Stock - Tech jobs
A new wave of jobs built around AI and Generative AI skills is still waiting to happen in the UAE and Gulf markets. But it's a wave that will show up soon. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: In the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf markets, there is one category that’s into a hiring spree – technology. And showing no signs of slowing down during summer.

If the candidate has got a track-record of projects handled and skills needed, he or she will not be spending too much time awaiting a confirmation letter from a prospective employer.

And skillsets in AI is adding a fresh burst of active hiring of suitable candidates across industries.

“We are seeing large spikes in hiring across all sectors at the moment,” said Tom Clarke, Partner, Technology and Services Practice, Middle East at Heidrick & Struggles.

“There is specific large demand in professional and IT services firms, as well as software organizations specialized in areas such as AI.

“There is also ongoing interest from firms outside of the region looking to enter the market. We are seeing new system integrators, software vendors, and boutique consultancies closely examining their market entry strategy.”

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Clearly, a good time to be a tech professional in the UAE and Gulf. All thoughts about massive layoffs in the US/global tech industry from late last year and early 2023 are by now distant memory.

With all the talk about AI – of the Generative AI sort – has turbo-spiked demand for tech professionals.

“The UAE has already appointed an AI council to discuss ways they can stay ahead of the fast-moving advancements of AI,” said Clarke. “It also launched the world’s first dedicated graduate level, research-based AI universities back in 2019.

“Companies are seeking AI expertise as they look to automate and streamline their operations using generative and advanced AI modules. Against today’s digital-first business environment, experts with deep tech expertise, experience in strategy, and willingness to get their hands dirty are critical to help organizations enact major system changes and re-architect exercises.”

Although it would seem there is an excess of talent in the market, we are still seeing companies seek industry 'best-in class' talent from all parts of the world. The high comfort levels of living in the UAE continue to attract expatriates

- Tom Clarke at Heidrick & Struggles

Less of allowances, higher salaries

Heidrick & Struggles has just brought out a trend report on what Chief Technology Officers in the Middle East can expect.

Interestingly, the report finds that allowances granted may have dropped, but those are still being absorbed into higher salary offers.

“As the markets have matured, we have seen these allowances be eliminated or reduced, or bundled into the fixed element of compensation,” the report adds.

“One specific area in which we think further development is required is the more common use of long-term incentive plans (LTIPs). LTIPs are common in major technology markets - however, they are occasional across the Middle East region.

“We feel that they will become much more frequent in years to come as organizations in the region seek to retain their core functional leaders.”

Some of that is already happening, with every funding deal happening in the tech space. Whether that involves a takeover or a private equity funding round, the focus is on retaining as much of the original tech talent as possible.

Proof of project

As employers and their offers chase skills and project experience, the demand gets more intense for those who have already built a track record locally. It has reached a stage where a CIO can ask and get whatever he/she wants if ‘they show proof-of-project delivery at their existing employer’, said a corporate head-hunter. “Just about every big company in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are updating what they need to do with AI.

“This tech employment boom is not going away any time soon. Metaverse may have been slower to catch on, but AI sure isn’t.”