Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Finding Developers is Tough Again

I’m seeing and hearing that it’s becoming tough finding good developers again, at least here in Los Angeles. On Friday, at the LA CTO Forum, I heard from a couple of CTOs having trouble finding good developers. My company, TechEmpower, recently added a few top notch developers, but it wasn’t easy to find just the right people. This is going to make the issues raised in Los Angeles Web Developers worse.

And it’s not just me, Ben Kuo just posted - Good news for developers (and jobs)

We’ve been talking with a lot (and I mean a LOT) of people who are looking for developers in Southern California (Los Angeles and beyond). One recruiter tells me it’s “like 1999″ in terms of the activity, with not only jobs aplenty, but offers and counter-offers hitting good talent.

I wouldn’t say it’s 1999 or even 2007, but it certainly has turned around.

Update from original - just saw a follow-up post by Ben Kuo - Southern California Technology Jobs Surge.

And funny enough, I wrote this post this morning and had it scheduled to come out the next morning. In between, I got an email from CJ Cenizal asking about this exact issue:

I'm growing a social gaming startup, Elevated Games ( as Founder and CEO. I'm currently looking for developers to join the founding team and when I read your post, I felt like I have been going through the exact same thing as your friend. I've Googled, gone through my network, posted to Craigslist, and approached universities, and much like your friend I am having a heck of a time finding developers in LA. It makes you want to move north!

I was wondering, what methods have you found to be successful in finding developers? I took a look at TechEmpower, and it looks like you guys are doing great! That's really exciting to see. I'm primarily looking for front end developers who are experts in AS3, and back end developers who are proficient at PHP and MySQL. Do you have anyone you could recommend to me, or any resources?

Perfect timing. I went back and revise the post. Couple of quick thoughts:

  • I’m not so sure that moving north will get you better talent. I get inquiries from there a lot even with the strong bias against LA.
  • I don’t have specific suggestions for people you can hire.
  • My methods are pretty vanilla. I do have a little bit of an advantage having been around LA for 20 years doing development, being a former professor, having really interesting and varied projects to work on. Of course, a lot of people say the same thing.
  • Seems like you might be able to source people from universities, especially for the front-end work. Depends on complexity.

Sorry, I wish I could be more help.

What Other People Say About Sourcing Developers?

In Los Angeles Web Developer, I talked about the issues with finding developers in Los Angeles based the experience that one startup founder had. The founder had tried or considered:

  • Web Search – not all that useful – more design firms that development firms
  • LinkedIn – searched for people, but gave up pretty quickly as it felt like a needle in a haystack.
  • Freelance Sites – considered, not used, concerned about quality
  • Craigslist - considered, not used, concerned about quality
  • Local networking – decent luck. See Networking Events in Los Angeles and Southern California.

My fellow CTOs often discuss where/how we find good developers. Their list is fairly similar to Here’s what we hear in roughly the order of preference:

  • Direct referral
  • LinkedIn (both Job Postings and Searching for Talent)
  • Recruiters
  • Developer Groups
  • Craigslist

Of course, there are lots of firms that you can offshore your work. I’ll leave that for another discussion as the inquiry that I keep getting is more about local talent than offshore talent.

If you have other places you use to source developers, please let me know. I’m sure we’d all like to hear about it.

Better yet, maybe help CJ specifically. Where should he go find developers?


CliffAllen said...

Finding professional quality people always seems to be a challenge, whether it's programmers, marketers, finance, etc.

I think many entrepreneurs forget about the option to initially use high-end part-time professionals instead of hiring full-time people with less experience.

Whether it's an IT consulting firm, an ad agency, or a CPA firm, partnering with a team of experts can frequently generate more momentum -- and industry connections -- than a "do it yourself" approach.

This also gives the entrepreneur more time to interview and hire the very best in-house team possible.

Tony Karrer said...

Cliff - that's an interesting comment. Of course, I'm somewhat biased in that I do that myself all the time. But you are right that it's a good way to move things forward when its hard to find talent.

Benjamin Kuo said...

Nice "how to" list at the bottom on recruiting... Interesting how this has heated up so quickly in recent weeks...

CJ said...

Tony, thanks for the great post! I appreciate your thoughtful advice. I'm reading it now, a day after posting, and it's funny you and Cliff mention partnering with a team of experts. Yesterday I actually had a talk with a local web development firm, and tomorrow I'm going to present my idea to them in person. In an ideal world, they will help me bring my game to market sooner.

I am 100% with you in your line of thought. Right now I believe my goal should be to enter the market and test the reaction -- not the "do it yourself" approach as Cliff mentioned. Though tempting to work linearly (team first, then product dev, then bring to market and iterate), there simply isn't time for that in this situation.