< prev 19 Feb 2015 to 10 Feb 2015 next >

Posts filed under 'business'

  • A lack of management?

    What are the relative demand levels for entry-level engineers vs. engineers with experience? Are they equivalent? Presumably, if the pipeline stays somewhat stable, there should be slightly fewer devs with 3+ experience at any moment than entry level devs; where are the demand levels?

    If you just can't fill a slot for a mid-career developer, and you have a reasonably-sized team (i.e. not a single devops, a CEO, and a dude in sales), you should be able to take up some of the slack by hiring junior devs and managing/mentoring them adequately.

    A company that can figure out how to do this will be picking up money that others are leaving on the table, because a lot of those Jr Devs will end up being the mid-career devs with (hopefully) a bit of loyalty.

    Have I said these exact words before?

  • Marketing; Or: The Cost of a Product

    The more your name is out there, the more interest you can get and the more you can identify your market value. It's analogous to a stock market: a low-volume symbol will likely have a large spread, which is (analogous to) the margin of error.

    I'm not intending to tip my hand too much, and worst case I can make some of these entries private in case I feel that they put me on a weaker footing in my search. But the cost of not marketing yourself, in my case, may turn out to be about $15-20k/year.

    I know who I am, but without marketing, no one else is going to know that I've got a lot to bring to the table. But the fears that I have—of being judged, of not having others see me the way I see myself—while not precisely abnormal, are doing me a disservice in this process.

    All I want to do is to work on coding projects, because I'm not my own best advocate, but I know somewhere out there is a company that really wants me, they just have no way of knowing it yet.

    In related thinking: I am not as virulently against marketing as a lot of people out there. It's nice to just be able to research the thing you want, look through objective(ish) reviews, and then make an informed decision, but I honestly believe that only works for the barest minority of products. There is some threshold, before which a product is not getting enough people using it who honestly would want to. Tracking information about consumer preference and demographics is part of a process of getting sellers in contact with buyers who would lean in their direction; I think the common (unstated) fear is that the established brands have the money to drown out more fringe companies.

    In turn, though, and especially when some fringe company is trying to generate network effects, sometimes no one wants the minority player. In the internet age there's not a ton of room for another full OS, because each one siphons off talent, and it's really hard to develop all the features people have come to expect without an existing technology base. I suspect the next major OS will supplant someone.

    Similarly, anyone could have seen the Seamless/Grubhub buyout coming. I don't want to have to figure out which company my local delivery joint uses; I just want some damned food. And there are a lot of Grubhubs out there. You haven't heard of most of them, and they'll probably die, or stay marginal for a long time.

    Which might not, after all, be such a bad thing. Most regions have at least two grocery stores, and those grocery stores have operating regions… fragmentation isn't always bad. They are a highly commodified market, though: every single one of them sells Cheerios, bananas, and Ajax, so they're not that different, whereas two different websites in a similar field might have completely different interfaces and data models, as well as corporate partners/networks.

    I don't know what an area of technology that can support true competition over a long period of time looks like, or if it can even exist. And I don't know if I really want to work for a will-have-been… but I know that engineering jobs are so transient that it probably doesn't matter in the end.

    The next two years are for straight up learning. Don't forget that.

  • A shortage of talented engineers

    A summary of the majority of the postings I see:

    • We want a full-stack engineer
    • With skills in our exact tech stack (modulo one or two things)
    • With five years experience

    I'm not so stupid that I believe everything they say—with work that's important enough and with enough money coming in, they would find a way to make a non-ideal candidate work—but there is no way that there are enough engineers out there able to fit these criteria.

    In any industry (or endeavor) there's going to be some "limiting factor". In chemistry, for instance, you generally try to use excess of your cheap reagent to try to get the highest yield possible of your most expensive reagent. However, one has to wonder, where are all the jobs posting asking for engineers with 10+ years experience? (Note: I'm not looking at the "senior" positions, but even if those are looking for people with 10+ years experience, where are the 15 year positions?)

    This is the factor that makes me think, especially, that "5 years" is just a shorthand for "we don't want dummies". I doubt there's any industry where dead weight is as dangerous as it is in software; if you can get your foot in the door elsewhere, you can have a career as a mediocre … whatever… but there's not a lot of room for mediocre in software. If you can't understand the standard processes of abstraction, problem solving (etc), there's not much room for you in software.

    However, the career progression for engineers is a bit shady. Salaries go from (slave wages of) about $45k to a healthy median of $80-90, up to about $130… and then what? I know one guy who was a project manager and made a very large salary, but I don't hear a lot about a lot of others.

    That's an interesting thought, though: is the next level of abstraction above software engineer project manager? The thing that is more abstract than writing large projects is coordinating teams that write large projects, perhaps?

    Back to the point, though: no one wants to bear the responsibility for training, and no one wants to bear the risk of getting that one guy who just will never add value to the organization. So I assume, at this point, that the entry point for engineers is a convoluted process of signalling and trials: internships, pedigree, networking, taking chances on people who seem otherwise intelligent.

    So far there's nothing novel here. I'm curious, though:

    • Is there an overall model that would be able to take advantage of the (presumable) under-tapped pool of future engineers with aptitude?
    • Or, is there a model that would pull more people into the industry and train them to produce more?
    • Is there a language (paradigm?) that would make programming accessible to more people, or are we already close to peak utilization of programming-capable people in the population at large?
    • If so, is there a language (paradigm?) that would take the finite quantity of engineers and make them more powerful?

    What's the skill cap on an engineer?

< prev 19 Feb 2015 to 10 Feb 2015 next >