I joined Client Server in 2010, bright eyed and bushy tailed, completely unaware of what I was getting myself into.
The tech world was very different, cool kids chatted on BBM, Instagram was in its infancy, and iPads more like (literal) notepads than the svelte versions we see today.
Something else was also very different; the company I had just joined, and moved to London to work for, didn’t have a London office.
Instead, my new commute took me to the leafy suburbs of Esher.
Why Esher I hear you ask? Well, primarily because the two Directors lived within walking distance.
But I suspected (hoped?) there was more to it.
It meant us non-locals commuted against the grain, which was actually pretty pleasant.
And thankfully for me it also meant a change at Wimbledon station, with the lure of the £8 Becks & Pizza deal from Edwards often too strong to ignore.
If you know, you know.
The office location was a convenience, so when Nick Boulton stepped up one of his first drivers was definitely getting us into London.
We did that successfully, and now in London office number three, we have nigh on 60 people there permanently.
However, our Esher office is still going strong, and we’ve recently refurbished an entire floor to make space for the growing team.
We have almost as many people in Client Server Regional now as we did the entire company when I joined.
And by far the biggest catalyst for that has been the growth in technology opportunities for companies and candidates outside of London.
CSR focus on clients in regions from Cambridge to Manchester, Oxford to Surrey, and Milton Keynes to Hampshire.
They’re our fastest growing team and have gone from zero in 2017 to 15 today, with another three trainees ready to step up this quarter.
Is it the fresh air of Surrey?
Or the excellent chat of our long-standing (and Esher-based) BD consultants H and Kovacs?
But mainly, it’s the desire of clients to grow their tech teams outside of London.
The motivations are obvious – price – but post-Covid companies are now also more comfortable offering remote and flexible working, which means they can consider those London candidates without needing to be based in the city.
There’s also the market for engineers in those locations, which provides a strong supply and value for money.
As an example, a strong DevOps engineer in say Leeds will likely set you back £80-90k, the same person in London is £100-120k.
Many a hiring manager has regretted the dearth and cost of strong Mobile engineers. In say Manchester it’s feasible you get a good candidate in the £75-90k mark, for London, you’re looking six figures and beyond.
It’s of course obvious to state things are cheaper in places other than London, but we’ve also seen company and candidate relocations which mean that there is now a genuine supply and opportunities for each find to the other.
I recently visited our Cardiff office – ironically, they focus on the European market for us – but to buy a three-bed house nearby you would be looking at £350,000, and that same place in London would be double.
Senior technologists are generally most in demand, those who can hit the ground running but still have room to grow.
And if so inclined those same people are likely to be considering starting a family, so you can see why moving would be so appealing.
Sky, BBC, Lloyds, ITV, Starling Bank, Monzo, Apple, Darktrace, and NHS Digital – to name just a few – all hire technologists outside of London.
To use some of our data, our CSR team currently have c15% more jobs to work per consultant than their London counterparts.
That number has been a long way in the other direction in the past, and we expect London to overtake them again in the next 4-6 weeks, but even so.
With the economy as it stands, and the cost of living only likely to level out at best, the ability to source technologists at a 20% discount is compelling.
Europe can be even cheaper, but if the admin threshold there is too high, then many will continue to look at the UK’s leafier suburbs to do just that.