How to Hire Techies: Silicon Valley Insiders Explain
Software may be eating the world, making nearly every business into a tech business, but all this gulping is causing some severe indigestion.
The growing centrality of software to many industries means a growing demand for tech talent. And with universities failing to churn out enough qualified candidates the result has been a much discussed (and incredibly brutal) war for tech talent. Now your business needs some and you can't afford a decade of survivor benefits or other flash perks, so how do you compete?
That's what one Quora questioner recently wanted to know, asking "what are some of the better carrots used to attract top engineering talent in Silicon Valley besides equity and salary?"
The topical question attracted the attention some big names in the world of tech, who generously offered more than a dozen suggestions on what you need to do to attract and retain techies. The thread is worth a read in full, but here are some of the highlights.
A Deeper Meaning
Don't just pitch techies a job. Pitch then a story of how their work will impact the world. That's the advice of John Lilly, a partner at VC firm Greylock Partners, who writes, "Give people something to work on that matters. A mission. A narrative. A way to put a dent into the universe. And make sure your organization is built to get their contributions into the world--you've got to ship to matter." An engineer at Pinterest agrees. "A chance to work on something really meaningful," is key, she says.
A Tremendous Team
Who you work with appears to be nearly as important to engineers as what you're working on. "The most talented and interesting people in the world want to work with the other most talented people. Genius attracts genius," says Lilly. "Looking back over the jobs that I've had, there's only one quality all the good ones have had in common: good people who are fun to be around," concurs another programmer.
A B.S.-Free Workplace
Let's face it, getting your work done at many companies involves navigating a tangle of politics and bureaucratic nonsense. Programming talent appears particularly adverse to this, according to the Quora respondents.
Working conditions really matter, writes Jon Bishke, founder of Entolo.com. "This is less of the 'I get free sodas at work' or 'We have Whiskey Thursdays' and more of the 'I don't have to deal with stupid bullshit at work' kind of thing. It's annoying to an engineer to be told they have to deal with a bureaucratic policy or finding out they can't occasionally bang out some code from home or a coffee shop. The best companies we've seen create an environment that allows their engineers to be 100%-focused on the task at hand and remove all of the other obstacles for them," he explains.
"I'm surprised that nobody mentioned 'a good manager,'" writes another techie. "If you want to keep people over the long haul, make sure their direct managers are good… Engineers are people, too, and no amount of cool technology or awesome Mac laptops with three monitors and free meals will make up for a bad or mediocre manager."
These ideas are just a fraction of the ideas mentioned, which include everything from simple appreciation to working on the latest tech and being able to contribute to open source projects, so check out the complete Q&A for more suggestions.
Do you have any other suggestions for bagging in-demand tech talent?
JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist
Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.