The rise of the global tech elite: The in-demand skills you’ll need to play

(Editor’s note: This post, the second of two, is part of our Tech Tuesdays series. It will be updated with new skills. We cover technology because so many of our highly skilled internationals are engineers and entrepreneurs.)

In our post last week on the rising tech elite, we proffered that in a world where a tiny brainiac minority actually understand how it all works or have the skills to play, you can surf the wave or drown. So, it looks like you’ve decided to surf.


Now, what?

You need the right skills at the right time.

The good thing is, it’s not going to be all hard technical skills all the time. If you or your progeny are planning for a career, you still have to do what comes naturally. What you love. That sounds cliché, but it’s true.

Take for example the rarified world of venture capital, which funds so much of this technical innovation. Capital is always drawn to the new new thing and non-engineers can play.

VC used to be a small piece of the financial world, a corner of what’s known as “alternative investments.” As technology has taken over the world, the VC piece funding risky tech startups has grown to generate more than $200 billion in deals in 2021 from maybe $40 billion in 1999.

Of course, that’s small beer compared to private equity, with total deals worth $1 trillion in 2022 or debt financing at $300 trillion.

So, the capital is out there. But for the next innovation to happen, there has to be abundant talent. That’s where you come in, highly skilled internationals. Today, you can still make a reasonable living as a commercial pilot, architect or developer. But what about five years from now? Ten years from now? (We’re also not including legal because laws vary from country to country and state to state.)


Let’s look at the hot technology of the moment, artificial intelligence. AI is going to eliminate everyone’s job, right? Weather forecasters, physicians, lawyers and Indian chiefs.

We will see.

We’ve heard this about every innovation from old-style automation to robotics. But Pew Research Center predicts AI will impact about one in five American jobs. CNBC states at-risk jobs are  budget analysts, data entry people, tax preparers, technical writers and web developers.

What’s certain is, AI will disrupt a lot of industries from healthcare to advertising. What’s also undeniable is this is a new technology built on old-ish programming skills, primarily the Python coding language, which itself dates back to 1991.

The truth is, skills overlap. You need software people for AI and AI people for quantum computing. Most deep-tech companies, especially in the semiconductor space, need people with knowledge of physics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, mechatronics and chemical engineering.

Whatever the case, there’s aren’t enough people across Europe with hard skills to support innovation into the upcoming decade.

We’ve seen estimates that 50 percent of all employees will need reskilling by 2025.

Here’s our list of tech skills of the future drawn from our interviews with the most advanced tech startups, scale-ups and companies in our HQ city of Eindhoven, Europe’s most important innovation hub, and other tech centers in Europe and the United States.

Artificial intelligence

Sure, you’ve read about or used GPT4 and Azure and are thinking, “Gee, I’d like to work on the next iterations of AI” and enter the secretive world of development.

The first thing to know is, there are multiple flavors of AI engineering, including neural network engineers, the people who write the algorithms that make it all work, and computer vision engineers. When you’re talking about “AI,” you’re talking about a lot of skill sets from network engineers and data analysis to math. There are brand new skills categories unique to AI, including prompt engineering. All this comes together in creating the code.

Where to start:

This bit takes us full circle back to High Tech Campus Eindhoven, where Axelera AI has plans to add dozens of people through next year. Axelera builds AI software and hardware for the edge.

Axelera has 23 current openings, including CFOs for London and Amsterdam and for two DFT engineers and an embedded software engineer.


Engineering might evolve, but it’s not going away any time soon as a career. “Engineering” is also a catch-all for a lot of unrelated skills. A chemical engineer and a software engineer inhabit two different worlds, but both are still viable careers.

In the post last week, our client told us he really needs an FPGA engineer, which is difficult to find in Europe. Which had us looking at each other, wondering, “What the the hell is an FPGA engineer?” Fortunately, we have our in-house engineer Steve Lorence in Columbus, Ohio to smarten us up.

Turns out it’s a sub-category of semiconductor – field programmable gate arrays are integrated circuits that can be programmed after manufacturing and are used in embedded systems. Basically, they are – compared to advanced computer chips – simpler programmable or reprogrammable chips for all sorts of applications. For example, FPGAs in satellites can be remotely upgraded or debugged remotely. FPGAs also are an important tool in AI.

So, the sought after engineering skills will be relevant to the semiconductor industry, such as chip architects, and that’s where this intersects with photonics. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are working on photonic chips that provide programmable on-chip information processing for AI without lithography.

Where to start:

SMART Photonics, based in Eindhoven, just landed 100 million euros.

As you might imagine, they have a number of openings for engineers with skills related to photonics integrated chips, or PICs.

Chemistry and material science

With new ways of altering molecules, chemistry is essential to making everything from extruded ceramics to filter carbon from the atmosphere to creating new drugs. That’s not to mention new materials and metal alloys for advanced aircraft and autos.

Where to look:

Airbus is looking for a material and process engineer. You can see the details here.


Because of ASML, we’re located in a city with probably more physicists than any city outside China. And the effort to recruit more never stops, because ASML is designing today the photolithography machines – the most complex machines ever made – that won’t hit the market for years.

ASML is still a growing company, with about 30 billion euros in projected top-line revenue this year. Which sounds like a lot, right? Well, compare that to Microsoft, which generated 200 billion in gross revenue for 2022. So ASML, which has the deep ultraviolet lithography market all to itself, has room to grow.

This spills over into quantum computing, which needs conventional physicists, along with quants who can master linear algebra, complex numbers, probability and quantum mechanics.

Scientific American has a post about the looming shortage of people with quantum computing skills:

A 2021 McKinsey report predicts major talent shortages—with the number of open jobs outnumbering the number of qualified applicants by about 3 to 1—until at least the end of the decade without fixes. That report also estimates that the quantum talent pool in the U.S. will fall far behind China and Europe.

Where to look:

ASML has pages and pages of job listings. Many require at least some knowledge of physics because ASML is basically in the light business, generating energy along the spectrum to etch circuits on computer chips.

The job that caught our eye is Proto Engineer EUV 24×7 at imec, which is a research partner of ASML based in Leuven, Belgium. It caught our eye because we have absolutely no idea what it is, and reading the job description didn’t help. But we’re sure it’s a perfect fit for somebody.


Okay, this isn’t an actual career category. But as we stated above, the weak link we see in almost every tech startup is the lack of someone who understands the science of money. In short, a team of great engineers without someone who can negotiate the intricacies of raising capital is destined to die. So, an MBA or a law degree is a great foundation for a career as an entrepreneur.

Where to look:

Becoming a dealmaker is kinda tricky. You don’t just show up on Sand Hill Road and apply for a job. The biggest deal makers such as Ben Horowitz at A16Z started as entrepreneurs and founders, then founded their own VC firms. But a job at a big merchant bank such as Goldman or in the M&A department at someplace like McKinsey would be a good place to start.

There’s so much more to cover in this changing world that we’ll be updating this post as we talk with the smartest people in the world about who they need to create the future.


Read more about tech here in Dispatches’ archives.

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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