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…

Telecommuting

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.

The flip-side

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).

Lastly

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.

7 Responses to “Dealing with the tight supply of CF developers and CF jobs”

  1. These are good tips, indeed. I’m grateful to an employee who sent me here (thanks, Isaac).

    As a business owner perpetually looking for good developers, I affirm the “tips for employers” you list, particularly the first item: “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.”

    In an agile, consultative environment like the one at Ravenglass, adaptability is another core trait. We’ve refined our hiring process to include a skills assessment activity, with the goals of identifying aptitude with the basics and the ability to adapt to changing demands from customers, suppliers, and within the team itself.

    We’ve been fortunate to find some really great people over the years, only two of whom came to the company with significant ColdFusion experience. Our investment in training staff, including having veteran CF developers mentor new arrivals on our technology portfolio and client needs, has borne fruit and built a collaborative, cooperative, and appropriately competitive team culture that makes all of us better.

    I look forward to reading your other posts, I wish you luck in your own hiring process, and I repeat your call for resumes. 🙂

    Jim

  2. I think I must have interviewed over 500 CF folks over the years. I was just thinking the other day to blog about my experiences and what tactics I employ -and my approach. Good stuff!

  3. Tariq Ahmed says:

    @Jim & @Sami; Thanks!

  4. Visit your school’s sdenutt employment office and ask them that question.If you’re savvy about computers you might find a job doing tech support, for example. If you’re an exceptionally good typist you might find work as a transcriptionist. There are lots of other opportunities if you have something to offer an employer. Remember, they pay you because they think you’re going to help them make more money. If you have no skills, no initiative, no work ethic why would they hire you?Nobody owes you anything, you have to make the effort to produce. If you won’t or can’t, why would anyone hire you?This rant, by the way, isn’t directed at you.But more and more I have the sense, from comments here, that people feel they’re entitled to a job they like that will make lots of money just because they want it. They aren’t. They EARN a job because they have something to offer.Do you?

  5. I really apaipcrete the informative statistics you have continued to post. I am convinced that telecommuting can solve many of our environmental/energy issues. I just don’t understand why the current presidential candidates don’t grasp this concept and make it part of their energy/environment platform. I have tried to elevate this issue to local and regional politicians here in California, as well as to local television stations, but still nobody is taking hold of this simple solution to our energy crisis. Telecommuting is based upon the simple foundation of taking cars off the road; and it is a technology that is available now. It doesn’t require any new inventions or new technology, it is not a dream for the future, but a solution for the problems at hand. Please continue posting your conclusions for all to see, and let us all know what we can do to push this agenda. Gordon BellPollock Pines, CA

  6. Sanjeev says:

    The ignorance and ill paradigms on the value for CF Developers and technology itself is costing a lot with growing years of experience in it. I am nearing a double digit in experience and road further is more narrow than its ever been before.

    But, when i see explanations like these, the spirit come back high in believing that I’m not going to extinct for being a CF Developer. I appreciate you for very good points up there.

    You said, send me a resume if you want a job change. Yes, I’m looking for one. But we live in opposite sides of world. Do you still like taking chances on telecommute with a senior resource? If yes, drop me a email.

  7. I know this is an older post but thanks for sharing! As a web developer in California my CF experience has put me in a position that was only possible because of the few years of CF experience I had. As a telecommuter I do feel like I miss out on the one-on-one experience of a senior dev. I love what I do but working from home means I’m always at work and tend to put in a lot more hours than I would in an office. It takes a little discipline to find a good work-life balance and going to web dev Meet-Up groups has helped to get some of the missing camaraderie.

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