Gone, apparently, are the days when the US was the dream destination, the land of opportunity. Today, it’s not enough of an opportunity to lure needed engineers from Canada and Mexico, according to a report from Terminal, which builds engineering teams for tech companies.

Nearly 40% (39%) of engineers in Canada and Mexico would rather not move to the US. Not only do they believe that “there are cracks in the armor of American dominance as a global hub, but the major blocker is quality of life concerns.”

Of the engineers who said they don’t want to move to the US, the top reasons included the high cost of living (90%), daily frustrations like traffic and parking (45%), preferring their current community (46%), and immigration issues (40%).

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Major incentive needed

It’s a real challenge to try to change the mind of those who don’t want to move to the US: 70% of engineers say they would need a salary boost of $100K or more to move.

Money matters most

Canadian and Mexican engineers were polled, and 27% rank pay as the most important factor they consider when choosing a company. Additionally, nearly half of engineers (45%) say they’re underpaid, and only 10% said overpaid–largely due to comparisons to US engineer salaries.

The negatives of being in such demand

A talent shortage may be appealing to recent US grads looking for employment, but two of three working engineers believe the liabilities outweigh the benefits, citing career growth to company success to broader innovation.

Talent shortage

Engineers concerned about the tech talent shortage said it stifles technical development (55%), stunts innovation (25%), cedes leadership to other companies (11%), and holds back societal improvements (8%).

They also believe it impacts their personal careers; nearly half said the shortage overworks software engineers, and more than 45% said it limits their ability to grow.


  • 35% say there’s probably a talent shortage
  • 29% say they think there’s definitely a shortage of software engineers in their current company
  • 21% say no, not really
  • 13% say they don’t know
  • 3% say not at all

Balancing stability and risk

Large companies are perceived as offering stability (87%), strong salary (60%), killer benefits (59%), and mentorship (45%) while early-stage startups are viewed as offering more opportunities to make an impact (54%) and create something new (79%). The most desired stage of a company to work at is a late-stage startup/pre-IPO company (44%), likely because it’s a good compromise between the prior two.

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Rewire recruiting

Businesses must rethink recruiting strategy to attract more global talent. Frustrations and turn offs with the interview process overlapped

The standard route to recruit engineers has been rendered impotent. And the perception is overwhelming: 90% of engineers had at least one issue with the job interview process. Top gripes (first percentage are frustrations, and second are for job turnoffs) include disorganization (31%, 22%), being interviewed by people who don’t understand (43%, 28%), long delays (42%, 28%), too many rounds of interviews (61%, 38%), and generic/un-customized interviews (turn off only, 39%).

Image: Terminal

On the job training

Companies are shortsighted when they use degrees on recruiting wishlists. Engineers felt there are more relevant barometers. When asked how they acquired the skills they value and rely on most during their job day-to-day, three in four engineers (74%) said they were self-taught, which was the top response. Conversely, just 29% cited a degree, 10% said a technical certificate, and 5% referenced boot camp.

Three in four engineers (74%) say the most valued skills and those they rely on most daily are self-taught. 40% say skills came from working at startups, 34% say working in big tech, 34% from online training or schools like Lambda.


On average, today’s engineers are skilled in three coding languages, and 87% of engineers are multilingual when it comes to coding. Engineers are split on what language is the most important to know as a software engineer for the future, with 29% choosing JavaScript and 29% choosing Python.

The report shows an emphasis on JavaScript, Java, and Python, but several respondents to the report noted “the language itself doesn’t matter; logic or style is the most important thing.” The fourth most common language is C/C++, which is more commonly used in firms with 2,500 or more employees (53%), as opposed to smaller firms (20% to 30%).

The languages, in order of coding skill sets, are:

  • JavaScript
  • Java
  • Python
  • C/C++
  • Typscript
  • Language not listed
  • Ruby
  • Go
  • Kotlin
  • Scala
  • Elixir
  • Haskell
  • Rust

Remote reality

More companies have accepted the inevitable: remote work is the future. However, going remote comes with a new set of challenges companies need to address.

Work place(s)

Engineers who don’t work in the office work from home (55%). Other remote location alternatives are a satellite office (27%), shared office space like a WeWork (8%), coffee shop (3%), or other (8%).

Those engineers who worked remotely cited issues they disliked; 45% say the lack of day-to-day in-person interactions, 35% cite not feeling part of a team, 30% worry about lack of visibility in their career development, and 22% feel isolated or lonely.

Image: Terminal


Engineers prefer working in a similar time zone within one-to-two hours of teammates by a huge margin (88%), and only 12% preferred to work in very different time zones.

In general, a quiet environment (60%) won out over an energetic one (40%). Women favored a quiet environment (74%) compared to men (59%).


Image: Terminal

“Tech companies can no longer ignore that the once-sacrosanct dream of moving to the US to lead the next generation of innovation is fading,” said Clay Kellogg, CEO of Terminal. “Moreover, the tech talent shortage means it’s harder to innovate and makes life harder on engineers who are already in the trenches. US tech companies seeking to scale their business must adjust their strategy and find creative ways to attract and keep global talent no matter where they live.”

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The report is based on a survey of software engineers across North American, primarily based where Terminal operates in Canada (57%) and Mexico (36%); 4% were from the US, and 3% were “other.” In terms of genre, 86% were male, 10% were female, 3% gender variant/non-conforming, and 1% preferred not to respond.

In terms of age, 81% were between 23 and 28, 18% were between 39 and 54, and 1% for both 18 to 22 and 55 to 73. Employment wise, 91% were employed, 6% were freelance/contractor, 2% were unemployed, and 1% were employed part-time. 40% of company headquarters were in Canada, 32% in the US, 17% in Mexico, 6% “other,” 2% in France, and 1% in Germany.

The most common job title was senior software engineer/data scientist/data analyst (45%), followed by software engineer/data scientist/data analyst (30%), 17% were tech leads, 4% were managers, 1% was CTO, and 1% were “other.”

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Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto