The car has become progressively more digital. Dashboard screens enable drivers to do everything from make hands-free phone calls to watching their progress on a map; under the hood, a galaxy of sensors provides second-by-second car diagnostics. As a result, the automotive industry is hungry for technologists who can not only evolve these systems, but also position car companies for what’s coming next: autonomous driving.
But what kinds of technologists are most in-demand within the automotive industry, both in 2021 and beyond? For an answer, Dice spoke with Trisha Boehler, head of talent acquisition for Continental North America, which manufactures auto parts, as well as representatives from automakers SEAT and Toyota.
“It’s been an interesting year, because not only are we transforming as an industry, but we’ve got the economic and pandemic situation—we’re all working mobile now, which is new, but the core skill sets have not changed,” Boehler said.
Those car-related skills include embedded software architecture and development. There’s also a healthy need for technologists skilled in developing apps, including software for the enterprise; those with knowledge of Oracle WebLogic, IBM DB2, and SQL are in particular demand.
“We expect a continued need for all those professionals in 2021,” she noted. “The biggest change I’m seeing is that skill sets within the engineering fields were a little more siloed, and now we see electrical engineers writing script, and they’re working with data analytics—it’s more full systems.”
As consumers purchase new cars, they’re more focused on user experience. As a result, the overall human machine interface (HMI) is becoming just as important as what’s under the hood. “From navigation to entertainment—they want the cutting edge—and our vehicle networking and information department is seeing a lot of movement in terms of looking for HMI specialists,” she said. Those specialists must have solid knowledge of UI/UX, especially as it relates to best practices for automobile dashboards and other systems.
A Full Range of Skills
Boehler noted that technologists are getting more involved in the manufacturing side of cars, as well.
“It’s about improving quality, ensuring stable process management,” she said. “It’s not just about the end user, it’s about having strong processes and having stability. IT is really touching every aspect of our business, and I expect that to continue.”
Will Hargis, Toyota Connected’s executive director of engineering, said creating memorable experiences in their cars is a highly complex process that requires knowledge of embedded systems, wireless technology, and cloud. Designers, developers and even cybersecurity teams must work to ensure that driver experiences are not only safe, but also engaging.
“We’re long past the days of a simple light bulb behind gauges,” he explained. “As the rapid rise of digital technology takes center stage in our cars, the demand for top-talent that may have once been building apps, websites or cloud platforms are now finding themselves making an impact in the lives of drivers by way of in vehicle multimedia, companion apps, digital keys and more, and the demand for them is only climbing.”
Hargis said those bringing knowledge in the latest technologies such as cloud and microservices, data, edge computing, augmented reality, computer vision and a host of top programming languages are all big focus areas for the carmaker.
“Data is at the heart of everything these days,” he said. “Specific to the connected experiences, data enables things like intelligent navigation, predictive maintenance, and a host of other customer-centric opportunities to improve our offerings for our customers.”
Among car companies, there’s also increased demand for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) specialists, Hargis said: “The predictive and learning aspects alone provide new capabilities to customers that feel personalized, intelligent and impressive, such as learning preferences for better recommendations, or how your seat prefers to be adjusted.”
Oliwia Puppel, head of Talent Acquisition at SEAT, said the automaker is currently looking for 200 professionals to help with its digitalization process, especially for SEAT:CODE, the company’s hub for software development.
The most widely sought-after positions, Puppel continued, include virtual reality application developers, user experience experts, cybersecurity specialists, and software developers.
“To attract software developers, we enter into a field which was unknown for the automotive brands a few years ago, and candidates do not always think naturally [about] joining automotive companies,” she said. “It isn't just a question of attracting talent, but also of retaining the talent currently working for a company by providing the necessary tools so they can adapt to constant changes.”
The company is also actively seeking professionals skilled in machine learning and artificial intelligence (A.I.), data science, and data analytics.
“Data is the new oil, and therefore every company is looking for data scientists, architects and engineers, and SEAT is not an exception,” Puppel said. “People call them magicians for their ability to predict things before they happen. But it's actually science instead of magic.”
The data and analytics team at SEAT, which now comprises eight people and continues to grow, monitors cars' digital platforms to understand how they are used and whether they meet the needs of millions of customers.
“Technology is evolving so quickly, that what today is a very sought-after profile may not be in such high demand tomorrow,” Puppel said. “That's why we're especially looking for people who question the status quo, adaptability, emotional intelligence, who are not afraid of making mistakes, who learn from failures, who are creative and team players. In short, we are looking for forward thinkers.”