Brazilian IT (and OR) salaries, and our rickshaw-like cars

Contemporary economy and the rickshaw-like cars

The first elected president after the military dictatorship in Brazil was quite a controversial figure. He was responsible for the first steps towards opening our economy to free trade. By that time, he argued that the Brazilian cars were like rickshaws. Still, two decades after, I bought a brand new car from FIAT whose floor gets wet inside when it rains. Nevertheless, things have been changing quite a lot due to what he and his successors did.

IT demand and IT paycheck

Due to a number of favorable conditions, our economy is growing faster now. That implies a greater demand for qualified workers, what includes IT experts. However, both Brazilian and foreign companies are reacting as if a free lunch was still possible: they complain about the scarcity of high skilled workers but also say that the available professionals are asking too much to be hired, as told on a report of Info magazine. It might be true that many people are earning more than their technical skills deserve, but that only happens if the recruitment process is scant. Besides, such higher salaries only exist because some employers sensed that IT has a great value in their business. Such conclusion became crystal clear to me when I saw a debate among three professionals in a class of optimization in finance at IME-USP. Two of them were agreeing on that common-place complaint when they were interrupted by the third, which has just arrived in Brazil to start a branch of his investment firm. In his opinion, technical skills are not as valued in Brazil as interpersonal skills are, which means that a salesperson earns a lot more than those that make things work behind the scenes.

What about OR?

I wish I could say that things are better for OR analysts here, but that is not often the case. Albeit the fact that our profession demands higher academic degrees and the availability of technical resources is not so generous when compared to what is offered to software development, the relation between workforce offer and market demand is smaller. In São Paulo state, I would guess that there are as many specialized consulting firms to work in as there are good degree programs involving OR, which means that those firms can bargain salaries very easily. Instead, I think that it is better to be an OR specialist outside such consulting firms, moving towards the end user or bigger software houses. Doing that, you can be considered as an IT professional that is specialist in strategic software, which alone means a better paycheck. Of course, there is yet another option: starting your own consulting firm.

Is it the end of “rickshaw-like salaries”?

For the good of our profession and all those which are very specialized, things have been changing a lot. Brazilian companies like Petrobras and Vale have been investing a lot in research institutes as well as on hiring and valuating high skilled professionals. Besides, foreign companies like DuPont, GE and IBM have decided to create research units here, whilst other companies like Google are developing their products here (as opposed to simply adapting them as global manufactures have been doing for ages). I read somewhere that there are two times more PhDs working outside than inside the universities in the USA. According to a report of Estado, our balance in Brazil is quite the opposite right now but there is a clear trend that this is changing. I hope that those companies used to how things were in the old times starting considering a new approach for their own good. With a higher demand and better recruiting, it seems that unfair “rickshaw-like salaries” in Brazil might be about to end.

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