Feeds

Tempt tech talent without Googlesque mega perks

Think global, hire local

Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet

Open ... and Shut Forget Silicon Valley's talent shortage. The real tech talent wars are being waged beyond the spiritual home of high-tech - and everyone is losing. In fact, the greatest threat to the adoption of industry-changing technologies like Hadoop and Node.js may well be the dearth of talent capable of deploying them effectively.

It's no secret that west-coast giants like Google and Facebook have been sparring for years over top talent, leading smaller start-ups to resort to hefty salary packages for new recruits, among other things, to attract and retain employees. But what is perhaps different now is that even these companies are struggling to tempt entrepreneurial developers who want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, not work for him, as The New York Times suggests.

All of which seems very much like a First World problem, in which highly profitable tech companies throw money around in order to come up with the next big Google Plus. No one's life is going to be poorer if they fail.

Except that there's a significant byproduct of this stiff competition for talent: non-tech companies are struggling to hire qualified personnel, which Businessweek points out. Again, perhaps this is a First World problem, but arguably it matters more to the broader economy if Target can't complete sales on its websites than if the next Angry Birds hits the market. And if the Targets of the world can't hire the right technical talent, it's very likely that their tech operations will suffer as a result, as has been the case with Target.com in 2011.

What to do?

I recently spoke to a London-based friend who is building a Hadoop-related company. He told me that his biggest challenge has been hiring qualified Hadoop engineers, to the point that he may well be driven to put off development of his product business to focus on a training business... that provides Hadoop training. In other words, his solution is to build a pool of qualified Hadoop engineers, since he can't "buy" them.

That's one option, but unlikely to fly at Best Buy or JP Morgan Chase. For these companies, another option is to avoid competing with Silicon Valley and other tech hubs such as New York City and Seattle altogether. The analysts at 451 Group have analysed where skills for Hadoop and also NoSQL congregate: by a huge margin, engineers with these talents live in Silicon Valley. But given the open-source nature of these technologies, it is possible to find them elsewhere, including the Ukraine and (gasp!) Middle America.

Therefore, one option for firms desperately in need of tech talent is to hire it where they find it, and let developers stay where they are. This strategy has worked exceptionally well for Ubuntu sponsor Canonical, where I used to work. Canonical has managed to hire a very strong team of Linux talent by paying well and letting developers work from home, whether that home is in Des Moines, Iowa or Villa Gesell, Argentina.

When Facebook hires an engineer, it's a requirement that the person relocates to the Silicon Valley area. For many top-quality engineers, the greatest perk of all, and one that might steer them to a Sears instead of Zynga, is the chance to stay in Canterbury, England, rather than moving to Menlo Park, California.

As I've written before, "open source is the Google Adsense of recruiting technical talent", because it gives recruiters a deep view into an engineer's capabilities without the need for an interview. Savvy companies will look for talent outside Silicon Valley by becoming active in relevant open-source projects, and may well succeed in hiring that talent by giving developers the freedom to stay where they are, rather than relocate to the Silicon-Valley area.

This begins to make more sense if one assumes that a company's recruiting focus shouldn't necessarily be on finding superstar talent, but rather in building superstar teams, as detailed recently on the Avichal blog. This involves finding people that work well together, and not necessarily incredible individual contributors who may actually spike team performance. Again, open source is a great way to find such people, because a developer's team productivity is discernible through mailing lists, code commits and other channels.

The rest of the world is unlikely to effectively compete with Silicon Valley for tech talent. At least, not on Silicon Valley's terms. It's difficult to compel relocation unless you're a Facebook. It's impossible to out-perk profit margin-heavy companies like Google. But the rest of the world has something that Silicon Valley often can't match: proximity to family, traffic-free highways, and housing that is affordable without $10m in IPO earnings. Quality engineers still respond to such perks. ®

Matt Asay is senior vice president of business development at Nodeable, offering systems management for managing and analyzing cloud-based data. He was formerly SVP of biz dev at HTML5 start-up Strobe and chief operating officer of Ubuntu commercial operation Canonical. With more than a decade spent in open source, Asay served as Alfresco's general manager for the Americas and vice president of business development, and he helped put Novell on its open source track. Asay is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). His column, Open...and Shut, appears three times a week on The Register.

Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet

More from The Register

next story
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
'Windows 9' LEAK: Microsoft's playing catchup with Linux
Multiple desktops and live tiles in restored Start button star in new vids
iOS 8 release: WebGL now runs everywhere. Hurrah for 3D graphics!
HTML 5's pretty neat ... when your browser supports it
Mathematica hits the Web
Wolfram embraces the cloud, promies private cloud cut of its number-cruncher
Google extends app refund window to two hours
You now have 120 minutes to finish that game instead of 15
Intel: Hey, enterprises, drop everything and DO HADOOP
Big Data analytics projected to run on more servers than any other app
Mozilla shutters Labs, tells nobody it's been dead for five months
Staffer's blog reveals all as projects languish on GitHub
SUSE Linux owner Attachmate gobbled by Micro Focus for $2.3bn
Merger will lead to mainframe and COBOL powerhouse
iOS 8 Healthkit gets a bug SO Apple KILLS it. That's real healthcare!
Not fit for purpose on day of launch, says Cupertino
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.