Developers · Recruiting

Seasoned software needing staff changes and suggestions

Brett Rush Project Manager

March 7th, 2013

You can take a look at my profile to see the software I operate. Been in the business for 8 years now. Our software is very in-depth and has a lot of parts to it. Consignment stores can add a consignor and all of their items, list them to eBay, Craigslist, Amazon, Website and then cut a check less their commissions. It's so intricate, it takes roughly 3 months to train a new developer.  Web-based, PHP, MySQL, Java, all written through Eclipse. 

That being said, my main developer is being shifted in the company to a different software. I have 15% access to him and only when big things require him. My second developer has been with us 1.5 years and still doesn't know exactly how everything works because the software was all re-built by the main developer.

I would like to hire a new developer but the CEO wouldn't say yes to that idea unless this developer was proven to be a fast and accurate developer. We're bringing on a new sales/support which would take me out of that division so I can spend time marketing and managing the next steps of each department.

Do fast and accurate developers exist? I have only ever experienced developers that lack communication skills, don't ask questions and take a long time researching the best way to complete a task. 

Also, how would this new developer be trained? By the one that doesn't know all of the functionality of the system or request a month full access to the original developer?  Any thoughts, suggestions or experience on this type of situation?

John Wallace President at Apps Incorporated

March 7th, 2013

Fast and accurate developers do exist. Many will have excellent communication and planning skills. All will be expensive. Expect to pay 130% to 200% what you might pay a run-of-the-mill developer. Finding them can be difficult since they are usually booked solid. Find out who runs a local around your core technology and ask that person for a recommendation. They usually know who the heavy hitters are in their area. 

Jason Shellen Head of Platform Product at Slack

March 7th, 2013

I think part of what you are getting is developer vs. engineer. I generally agree with this rough description:

I think you might need someone on the top end of the engineering/architect stack to help make sense of what's going on. They might also be better off rewriting or re-architecting as well. For the last 10 years anyone who has joined a technical team I have hired has committed at least one line of code to an existing project by the end of their first day. Google, small company, doesn't matter - 3 months is too long anywhere.

Clynton Caines SharePoint Developer at Discover Technologies

March 8th, 2013

I agree with most responders here. Kevin, Hack the Planet!

You might have a comfort zone that you're trying to maintain and it might be scary to hand over the keys to a true "fast and accurate" developer. (Aside: We are called 'hackers' - and live on the edge between Engineer and Architect.)

There's a trade-off: either stick with the code-base (which might be getting old) and hire another "developer" to maintain it or hire a highly skilled engineer/architect, provide overall guidance and allow him/her to rebuild the solution. If you're willing to accept 3 months of 'ramp-up' time on your current stack, then such a high-skilled hacker should be able to code a nearly fully functional alternative by then. This type of person would quickly get board with 1-3 months of "training" by either one of your present engineers. If the code must be maintained, then I guarantee that something can be found and improved (i.e. code updated) within the first day - as Jason said.

Though I wouldn't recommend it on your live system, this article on Facebook Bootcamp captures what should happen with highly effective engineers:

Good luck

Brett Rush Project Manager

March 7th, 2013

Thanks John & Jason. This falls into the category of looking for an all-in-one answer - but that's not the right answer. 

I think the main problem is our company has an Engineer/Architect that hasn't seen the software I manage in years. The only time he steps in is when there's a problem with the database and he's on the phone with RackSpace. 

Below this Engineer/Architect is the main developer that works best with well structured laid out instructions. A lot of time, after launching new updates there's a problem that our customers find and we end up rolling back to the old version so we can fix. 

We're trying to raise up the newest developer (been there 1.5 years) to be the main and only contact for development updates. I am sitting on an incredible software that just needs a little TLC and we could be marketing a gold mine.

So, all this to say that I should have my own Engineer/Architect.

Kevin Stone CTO/Founder of Subblime

March 8th, 2013

Short answer is such people exist (I'd like to think I'm one), but such high functioning developers are unlikely interested in jumping into a project that's been neglected and carries legacy baggage.  There's just too much competition and opportunity elsewhere in the job market.

Your challenge is the developers that also possess strong communication and project managements skills (besides being somewhat rare) tend to also desire more autonomous roles (leads, etc).

Secondly, your tech stack is getting dated and likely unappealing (generally, anybody who can learn fast is moving away from a Java or PHP stack).

Finally, if you're system has reached such complexity that it's barely maintainable, you likely are in need of a major rewrite as others noted.

I wouldn't get caught up in the engineer vs developer vs architect.  These titles are all generally fluid and indistinguishable in effective small software teams.  The more people attempt to separate these roles, the more likely you'll find your current scenario where your Engineer/Architect is too disconnected from the actual implementation.