Recently on LinkedIn there were two separate threads in ColdFusion related forums regarding the topic of the challenge of finding ColdFusion developers as an employer, and finding jobs as a ColdFusion developer.
The discussion covered a variety of perspectives from telecommuting, the ecosystem, economic, tips on attracting developers, tips to finding jobs, etc…
Below is is an adaptation of my posts…
I’m the Sr. Manager of a collection of technical teams (DBAs, Developers, and B.I), and we have had a few people work predominantly from home.
Of course there are a number of advantages from the employees perspective in that they get to recuperate time from commuting, expense of commuting, etc… I would say that the biggest advantage is the ability to focus. An office environment, particularly if you’re a key person on the team, can be a non-stop barrage of distraction. And if you are key person, the company benefits the most when you’re focused.
There are of course drawbacks.
We’ve seen that there is an isolation effect. Tools like Skype, WebEx, and TeamViewer are great tools, but nothing is like the experience of a face to face. Studies have shown that telecommuters do not advance as fast as their peers who work in the office. And let’s face it, we’re human beings and have evolved to interact with each other in person (give it another 50yrs and we’ll all be plugging into something like the Matrix and conduct face to faces in digital form).
We also find that the team chemistry and bonding evolves significantly slower among a group of telecommuters. Those side conversations, going out to lunch, sharing challenges while grabbing a coffee… those occurrences are far less with telecommuters.
Growing Jr staff
Another challenge is that Jr staff rely on the Sr staff. You can make progress with screen sharing and conference calls, but it is no way as smooth as quickly walking over to a whiteboard and coaching a Jr member. So if the Sr Developers are telecommuting, your cost to get a Jr ramped up and productive is considerable to the point that a manager would be evaluate if it’s even worth it.
On an individual level, can a person do X work in Y time, regardless if they’re in the office or not, sure.
But on a team building perspective, the chemistry, unity, and bonding to achieve cohesiveness is extremely important. And telecommuting poses some serious hurdles.
One alternate solution is a hybrid approach. We found that worked well with Sr. staff working 2 or 3 days at home, which allows them to focus. And the days that they’re in the office you get the team building, the coaching of the Jr staff, the face to face interaction, etc…
Some studies suggest there is an ROI with telecommuting. The ROI tends to be on an individual level. From a management perspective, you’re looking for the overall output of the team which is more than simply the sum of all individual output.
Company cultures are unique
Each company is unique. And good management recognizes their organization’s strengths, weaknesses, abilities, shortcomings, etc… So although studies and ROI case studies are useful data points, you do have to factor in the unique reality of your exact company.
Not impossible, just recognize the challenges
I’m not saying it’s impossible to achieve success with telecommuting (clearly, companies have), but it’s a significant challenge that management will bake into their staffing & organizational strategies because it may very well be that the company culture isn’t compatible with telecommuting.
Or likewise, if there is no team then there is no issue. So for very specialized skillsets, solo acts, multi-location organizations… it may be a no brainer in those cases.
Supply is limited
The supply is constrained on both sides, and are cause and effect of each other. Hard to find expertise will cause company strategy to change which expertise is needed. Fewer opportunities will cause the talent to move on to other technologies.
Thus, both companies and individuals need to be prepared to at least go national when recruiting/job hunting.
Tip for developers
- As developers, I’d avoid branding yourself as a developer of a specific technology. Go for versatility, technologies will come and go. E.g. don’t be a “ColdFusion Developer”, be a “Web Developer” who has expertise in various technologies.
- Developers, you need be involved in the community, building up your professional network, finding opportunities to network with future potential employers (e.g. touch base with guys who have influence over hiring decisions, send your resume in just so that they have it on file).
- If you’re one of those guys that picked up CF to fulfill a need, but don’t have a formal software engineering background, and feel you don’t have that strong understanding of programming fundamentals – build an application using an MVC framework (FW/1, ColdBox, etc…). It’s one of the easiest ways to take your skills to the next level. Reading books gets you good theory, but real learning comes from real world experience. This will give you an edge interviewing wise for the rare CF job that does come up.
- An even better step is to build a real world application using a language you don’t know using its most popular framework. Learning another language will actually boost your CF abilities as you’ll realize you can apply concepts from that other language to CF.
- Some hot up and coming languages right now include Groovy/Grails, Clojure, and Scala.
- What to build? Volunteer to build something for a non-profit. Look at the company you work for and look at what is being done manually or what is a cumbersome process, and build a tool to solve for that problem. It needs to be real.
Tips for employers
- As employers, we need to be looking for strong developers in general. At Amcom Technology, we’ve found people who have a strong understanding of programming fundamentals and software design, strong problem solving abilities, and are quick learners are the key.
- The recruiting needs to begin long before a position even exists by forming relationships with people. And that needs to happen on both sides of the equation.
- Employers need to be forming relationships with the community, so that if an opportunity opens up you have relationships already formed with folks who potentially are fits for the position and it’s not a cold call (err email).
The most important tip I can give, is send me your resume, or feel free to at least touch base. Ok, that is shameless. 🙂 But we have opportunities that come up from time to time, and I’d like to get to know you! tariq [at] amcomtech . net.