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Digital Transformation in the Middle East: The Search for Tech Talent

Legacy Equipment in Telecoms Networks (3)

by Joe Morris (New Business Manager)

The Search for Tech Talent

You’ve probably heard a lot about digital transformation lately and companies switching to the latest tech, but have you thought much about the people behind it? As businesses across the Middle East race to go digital, there’s a huge demand for skilled tech talent to make it happen. We’re talking designers, coders, data scientists – you name it. But finding these unicorns isn’t always easy, especially with Western countries trying to snap them up too. This talent shortage could put the brakes on the region’s digital ambitions. So how are Middle Eastern countries planning to grow their own homegrown tech workforces?

And what are they doing to attract talent from abroad? Let’s dig into the human side of digital transformation in the Middle East.

The Digital Transformation Boom in the Middle East

The Middle East is experiencing rapid growth in digital transformation. Companies across sectors are investing heavily in new technologies like cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and blockchain to improve business processes and better engage customers

As businesses go digital, the demand for tech talent is skyrocketing. Software engineers, data scientists, and Al specialists are in high demand, but the region faces a shortage of skilled technology professionals. According to estimates, the Middle East needs over 50,000 additional IT experts to fill digital transformation roles.

To build digital capabilities, companies are focused on upskilling and retraining existing workforces in new technologies. Educational institutions are also expanding curricula in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields to develop homegrown tech talent. However, attracting and retaining top tech talent remains an ongoing challenge.

Some solutions companies are employing include:

A resource solutions provider like Penta, can help bridge the tech talent shortage in the Middle East!


Recruiting foreign tech workers and providing attractive relocation and compensation packages. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have made it easier for companies to sponsor visas for highly-skilled technology workers from

Partnering with global staffing firms that specialize in sourcing hard-to-find technology skills and can tap into talent pools outside the region.

Investing in continuous learning and development programs so current employees can gain new technical and digital skills. Some companies are also providing incentives like bonuses, promotions and increased compensation for employees who upgrade their tech skills.


Improving the work environment and culture to make roles more appealing to technology professionals. This includes offering opportunities to work on innovative projects, career progression, work-life balance, and a start-up like culture.

The Middle East’s digital transformation journey is accelerating rapidly. Developing a sustainable pipeline of local and foreign tech talent will be key to supporting technology innovation and adoption across the region. Companies able to attract and retain top technology professionals will gain a competitive advantage in today’s digital world.

The Growing Demand for Tech Talent

The rapid growth of tech start-ups and increasing digital transformation of traditional companies in the Middle East has created a huge demand for technical talent. Software engineers, data scientists, UX designers, and IT professionals are in high demand, but the supply of candidates with the necessary skills and experience is limited.

According to a 2019 survey, over 80% of tech companies in the UAE struggle to find suitably qualified local talent to fill open roles. The skills gap is widening as new technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain, and cloud computing continue to emerge and be adopted.


To meet their hiring needs, many companies have no choice but to recruit foreign talent. However, work visa quotas and costs make this difficult for start-ups and smaller companies. Some are forced to outsource technical work or open satellite offices in other countries with more abundant talent pools.

For job seekers in the region, this shortage of talent represents a major opportunity. Technical and IT skills are in demand across a range of industries, from finance and healthcare to transportation and entertainment. Salaries for in-demand roles like data scientists, full-stack web developers, and cloud architects are rising fast.

Those looking to enter the tech field or make a career switch should focus on gaining skills and experience in the most sought-after domains. Some of the fastest-growing job categories include:

  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning engineers
  • Information security specialists -Digital marketing and social media experts
  • Mobile app and web developers
  • User experience designers

With the speed of technological change only accelerating, the need for a tech-savvy workforce will continue to grow across the Middle East. Upskilling and retraining programs may help bridge the skills gap over time. For now, the demand for technical talent far outstrips the supply, creating opportunities for those eager to build a career in this fast-growing sector.

Challenges in Finding Qualified Candidates

The rapid pace of digital transformation in the Middle East has led to a huge demand for tech talent with skills in areas like Al, data science, and software engineering. However, companies are struggling to find enough qualified candidates to fill open roles. There are a few reasons for this talent shortage:

Limited tech education. Technical and computer science programs at universities in the Middle East have traditionally focused more on IT and computer engineering rather than newer disciplines like data science, UX design, and web development. As a result, many students graduate with skills that don’t match current market needs.


Global competition. Tech giants and startups from around the world are also hunting for the same scarce talent. Candidates with in-demand skills have opportunities to work remotely for companies outside the region, making it difficult for local companies to compete.


Lack of experienced candidates. The tech industry in the Middle East is still relatively young, so there are fewer experienced candidates compared to more established tech hubs. It can be hard to find candidates with 5-10 years of relevant work experience.

To address these challenges, companies should focus on upskilling and retraining existing employees, building relationships with universities to match curricula with in-demand skills, and improving hiring processes to identify candidates with potential, even if they lack direct experience. The tech talent shortage won’t be solved overnight, but with a long-term, multi-pronged approach, companies can build the digital talent pipelines they need to succeed.

How Companies Can Attract Top Tech Talent

To attract and retain the best talent in tech, companies in the Middle East need to focus on certain key areas.

Offer competitive compensation. Tech professionals, especially software engineers and developers, are in high demand. To lure top candidates, companies must provide salary and benefits on par with leading tech hubs like Silicon Valley. Bonuses, stock options, and other perks can also make positions more enticing.

Provide opportunities for growth. Ambitious tech talent is looking to constantly improve their skills and take on more responsibility. Companies should emphasize opportunities for career progression, ongoing training, mentorship, and the chance to work on innovative, challenging projects. The option to switch teams or roles within the organization is appealing.

Offer an attractive culture. Beyond compensation, the culture and work environment are major factors for candidates. Tech talent prefers a flexible, startup like culture that fosters creativity, collaboration, and work-life balance. An open-concept office, casual dress code, and company social events all contribute to an attractive culture.

Highlight interesting and impactful work. Cutting-edge companies that are building innovative new technologies or working on high-impact problems will naturally attract top talent. Emphasizing how candidates can do meaningful, challenging work that leverages their skills is key. Work that has the potential for regional or global impact is especially appealing.

Invest in branding. Establishing a strong employer brand is essential to attracting scarce tech talent. Companies should actively build their brand on platforms like Linkedln, Glassdoor, and Stack Overflow, highlighting company culture, impact, and opportunities. Sponsoring or participating in local tech and developer events also helps to raise brand visibility. Word-of-mouth referrals from current employees are one of the best ways to attract new candidates.

With competition intensifying for skilled tech professionals in the Middle East, following these best practices will help companies source, hire and retain the talent they need to succeed in the digital age. Focusing on pay, growth, culture, work, and branding will position companies as top destinations for ambitious tech talent looking to advance their careers.

Tips for Job Seekers Interested in Middle East Digital Transformation Roles

Are you eager to land an exciting new role in digital transformation in the Middle East? The demand for tech talent is high, but the competition is also intense. Here are some tips to help you stand out:

Focus on developing in-demand technical skills. Prioritize learning skills like data analysis, software engineering, cloud computing, and cybersecurity. These areas of expertise are in huge demand across the region.

Build a strong digital profile. Create profiles on sites like Linkedln and to help you connect with companies and recruiters. Make sure your profiles are optimized with relevant keywords, a professional photo, recommendations from colleagues, and examples of your work.

Consider taking additional courses or getting certified. Pursuing additional technical training and certifications in areas like data analytics, Al, blockchain or digital marketing will make you a more attractive candidate. Some programs are offered online through sites like Udacity, Coursera and Udemy.

Learn key languages. Being bilingual, especially in Arabic and English, is very valuable. Some roles may require proficiency in other languages like Turkish or Farsi. Continuously practice and improve your language skills.

Apply to companies proactively. Don’t just wait for job listings to appear. Identify target companies you’re interested in and reach out to them directly. Express your interest in any current or upcoming digital transformation openings. This approach shows your enthusiasm and motivation.

Be willing to relocate. Many of the most exciting opportunities are located in major tech hubs like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Cairo. Consider relocating to where the jobs are concentrated. Relocation may be required for some roles.

Negotiate the best package. Salaries for tech roles in the Middle East are very competitive. Do your research to determine the typical salary range for a position so you can negotiate the best overall package, including benefits like housing allowances, healthcare, and annual airfare.

With the right skills and persistence, you can land an amazing role in the fast-growing field of digital transformation in the Middle East. Keep developing your expertise, build your online profile, learn in-demand languages, and don’t be afraid to relocate for the right opportunity. The tech world is transforming the Middle East, so get ready to transform your career

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