli & Gas, FMCG, Design & Advertising. Harry’s originally from the United Kingdom (UK) and therefore has a very good understanding of both UK & Singapore employment law.

Recruiters’ take on the tech talent gap in Southeast Asia

Hi team, how would you describe the health of the Tech industry in Singapore? Are there plenty of roles and talent in the market?

L: Singapore’s Tech industry has been bullish, and it can only get better. With established Technology companies and start-ups are both setting up their regional HQ in Singapore, this intensifies the war for tech talents.

To differentiate the ‘great’ tech talent, technology companies have developed creative interviewing modes like hosting hackathons, incorporating Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) tech in the assessment.

It is so competitive that tech companies must constantly re-invent and enhance their employee benefits package. We start to see most firms offering attractive perks like unlimited leave, flexible arrangements, allowing employees to bring pets to work etc. all in bid to attract the crème de la crème of tech talent.

H: The evolving landscape of Singapore’s technology industry is abundantly clear, with backing from the government to make Singapore a ‘plug and play’ arena for companies in Asia.

With this appeal as a tech-hub, you find many international and local companies venturing into this space with new ideas and digital solutions to everyday issues like Martech, Insurtech, Artificial Intelligence (A.I), Robotics just to name a few.

With new companies come new requirements and these requirements usually outweigh the talent. Institutes are scrambling to cope with these new requirements, adopting more digital and technology-focused courses and supplementary education in an attempt to ramp up skill-sets that are still somewhat uncommon here in Singapore.

What kind of skills and roles are increasingly in demand?

L: When working with both established MNCs and start-ups, I noticed their requirements don’t differ much. At the end of the day, most tech employers are looking for talent with an entrepreneurial mindset and who are passionate and unafraid or mind getting their hands dirty when necessary.

The tech industry is fast-paced and dynamic; therefore, companies need talent who are creative, able to think out of the box and make things work. I’m still on the lookout for developers for clients, not only in Technology businesses but also for traditional businesses who are looking to digitally transform themselves.

DevOps roles are also in demand, especially with companies looking to shorten the systems development lifecycle and provide continuous delivery with high software.

I’ve to mention that Product Management roles are hot now as this is a function vital in building and monetizing the product or service, which makes or breaks a company.

H: With companies creating new hybrid roles, candidates need to frequently upgrade themselves. Gone are the days where you specialise in one programming language and have a prosperous career. Candidates are now expected to manage front and back-end development, understand technical requirements and deliver projects on time while working cross-functionally internally and with clients.

My top 3 roles which I see a huge demand in would be:

  • Full-stack developers
  • DevOps
  • Big Data Architects

Why? – Full-stack is a two-in-one role. They’re equipped to handle multiple stacks (web, mobile or native app) this is why they appeal to most hiring clients.

DevOps is a unique title that gets thrown about a lot. But in essence, the DevOps role is collaboration-centric. It’s the bridge between the technical (software development) team and the and the rest of the organisation.

Last but not least, Big Data Architects are in demand as data is now considered as a valuable commodity. Because this role manages data and delivers findings in a simple and clear way to stakeholders for better decision-making.

What are your observations on the disjoint between tech companies’ expectations and the existing talent in the market?

L: Some Tech companies have a ‘wishlist’ (a list of detailed skills to have) of talent that they want (a unicorn) but they aren’t looking to compensate for the value of the talent. View Our 2019 Digital Salary Benchmark for Singapore here >

There’re also some companies who are also looking for talent who can adapt within their organisation as opposed to hiring for the potential of the talent and how they can contribute to their business.

With the speed of evolution in the industry, we observe many newly created roles. These roles are a hybrid/amalgamation of existing roles and it’s a challenge to find talent with such vast experience. I feel tech companies should try to be more flexible and open-minded.

H: On the whole, Singapore and its wonderful citizens are a relatively young market with a thirst for learning and education. Due to the competitiveness of the market, people are more incentivised and willing to upskill themselves.

Companies need to reflect on being flexible with their hiring requirements. When they have combed the market for some time and have challenges filling the role, they need to be open and give a ‘near-fit’ candidate the opportunity to grow into the role, with guidance and training.

There is a lot of grey area with candidate profiles and clients need to understand that a 100% match is rare.

Instead, look for a candidate with the right mindset and near skillset match. Once you’ve found them, move fast as such talent is highly prized and will receive offers at a hat drop.

On the talent side, I advise candidates to be patient and respectful of time and effort put into their training from a company. Try not ‘jump around’ after 6 months to a year. Hiring companies will always question your commitment to them.

Give yourself time to learn, grow and contribute to your organisation.


Thank you, Harry, and Lebelle for your time to speak to our readers on the current happenings in the SE Asian region.


Are you a tech talent or a company looking to hire tech talent, feel free to reach out to Harry, [email protected] and
Lebelle at [email protected]



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