Hunting geeks - Grin with cat attached — LiveJournal
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Hunting geeks Oct. 18th, 2006 04:53 pm
I suspect I've asked this or similar questions previously, but fresh hires are proving elusive here, and I'm sure that many of you either hire developers yourselves or know people who do.

So, where do you find really high-quality senior developers? Irrespective of the language you use (or even the country you're in!), how do you go about locating the cream of the sector? I'm finding a surprising lack of coders of my level or better; I know a few socially or online but none of them are job hunting (this may reflect a high level of job security).

Where do *you* go to find top-level software engineers? I'm not convinced that many agencies really understand the fields their technical candidates work in, and I'm seeing evidence that higher-level coders just don't bother with jobsites. And I suspect browsing the list of authors in PHP|architect or O'Reilly might prove impractical.

Those of you who work at this level, where do you go for work? And do you go for perm or freelance?

Please pass the question around to anyone who might be able to contribute to the conversation.

From: azekeil
Date: October 18th, 2006 - 05:37 pm (Link)
You need to look into headhunting.

Also, you could sponsor/advertise or even just hang around conferences of the sorts of things you're interested in and hand out cards...
From: hairyears
Date: October 18th, 2006 - 06:21 pm (Link)

Headhunters? There are very few good agencies and, within them, very few good agents; it takes time and luck to find right people, and far, far too long to learn to exclude the timewasters.

Beyond that, ask yourself which company in your field does the best work? Who is most respected on the newsgroups and the websites relevant to the field? Is there a user group (like, say, the Perl Mongers)? It's worth pointing out that the very best developers will sooner or later get the job they always wanted at a salary that makes them want to stay there; you have a very narrow window of opportunity to capture one who is moving or thinking of moving.

As for me being one of the select few who work 'this level'... No. I'm good, but not at the very top of my field. Not, at least, in a company employing the leading MVP in my speciality.

But, FWIW, Goldman Sachs and Mother Merrill have the best tactical developers on their trading floor, with the hedge funds offering outrageous sums to poach whoever they can get. However, these small high-pressure outfits still have retention problems because they aren't always very pleasant places to work...

...So it occurs to me that you should find out which second-tier companies are poaching from the best ones, throwing silly money at a retention problem caused by their managerial and cultural failings, and go looking for people who've been there six months and found that the extra money isn't worth working with w^nkers.

From: wechsler
Date: October 18th, 2006 - 07:39 pm (Link)
There's http://www.phplondon.org/ - I've already plugged the role at their meetings and list (which I run) but they all seem gainfully employed. There's no jobs.perl.org equivalent or national group.

Our place is pretty high-pressure at times but we do what we can to keep it enjoyable.
From: topbit
Date: October 18th, 2006 - 08:20 pm (Link)
The last time I managed to get to PHPL (too long ago now), I chuckle that I could probably have walked away with any of three different jobs. In fact, one of them I'd already heard of as a contracting gig the previous November.
From: wechsler
Date: October 19th, 2006 - 06:38 am (Link)
You should join us more often, there were a couple of excellent talks last month.

Long term:

From: topbit
Date: October 18th, 2006 - 06:46 pm (Link)
1/ have somewhere they want to work (read peopleware and JoelOnSoftware.com - I've got loads of links to good articles)
2/ Make sure people know that you're doing it right, long term, a dev blog, or just public comments on your own LJ
3/ Get blogged about being such a great place to work.
4/ beat off anyone who isn't A+ grade, with a stick
5/ profit

Re: Long term:

From: wechsler
Date: October 18th, 2006 - 07:36 pm (Link)
Great stuff, thanks:

1) I've read a fair bit of JOS, and we've taken a number of development techniques and ideas from there and the wider development community. TBPH I'm working my arse off trying to make the place as good as I can - it's already changed beyond recognition!

2) http://www.phase.org/ was supposed to be that, but I ran out of writing time months back...

3) No blogs yet, but we got: http://lists.phase.org/pipermail/phplondon-discuss/2006-October/002949.html

4) I'll work on this one... Pretty happy with the crew we've got so far though.

5) I assume you basically mean salary here - the other big problem I'm having is working out what sort of salary these unadvertised jobs attract. We aim to pay just about top rate (including bonus), but first we need to know what that is!

Re: Long term:

From: wechsler
Date: October 18th, 2006 - 07:44 pm (Link)
Oh and apparently we've got a copy of peopleware in the company library, so I'll be reading that.

Re: Long term:

From: topbit
Date: October 18th, 2006 - 08:11 pm (Link)
I managed to leave my newly arrived copy at work. There a lists of others that are must-reads (like Mythical Man Month) around as well on JoS.

Of course, I'd hope the company was actively tryingto improve people - thats the business they are in! BTW, do employees get free courses and such stuff?

Little things like getting some books in from Amazon/ORA, snacks (or for us, cola) in the fridge (still looking for the coffee machine) or the odd night out - every two or three months we've all gone out for a meal - and rumours are they will match the Xmas party from last year, a night out in a restaurant in London and stay over in a hotel - even though we've more than doubled in headcount since I joined, mid-January.

Reminds me, I must chase up a new gfx card (and rack-mounting nuts...) so I can get my 2nd TFT back and installed - most of the rest have laptop + TFT screen for a dual-screen setup, but for me, the biggest proponent, not yet.

Oh, and for more freebies ...

From: topbit
Date: October 18th, 2006 - 08:14 pm (Link)
For us, we can of course download as much porn as we want from our system!

Re: Long term:

From: wechsler
Date: October 19th, 2006 - 06:37 am (Link)
Employees get to see a fair few workouts, both during the development phase and during coach training - although I never seem to quite have the time to join in, probably because our team's short a member!

I think we've got about a dozen or so books on the tech shelf at the moment - I bought another 4 the other day. The management & psych shelves currently hold about 500.

No cola (except for Friday drinks) but there's squash, coffee, and a dozen types of tea; bread, half a dozen cereals, peanut butter, jam etc. No crisps as we like to at least pretend to healthiness, but frequent chocolates whenever someone goes to an overseas client & cake on birthdays. And cookies occasionally when we get board. Oh and team lunch once a month.

Parties don't tend to be overnighters, but the summer & xmas parties both tend to be pretty good, and generally include some pretty unusual activities. The recent trip where they took almost the entire company to Iceland for 4 days may remain a one-off though.

All developers (and all graphics designers who want it) have had dual screens for about 6 months now (yep, that was my idea).

Re: Long term:

From: topbit
Date: October 18th, 2006 - 07:57 pm (Link)
more of a riff on .com's and slashdot's joke on the same.

As for salary, I don't know about central London salaries, but 30 miles out I'm on a generous 30K, plus probably 3K worth of bonus this year, less tax. With some luck, I'll soon be working on some very interesting stuff - I've been helping to spec that out in the last couple of weeks.

Personally, as long as I can pay the bills and still have enough for what I reasonably want, I'd say doing something really neat would be worth at least couple of grand to me in non-cash renumeration - and there are a few point on Joel's list of twelve that are worth probably another combined few grand. I wouldn't want to take it as a paycut, but I'd think of them as extra reasons why I'd want to be there.

Then there are things like version control which, if it didn't already exist there, I'd _have_ to put in - as I have at my last few jobs - or there would be no point working there in the first place.

Today, for example, I started giving people logins into a Trac system - and I've already been doing some things with Subversion, though that will mainly be for the new projects, still running CVS for the older stuff.

Re: Long term:

From: wechsler
Date: October 19th, 2006 - 06:42 am (Link)
For want of clear example salaries, techs get 30-35k plus up to 30% bonus. I get slightly more for doing an impression of a manager.

SVN went in within about a week of my joining as a contractor (*no* version control before that, ick) and Trac and PHPDOC (generated daily) around the start of this year. In the last couple of weeks I've managed to get the "checkout, unit test and mail results" automatic cycle hooked up to the SVN checkins; now I just need to get people to write a lot more unit tests.

Re: Long term:

From: topbit
Date: October 19th, 2006 - 10:48 am (Link)
I've been trying to find a Continuous Integration tool that supports PHP (phpunit, or Marcus's simpletest). I've seen, but not tried Kala, or there's an appliance (installable boot disk, or maybe Vmware image) that I think was mentioned on the PHPL list.

I'd be interested in finding out how you did it.

Re: Long term:

From: wechsler
Date: October 19th, 2006 - 10:59 am (Link)
Fairly lazy solution actually:

richard@hippo:/opt/subversion/repositories/twx/hooks$ cat ./checkoutAndTest.sh

svn update --username autocheckout --password yeahright /srv/www/neocortex-subversion-latest && \
cd /srv/www/neocortex-subversion-latest/code/www/back/test/ && \
/usr/local/bin/php -q _cli_allTests.php

richard@hippo:/opt/subversion/repositories/twx/hooks$ cat post-commit
# Here is an example hook script, for a Unix /bin/sh interpreter:


/usr/lib/subversion/hook-scripts/commit-email.pl "$REPOS" "$REV" developmentGroupAddress@example.com

/opt/subversion/repositories/twx/hooks/checkoutAndTest.sh 2>&1 | /usr/bin/mail -s 'Auto-test results' developmentGroupAddress@example.com

From: jhaelan
Date: October 18th, 2006 - 10:37 pm (Link)
Reputation, mainly
(no subject) - (Anonymous)
From: wechsler
Date: October 19th, 2006 - 11:17 am (Link)
It all rings true.


From: webcowgirl
Date: October 19th, 2006 - 09:20 am (Link)
Hmm. I would look into getting some college recruits. Have a small intern program next summer with three people or see if you can get a part-time intern for now and then if he's good convert him. Most of the genius developers we had at Expedia were people we'd recruited directly out of college.

Re: recruiting

From: wechsler
Date: October 19th, 2006 - 11:17 am (Link)
We've done this for psychs for the first time this year; at the moment we need at least one more higher-level coder before we could give summer students the required support. Might be possible by next summer.
From: immiscibility
Date: October 19th, 2006 - 09:46 am (Link)
I work for an IT consultancy company and we're having a LOT of trouble finding suitably qualified candidates!
It doesn't help that the MD of the company has wierd ideas about how to look for potentials (so far we're limited to Monster and hotonline as well as web-based searches) and that's it! We've been trying for about 2 months to get her to agree a trial period on Computer Weekly job board but our efforts have had roughly the same success rate as a chocolate teapot!

I suppose we're lucky in a way as we have offices round Europe so we swap and change engineers around, but we have so many different projects on at one time in so many different sectors it can prove incredibly frustrating!

And, of course, even if we think we've found the perfect candidate, if the client doesn't like them then we're back to the drawing board!!