A lot of start-ups we know are not as fortunate as we are and they are looking for developers and having trouble finding them. Some have even tried to poach The Invisible Developer away from me, but they have found it impossible to compete with my offer of paying him six figures, letting him work at home in his underwear and having sex with him. (Every time I say this, The Spoiled One puts her fingers in her ears and chants, “La la la, I can’t hear you!” )
If you are looking for a software developer of your very own, here are a few suggestions from me and additions from The I.D. Stop thinking about what YOU need and start thinking what you might offer. Yes, you might be able to go on some random website and find someone willing to code for minimum wage. I guarantee you that the best people (isn’t that who you want by your side to change the world?) are not there. They already are working on other projects.
1. Pay decent money: I don’t care WHAT stupid article you read that said technical people are motivated by more than salary. Yes, there are is a threshold. If you came in and offered us each a million dollars to work for you today doing something like creating a replacement for SQL or a new operating system, neither of us would be interested. The key point is, though, we are already making enough money to live by the beach and shop at Bloomingdales with The Spoiled One. If people can’t pay their bills on what you are paying they will either:
- Quit your project for one that does pay enough that they can afford housing, food, clothes and Chardonnay, or
- Take another job to pay the bills and work on yours in their spare time, which will be very limited.
2. Have interesting work: The definition of ‘interesting’ is a personal one but anyone who is really good got that way because they were continually learning. In selling your potential developers, talk about how they will have the opportunity to choose the language, IDE, libraries, hardware, etc. they use to develop. Talk about the new things they could learn. Certainly, there will be some limits. At the moment we don’t develop for Linux, although we’d love to, because it’s not compatible with Unity. Both the I.D. and I have left six-figure jobs for other jobs because they weren’t fun. Note that I did not say we left to work for free. Fun only matters after the rent and kids’ tuition are paid (see #1).
3. Have perks: Like interesting, this is a personal definition. For some people, it is having flexible hours so they can spend time with their children. For others, it might be telecommuting. At The Julia Group, we know we can’t match Microsoft or Google in salaries and other financial incentives. We can offer you the flexibility to set your own hours, work from home, maybe buy you the exact hardware and software to your specifications.
4. Address a need the developer is passionate about: It seems most start-ups looking for a developer start here but I don’t know a lot of developers who do. This isn’t to say that I don’t know some great people who would like to have an impact on the world, but they first would like to pay the rent (Maslow’s hierarchy, anyone?). I know developers who are passionate about climate change, education, inequality – but really not all that many. I mean, they do care about those things but they aren’t any more likely to quit their day jobs and devote their lives to them than the guy who runs the car lot down the street from me. Your mileage may vary. I’m sure people I know personally are not a representative, random sample.
The Invisible Developer added this:
5. Hang out where the developers hang out: If you are looking for someone to create iphone apps, there are iphone developer forums. Lurk there and see who is asking beginner questions and who is answering them. In many forums, people will post if they are available and looking for work. If you’ve read a number of their posts, you might have an idea if you want to contact them or not.
6. Learn to code or at least a little bit about coding: I’m not saying you need to create your own operating system from scratch, but you ought to know the difference between a jpeg file and a website design, have some idea about how long it should take to code a web form (not very) versus a really good 3-D adventure game (the rest of your natural life – just kidding, sort of).