Austin’s Tech Talent Shortage – Try Telecommuting

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Hsoi Enterprises is based out of Austin, Texas… or as some call it, “Silicon Hills”, because of how tech-oriented Austin tries to be.

The local newspaper was recently lamenting about the shortage of tech talent in town.

Hey Austin Tech Firms — looking for talent? User Interface? Mobile Apps? Drop me a line!

What was bothersome in that article was the short-term solutions to try to quickly fill the need. To an extent, that can work. But be mindful that you get what you pay for. 15+ years of experience in shipping software isn’t something you can just cram in or expect to get out of fresh college grads. I’ll admit that fresh college grads will work more hours for less money, but that doesn’t always lead to the best software. There are times when real-world experience, proven ability to ship apps on time and under budget, and leadership are worth every penny you spend on them.

To that end, the “totes profesh” blog had an interesting counterpoint to the Statesman article (h/t maczter). What struck me the most was her angle about telecommuting:

But guess what! We don’t expect you to move your whole office to wherever it is we happen to live – we’re generally happy to telecommute!

[…]

There’s a popular theory that people are most productive when they all sit together in big echoey rooms at communal tables with no dividers between workspaces. I think that’s horseshit. The only people who are “productive” in those settings, in my experience, are the type of management people who feel compelled to come over and interrupt you in person rather than send you a fucking email you can look at once you’re done tracking down a bug six levels of callbacks deep. YOU KNOW? If your company lacks the tools to communicate remotely, it’s highly probable it can’t communicate at all. As for exposing devs to their peers, I agree it’s a pleasure to work next to other JavaScripters, but I also see better peer interaction between people who don’t work for the same companies every day on IRC than I have in any office I’ve ever been compelled to go to.

Companies who don’t demand that engineers come to them have power right now. Over the past two years I’ve switched jobs a number of times and have interviewed a shitload. I’m not the best, but I’m good, and I’ve only been turned down twice. Guess what both companies had in common? If you think your company is getting the shit end of the supply and demand plunger, try opening your hiring up to remote employees.

Indeed. Be open to telecommuting. Software development is a job that only needs a computer, an Internet connection, and of course electricity. It doesn’t NEED everyone to be constrained by the same 4 walls in order to be productive and make money — I’ve shipped many products that have enabled companies to make millions of dollars, and done so without being “in the office” for over a decade. Technology is a wonderful thing, learn to embrace it.

So many companies these days are not one-office-constrained as it is. They’ll have another office somewhere in the world, maybe as a field office for sale folk, but still another office. Or perhaps they’re contracting out of Russia or India. If you do that, you’re essentially supporting a telecommuting environment. Now I grant, many times these relationships aren’t fruitful or can be downright frustrating and regretful — but often that’s because of the people involved, not the concept. That is, you get the right people, and telecommuting works out to be a win for all parties. You get the wrong people, even in the office, and things can be miserable.

We live in a day and age with mobile computing. All these companies are wanting to hire to develop mobile apps. If it’s supposed to be all the rage, then why aren’t we allowing more people to work in a mobile manner?

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