Finding the right developer is crucial for your company. A mechanic can go to a car auction, buy a car, and flip it for profit. The mechanic is able to do this because of his or her knowledge and skills in the automobile industry. If an average person, like myself, attempted to do this, it would most likely end up costing me money in the end. I simply do not understand enough about the car market, car parts, or have the skills to make the right quick repairs.
Finding a developer to help you is not that different. You need a guide who understands what they are looking for. A CTO is often the one tasked with understanding tech hiring in a company, but if you don’t have a tech partner in the business yet, how will you find that first key person?
Your first tech hire should be someone who can help you on the tech side. Someone who has experience shipping products, but also someone who can help you to take over tech hiring going forward. Again, this is generally the job of the CTO or VP of Engineering. You need this person because not only will they know better how to interview the right talent, they will know which positions to fill and in what order, and they will significantly guide you in building the product. Their experience will give them your respect and the authority they need in conversations with you to help make the right decisions for the company.
Maybe you already know a developer or maybe someone was able to refer one to you. Great! What next? First of all, you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself what skills you lack: How familiar are you with the steps required to build a product? Have you done it before or just read books about it? If you can’t code, you’re not going to be able to tell if your first hire is a good coder or good software architect. What you can do is look at the past things that they have shipped. Do you like what they have done? Were they successful? Think about the things you’ll want them to do in the company and ask them about those. Are they familiar with doing product management as well as coding? Are they comfortable being in charge of QA and managing the needed infrastructure? Do they have good taste in design or will you need to handle that or hire someone else? Are they comfortable creating tech budgets and doing tech hiring? Do they work with your meeting style?
Experienced and inexperienced developers have their advantages and disadvantages. A developer with years of experience has worked with more clients, has learned from their mistakes, and may make better project decisions. If you are looking for a less risky outcome, experience helps, but may cost you. You’re essentially decreasing your risk for a price.
Inexperienced developers are typically cheaper to work with. This is where you can look for a bargain with higher risk to your project. Mark Zuckerberg was relatively inexperienced when he built Facebook in college. There are countless examples of startups that excelled with less experienced engineers, but there are also countless failures. Some engineers improve and mature quickly, some find they aren’t cut out for it. It’s no different than hiring someone inexperienced to paint your house. You may get a great service for cheaper, or you may get drips of paint on your carpet and down your walls. You’re taking a gamble and you’re also not enlisting someone who can give you a strong experienced opinion. If you’re building a tech product ask yourself if you need someone who can tell you you’re wrong. Do you need a guide?
You can shop around and get quotes from top to bottom of the market. Clients occasionally forward me emails from other people who say they can do the work our company is doing for a quarter of the price. This type of comparison always makes me chuckle. Software is closer to art than plumbing. Imagine if someone requested a quote for the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in Paris and then, shocked by the price, forwarded the museum a quote from someone who said they could copy it for $25. Just like I can get someone to paint me a copy of the Mona Lisa for $25, that does not mean the copy created has the same value as Leonardo da Vinci’s. That Mona Lisa copy is literally worthless on the open market, just like most software applications end up being. Most never get used. Most miss the mark completely.
In the same way, a different team will not get you the same product. Are you really in need of just programming or do you need a guide and partner on your journey to build the product you envisioned? Do you need someone who can help shape that idea into something people will love as well? In my experience this is what most people need and want.