Software Shift: GM to Hire 3,000 Tech Engineers
General Motors has announced a massive expansion of its engineering, IT and design teams to address forthcoming electrified and autonomous products.
General Motors announced on November 9 that it is looking to add 3,000 new technical positions before the second quarter of 2021 to bolster its virtual testing and software expertise. The professional positions span engineering, IT and design, with GM hoping to expand its workforce diversity in the hiring push. Particularly applicable during COVID and a potential long-term draw in attracting new talent, the automaker noted many of the positions will offer remote-work opportunity.
GM claims that staffing recent innovations in virtual development will permit shorter product-development timelines while reducing development costs. “As we evolve and grow our software expertise and services, it’s important that we continue to recruit and add diverse talent,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “This will clearly show that we’re committed to further developing the software we need to lead in EVs, enhance the customer experience and become a software-expertise-driven workforce.”
The majority of new positions on the engineering side are for electrical system, infotainment software and control engineers, with GM seeking expertise in Java, Android, iOS and other platforms to build out its current software foundation. The company noted that software expertise is at the core to its new Vehicle Intelligence Platform (VIP) electrical architecture, which has provided the needed bandwidth to support new active safety, infotainment and connectivity systems such as its Super Cruise driver-assistance feature, along with over-the-air (OTA) updates.
Remote work opportunity
According to Ken Morris, VP of autonomous and electric vehicle programs at General Motors, despite the pandemic, GM’s progress on its upcoming EV portfolio has not slowed, and the new remote-work situation has likely helped speed product development and one of its key goals of software as a service (SaaS). Regardless of industry, many programmer positions are now managed remotely, and according to Morris, the majority of GM’s new openings will be in software development.
“I think the overwhelming majority will be in product development in software engineering and software engineers, but because it is an enterprise-wide approach, there will be people in IT and design and different areas that are going to help us really integrate the customer experience,” Morris said. “We've pulled ahead two major programs because we are doing things virtually more effective than we ever have. A lot of those jobs are coming in as software engineers and product, but they will touch enterprise wide and they are all towards the EV push.”
Being able to work remotely also is expected to help GM fill the positions in what’s already a tough hiring market for software engineers. “All of us, me included, have been working remotely since March 13th and we've been really, really effective at doing that,” Morris noted. “Which opens up the hiring possibilities. They can hire in and live in Florida or California. They can work remotely and do the work, and we have a flexibility, confidence in that flexibility now that we haven't had in the past. We can get the absolute best people and if they want to live where they currently live, they can do that.”
Shifting the timeline
GM has committed to an aggressive EV product timeline, which it unveiled with its new GMC Hummer EV (top). With software playing a crucial role in electrified products, the hiring announcement points to a strategic shift in engineering resource allocation. “We're front-loading so much of the development in the timeline where we are doing so much analysis and being able to deliver vehicles. The first vehicles that we build are more-or-less like production vehicles,” Morris claimed, noting that the resulting amount of physical testing required for verification is greatly reduced.
This timeline shift has only accelerated recently. “It's amazing what we're able to do today versus even five years ago, so for sure the new jobs that we're talking about here are helping not only with the vehicles that you've already seen,” Morris added, referencing the GMC Hummer and Cadillac Lyriq EVs. “We're already well on the way on those, but we really want to advance the entire EV portfolio. And that's where we need the extra horsepower for lack of a better word of having 3,000 additional software engineers.”
The additional headcount, Morris stated, is not just about sticking to the aggressive product-release cadence, but to hopefully advance it. “It's both,” he said. “I think we need to have that talent and capability just in terms of capacity to be able to deliver the portfolio that we want to. But it's also an added benefit to the company that we've figured out how to do this very quickly and that's just going to help us move faster.”
Engineering ahead of the market
The latest recruitment of software-focused talent is part of the industry’s inexorable shift from mechanical to digital systems. In-house abilities are likely to help determine competitiveness as the market moves to a greater percentage of electrified and autonomous models. “We started the transition in the tail end of 2018 in terms of what type of engineers that we have working on what, because we're accelerating towards our EV future,” Morris explained. “We're also accelerating towards our infotainment systems and the vehicles are becoming more and more software driven just because that's what customers want and enjoy.”
This is a seismic shift in engineering capital and Morris noted it’s about looking forward in terms of expertise. “At some point you've got to transition to people that have those skill sets. For the most part, EVs require similar skill sets to internal-combustion-engine [ICE] vehicles. We can transfer people directly across working on transmissions into working on drive units. But for software engineering, that's a tougher skill set to be able to transfer to. We're adjusting to the needs and the capacity of requirements that we have.”
Staying ahead of the market’s EV adoption curve will be key. “My personal opinion is that we're going to see a real inflection point in the middle of the decade where customer adoption is going to increase rapidly. We want to be on the leading edge of that in terms of real mass-market, mass-production electric vehicles,” Morris said. “What we're gaining in terms of the technical execution of these vehicles and the fact that we believe we can execute EVs faster than we've ever executed [ICE] vehicles... we're anticipating [this] inflection point. If we miss that opportunity, it's tough to catch up.”
For those interested in available positions, GM is encouraging the use of its online careers portal .