Let’s face it: Hard to find technology professionals around the country expect a lot of perks. It is no different with Portland I.T., Software and Engineering talent where demand is high, qualified talent is rare and competition is fierce.
I recently worked with a candidate who immediately turned down a job that would have been a $5,000 increase in salary just because the dress code was “business casual” and he was a “jeans and shorts kinda guy.”
So how do you get your developers to turn down a $5k raise and stick with your company? Competitive compensation is basically a given, as are flexible work hours. But it’s that elusive, seemingly intangible tech-y culture that keeps them around.
Lucky for you, we’re making the intangible tangible by breaking it down into 7 concrete propositions that will help you build a successful IT culture, attract the best talent and protect them from headhunters like us.
- Complex problems. Challenging work isn’t just a perk for IT personnel — it’s absolutely essential to differentiate your business in a competitive marketplace. For many developers, the idea of taking a difficult process apart and reconstructing it to make it cleaner, faster and more efficient is as rewarding as it is demanding. If you can offer your team the chance to work on complex projects, you’re not only likely to attract better talent; they’re also more likely to stick around.
- Big data. Got more data on-hand than you know what to do? It’ll keep your developers happy. Tracking every movement right down to click-level transforms development from a basic problem-solving proposition into an iterative process of continuous refinement and testing. Perhaps more importantly, it helps create better products.
- Talented peers. Having a high hiring standard is critical for a strong, cohesive IT culture. Working alongside peers at or above their skill level reduces frustration, boosts team morale and makes for a more collaborative environment. My old boss used to tell me to fall the big timber. Get great talent and others want to come work with them.
- Frequent launches. While a great deal of the challenge and joy is in the process itself, there’s perhaps nothing quite as satisfying as seeing your work go live. Frequent product and feature launches let developers see their work get put to use – while simultaneously keeping them on a high-output production schedule.
- Bleeding-edge technology. From unfamiliar programming languages and development environments to cutting-edge development processes like Agile, working with new technologies is an appealing proposition to many developers. It’s both intellectually and practically challenging. Plus it helps personnel develop valuable skills that keep them and the company at the forefront of technological advancement.
- Project ownership. Allowing individuals and teams to take ownership over projects from development to launch and beyond promotes accountability, company commitment and job satisfaction. This is arguably true of any position, but it is perhaps especially true for highly technical and autonomous teams.
- Consumer-centricity. The goal of empowering the end-user is one of the strongest trends within the development community at large today. A focus on user experience and transparency is common among the current generation of developers. From Apple’s radically user-friendly products to the proliferation of open source software like Firefox and programming languages like Python, it’s readily evident how dramatically the IT world has shifted. Finding a company that’s committed to these same values is a big selling point for some developers.
How important are these trends to you or your company? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below! Can you also name the late gifted computer scientist in the body of the blog? (not Data from Star Trek)
Bikes, gourmet food, beer, beautiful countryside…it’s all any Portland software developer could ask for. (Portland has great software jobs, too – just ask us!)
The Gourmet Century took place last weekend, launching the unofficial long-bike-ride season in Portland, Oregon. It’s been sponsored for a few years by Chris King Precision Components, a bike components manufacturer and retailer located in Northwest Portland.
For some Portland tech folks, the Gourmet Century is the premium organized ride of the summer – a chance to ride 100 kilometers of beautiful countryside, while enjoying gourmet food, beer and wine along the way.
Portland tech folks – and other bicycle-obsessed types – started the day early, with a sumptuous breakfast at Chris King headquarters, cooked by Chris King’s own chef, Robert McSpadden. (Lucky Chris King employees are fed by McSpadden every day!) Then they climbed on their bikes and rode up and over Portland’s West Hills, stopping for a snack before pedaling west.
Cyclists ascended as much as 1,000 feet in some spots to enjoy breathtaking views. The lunch, afternoon and dinner stops were catered by McSpadden, along with chefs Jason French of Ned Ludd, Chris DiMinno of Clyde Common, and John Gorham of Toro Bravo – all well-loved Portland restaurants.
In the words of one avid biker and software developer we know, “every bike ride should be in such beautiful places, and involve great food.”
Plenty of long rides for Portland software developers and I.T. Pros. [H2]
The Gourmet Century isn’t the only event that combines Portland’s biggest obsessions: bicycles, food, beer and wine:
- The Portland Century, scheduled for August 19, is a popular blend of biking, countryside, good food and beer. The Portland Century can be enjoyed as a 100-mile, 80-mile or 40-mile day, depending on your strength, stamina and ambition.
- Harvest Century – A 100-mile, 75-mile, 45-mile or 3-mile ride that starts and ends in Hillsboro, where farmland still graces the rolling hills. The ride, like other centuries, includes meals, snacks, wine and beer. Live music, too.
- Cycle Oregon is a major event – a week-long or weekend ride that’s not for the untrained or faint of heart. This year’s one-week event marks the 25th anniversary of Cycle Oregon, and it’s sold out. There’s a waiting list for the weekend ride. This is the real all-in deal, with everything laid on: not just food, but sleeping arrangements, massage and entertainment, and a route that shows off the many beauties of Oregon.
- Bridge Pedal- A celebration of urban biking, Bridge Pedal is an annual ride over Portland’s Willamette River bridges. This year’s ride is scheduled for August 12th, and it will cover all 10 bridges. Food? You bet. Participants in Bridge Pedal can also go to Bite of Oregon for free. The nosh-for-charity event takes place on August 10-12, and benefits Special Olympics. Beer? Yes, of course. Wine, too. It’s Portland, remember?
Have we left out any great rides? Tell us in the comments section below, and we’ll add them to the list.
How do we define Technical Recruitment? At EnGn (www.theEnGn.com), a specialized technical staffing firm in Portland, OR, we like to say it is the closest thing to being a professional athlete as it comes.
Probably doesn’t make sense, but I will elaborate more. A professional athlete experiences the highest highs and lowest lows during a single game. In one moment an incredible play or shot puts you in the lead only to have victory snatched from your grasp by late foul charge and a 45 yard field goal. The emotional and physical roller coaster is hard to match. While our bodies may not be getting abused by a 300 pound slab of muscle trained to kill us, in technical recruitment we still ride the highs and lows. An example is when we find and recruit a person that represents .0003% of the workforce who is a gifted software architect capable of designing enterprise, Ios or droid mobile, and cloud base applications willing to move to Portland Oregon and make 10% less than the market is commanding. YES..! Finding that person is like hitting a three pointer at the buzzer. There are days when we scour the landscape for technical talent only to receive 25 no’s, 15 maybes, and 7 hang ups – brutal right? Not even close. Making calls to people and offering an opportunity to consider $125k+ job is not so bad. Our lows are when you found the person (mentioned aboved) and then walk them right up the finish line where our client loves them, they love the job and client, and then have the offer declined because the "trailing partner" gets accepted to a PHD program for the study of micro-chameleons in Madagascar. Now that stings! Your candidate is gone, client is blown-away because they just saw their window to build the next best thing vanish and we are sitting empty handed with a substantial fee wiped from the proverbial WIN board.
Suck it up! "First place is a new Cadillac, second place is a set of steak knives, third place is... you're fired" This is a game where you are guaranteed to be under .500. You WILL lose more than you win.
You may ask, why do people jump into this career then? My answer will be formulated during this 6 month blog topic, but I will leave you with one word and one phrase. Word: Adrenaline. Phrase: I am 5 foot 8, with a size 9 shoe size; I will never be a pro athlete. Stay tuned for our next edition of “the day in the life of technical recruitment” as we will dive deep into the caverns of this profession.
The answer to the fictitious company's problem (described in blog Lifting the Hood of a Technical Recruiting agency Service) is simple in theory and was provided as an answer in response to the first blog. Bring accountability and motivation to the table by retaining a firm.
Sure, creating an economic motive for your partners to focus on your languishing hard to fill jobs is a step in the right direction.
Having spent a long time as a recruiter and as a recruiting manager, on the other side of the fence; inside the business, I know there is a resistance to doing this. For the sake of your business and talent needs some positions require a different approach. When talent wars heat up for software developers, I.T professionals, or experience with the latest tools, like Salesforce or Visualforce, it is difficult, regardless of the talent of your internal recruiting team, to headhunt alone. The unemployment rate, reported earlier this year for software engineering and electrical engineering is believed to be 4.6 and 5.4%, respectively. On the heels of the deepest recessions, in recent U.S history, some economists would suggest that that is full employment. In other words, anybody who wants a job has one. A company must have great partners to help them in this highly competitive market.
Internal recruiters are often given a bad-rap because of poor "passive candidate" resume flow. Having been in that seat, I believe it is less about their own ability to perform hard-core headhunting vs. being bogged down by an overwhelming amount of employment process and legalese around candidate tracking. Heap on top of that a requisition load of over 20 job types and it becomes impossible to be disciplined and pragmatic about constantly generating passive candidates. Internal recruiting teams are often not set up for success.
So why not retain just any firm? Your partner has to be set up to do it right to move the needle. Most agencies are primarily modeled for making money on the "low hanging fruit" as it makes the most economic sense. These firms are not trained or prepared to be a true partner in the retained search model. They lack the training and understanding to implement a search that is creative, is time consuming, can be tedious, that requires discipline, and that is modeled off of proven methodology, for a search and selection of talent. Additionally, they have never spent a day on the corporate side thus they lack the understanding of all the moving parts within a matrixed organization.
Talent once again is getting scarce, (see blog… pendulum has shifted….again blog)
While I believe strongly that using firms in a contingency model is a needed and valuable method of finding talent for a company it is important to think of the motivators and service when your jobs have remained unfilled and the business is suffering. Here in Portland Oregon there are few technical recruiting agencies equipped to perform both very well. Please look us up when the time comes.
This blog entry represents a counter argument for using a service my company sells. Trust I know the narrative that follows will be controversial within my own industry. However, I believe that it will show flaws with one of the services we sell and commit to provide here at EnGn and in that self reflection we become better . There are some answers and solutions that I will hi-light that will be a differentiator in subsequent blogs. Certainly the intent is not to marginalize one of the very services that will put food on the table for me and my colleagues. The true intent is to provide visibility into a primary continency staffing agency business model. Which means a firm only gets paid when they find someone for the job. It works very well in providing needed talent for many of our customers but also can be defeating on far more difficult to fill roles. The learning opportunity is for businesses/clients to recognize the signs of a failed search when they are showing up, what to do about it, and how other services can meet their needs.
I believe many who have not had the chance to fundamentally wrap their head around the primary business model; that permeates the recruiting industry, misunderstands the primary drivers and pitfalls. Understanding those variables, basic economics, and business motivators goes a long way in clearing up the challenges of the standard contingent (pay only when a hire is made) model. My wonderful wife indicates that I can take too much time to get to the point, nevertheless the stories I tell will illuminate the conflict in the plot. So let the storytelling begin .
Please imagine a profitable, private, and small to mid-sized business named XTECH, located in the Portland Metropolitan area. Their exact location is neither super attractive nor disappointing but rather non-descript in downtown. XTECH has a decent employment brand, if recognized at all, but what they are known for is hiring really solid talent, in other words their “bar” is high and anybody going there will work with smart people. They use some of the latest software development technology (but not all) within the Microsoft stack and are an agile SDLC shop. Their compensation is on the competitive side but not in the top 15% percentile, bonuses again are competitive, when paid out. XTECH also has middle of the road Health care benefits. Their product is an interesting, complex, data driven, web native, n-tiered architected application. Let’s imagine XTECH opens two positions, an Architect and a Sr. Mobile Applications developer. To fill these positions they sign up, at first, 3 agencies to compete with each other. Each agency is contracted at 15% of base salary. A hefty sum for sure considering the roles could, and probably will, demand a salary of over $110K. XTECH waits and initially receives 6-10 candidates out of the gates in the first 2 weeks. None of the candidates fit after an initial pass whether on resume review or brief phone interviews; another 2 weeks pass and a few candidates trickle in. It is clear these are hard to fill positions. 2 more weeks and there are no new candidates. The business is reeling because they need the positions filled and a month and a half has already passed. What has happened?
Here is what happened and why agencies can get a bad name and positions languish unfilled. They stopped working on it!! Simple business economics rooted in the contingent business model does not allow them to keep applying time and resources. These firms are working for free. The more resources they put towards the hard to fill position the more unprofitable they become. Those first candidates were the low hanging fruit (Monster, Dice, etc.) Everything after that takes true "Head Hunting" and mandates a plan, discipline, persistence, time, and money. The 3 original agencies were forced, not because they are bad firms, financially to focus on positions that were mathematically more likely to fill and earn money. Sure, XTECH could keep adding agencies and even up the percentage of salary regarding the fee. It won’t change the problem. There is a chance they could get their hires over a longer period of time but the time to fill can be very limiting and expensive to their business. This company is a victim of common supply and demand challenge seen as the talent wars for technical expertise shifts. So what is the answer? Stay tuned for XTECH 2 soon to be released.