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  • Rushing into Rails

    chris

    Written by Chris Walek, Practice Manager of Jobspring Chicago

    After studying why Chicago companies are choosing rails, what I'm realizing is that not everything is being considered. Making a decision on the initial technology and tools for building your product is a huge choice, so why not make an educated decision? A lot of companies don't, but then again it is difficult to find full information on this stuff without a consultant like myself.

    Rails is GREAT for startups, right? Let’s evaluate: it’s cheap (linux is free and it's open-source), it’s supported (amazing community - especially in Chicago), it has lots of great built-in features within rails like an ORM, and tools/gems like capybara, RSpec, etc. It's also easy to read, so if someone leaves your company, someone else can pick up right where the former employee left off, and a lot can be done in small, agile teams with full-stack engineers. While these are all great reasons, companies often forget to consider what it’s like to hire for ruby.

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    Rather than just choosing the best tool for the job programming-wise, companies need to consider the culture and market for hiring that comes with that decision. Ruby on rails is by the far the biggest technology written remotely. When a company chooses ruby on rails, they must also choose to operate a virtual environment and let people work remotely. If not, in the world of hiring on-site, full-time rails employees, you will probably lose to the Bigs who offer personal chefs and unbeatable benefits (oh, and $150-200k). That's the other thing about hiring for ruby that people tend to forget - it's a free market; there are a lot of choices. The people that choose ruby go through the hurdles of learning a new language (ruby isn't easy to pick up) and they do so for one reason; supply and demand. When the supply is low and demand is high, price goes up. Just think about how many new training programs for ruby and mobile (iOS/Android) there are. None of these programs teach you C# or Python, so that should say something. Ruby engineers are very expensive, so while it may look cheap, it's not.

    You will also need to hire me to find the talent you need, so that's another cost. Not to mention, turnover is 1.5 years in the market, so you need to use me over and over again (yes, I have a ton of tips on how to keep your employees there and my clients do this very well, however that's another article). Ruby engineers already have jobs. They're looking (passively), but they have a job and don't need to leave for something slightly better. What actually happens is that they assess things they dislike about their current environment and convince themselves to take a few interviews and find an improvement on these non-tangibles (culture, commitment to quality software, commitment to best practices, growth within an organization). While money isn't the initial catalyst for them to look, it will be for them to leave. It’s something almost everyone can wrap their head around: You’re comfortable in your seat but a new company wants you. They add an extra $5-10k to your salary. Is that $5-10k really worth the hassle of putting in your 2 weeks, dealing with upset boss/colleagues, doing a huge knowledge transfer, then getting sped up in a new environment, etc.? Most people would say no (plus after taxes, that extra bit isn't a new Ferrari by any means). While money isn't a driving force behind why a lot of people stay at their jobs, or what most people complain about, it IS the catalyst for getting them out of their current, comfy seat and going through the hassle of changing a job. It will also buffer against them getting headhunted easily in the future, and against counter-offers.

    These are just some facts about the current market. But every engineer knows things can and will change. The best are diversifying their skillsets to be in demand when the next wave comes along—perhaps functional languages? Only time will tell.

    (Sources): I work for a nationwide technology recruiting firm which has individual offices in every major city (pending Dallas and Austin, but that should change) and have studied the consistency of these facts. Chicago, by far, does the most ruby on rails placements and thus sees the most transactional data on it.

  • Why Chicago is a Top 3 Hub for Tech Talent

    Written by David Belsky, Regional Director of Jobspring Chicago

    If you are looking to hire tech talent, Downtown Chicago has one of the top 2-3 total tech candidate pools in the country partly due to the infrastructure and public transportation available. This results in a hotter tech market because so much of a company’s ability to attract and retain talent comes down to their location. People who have skills that companies demand (Software, IT, Web Design) can be very picky on where they are willing to commute to when there are lots of options for them in the job market. The idea that the CTA has the potential to bring 3 million people to downtown and the METRA has the ability to bring 7 million people monthly to Downtown means that you have increased your chances of hiring top talent if you have offices in downtown Chicago than most other places in the country, aside from NYC or San Francisco. 

    This trend is a result of the City of Chicago having one of the largest suburban transit systems in the country. There are 3 million people in the city of Chicago and 10 million people in the greater Chicago area. Most of the major suburbs actually have a train station at the center of their town with direct daily access to Downtown Chicago. A lot of major metropolitan areas are plagued by lack of adequate light rail infrastructure (D.C., Atlanta, San Jose area, Los Angeles). Chicago’s suburban transit system (METRA) may be old but it is huge and already takes 1 million people to their jobs in “The Loop” every day. 

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    We’ve seen examples lately of companies taking advantage of the transportation system and opening offices in downtown – even if they keep their main business center in the suburbs. Everyone is looking for a piece of the pie and these companies know the only way to do this and stay competitive is to stake some ground in downtown. Huge companies that have always done business in the suburbs are creating office space downtown in order to attract and retain younger employees. Examples of this include McDonald's, Walgreens and Sears. There's a huge draw for millennials to work downtown and the infrastructure of Chicago makes it easy to do so. Companies are relying on this to attract new employees to their work force.

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  • Clouds: Not Just Things in the Sky

    Written by Adam Canton, Practice Manager at Jobspring Chicago

    What’s that in the sky? Is it a bird? A plane? Nope—that’s a cloud. Oh, and not just any cloud—one of the newest takes on remote computing services: Amazon Web Services.

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    Amazon Web Services, or AWS, is considered by most to be the Wal-Mart of technology, and that’s anything but an insult. Designed by Amazon.com to be a cost efficient method for businesses to store their information, AWS is monopolizing the industry and making physical server farms a thing of the past.

    Yeah, that’s right you old clunky server in the closet. Your days are numbered!

    By definition, cloud computing refers to the on-demand delivery of IT resources and applications by access through the internet. This uses pay as you go pricing along the way. With no up-front capital expenses, AWS has created an uncharted avenue for all business – from your Fortune 10 companies to the start-up you and your buddy are working on in your mom’s basement – to try out new projects without the risk of major financial burden.

    It’s new, it’s innovative and companies – like no other time before – have the potential to scale around their user’s needs. However – just like when Mufasa was betrayed by his brother and soon trampled to death in Disney’s 1994 blockbuster hit, The Lion King – there’s a sad part to every story.

    Critics of AWS have argued that this newest method of cloud storage is simply a phase and the virtual hardware is a shaky bet to take when building a company. With the typical shelf life of one of their boxes being roughly 200 days, they may have a point. Also, despite already generating hundreds of thousands of users in over 190 countries, in a corporate landscape still dominated largely by Microsoft, the transition is bound to take time.

    So – fine, we’re busted - let’s not throw out those clunky servers just yet. But one thing is for sure: Cloud computing sure is cool. 

  • The Evolution of Javascript

    Article written by Chris Walek, Practice Manager in Jobspring Chicago.

    chrisLet me start by saying that I do not code, and this piece is written more as an observation of what I’m seeing in the tech community regarding the evolution of the demand for Javascript.

    Javascript is not a new language. In fact, it’s been around since the 90’s. It was originally created by Brendan Eich to solve the problem of how to build dynamic web pages and continues to enhance web pages today. 

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    The real beauty behind Javascript is not why is was made or what it solves or how clean the language is. The beauty is this language's ability to evolve the tech community. Whether it’s a .NET shop, Java shop, or Rails shop, once MVC-based Javascript frameworks are incorporated, companies evolve with more of an open source mindset. By doing so, it’s no longer about which organization you are paying for the service. Companies are now able to approach the problem with the best tool for the job, or in this case, the best framework for the job. Javascript has begun to refocus developers on the community behind a technology, and allows them to really analyze why a certain tool is being used. I’m finding enterprise companies moving away from a “one size fits all” mentality within programming, and moving towards a much more progressive and community-driven mentality.

    Of course this isn’t true in every case, but it’s a great start. Javascript is unique in that it’s used in every software development shop and has the power to evolve how languages/frameworks are chosen. Javascript has also evolved beyond just the front-end, and through environments like node.js, it has been able to offer companies a full-stack solution within one language. 

    The difficulty of hiring for Javascript is a whole other beast. The key thing to remember is that no one has been doing purely Javascript unless it’s within the last 2 years. Hiring for this skillset does not have to be difficult, as many good engineers are looking to go in this direction. However, they are most likely coming from a full-stack, web application background and programming in backend languages like PHP, C#, Java, etc. Companies must vet candidates based on their knowledge of OOP, understanding of MVC structure, and their ability to solve problems, as those are the fundamentals of any programming role, including a Javascript role.  The right companies hire with this mindset and understand that if they consider a candidate in this regard, they will breed a very loyal, and very skilled worker. Always let engineers follow their passions. If you don’t, you aren’t letting them provide maximum utility. Javascript is certainly bringing that to light.

    In short, Javascript is evolving the world of technology just as much as the language is evolving itself.

  • Looking Beyond the Job Description

    Article by Andy Kolkhorst, Practice Manager in Jobspring Chicago

    “Send me the job description.”

    This is something that I hear daily. While job descriptions can be very valuable when talking about getting an understanding of an organization and their product, they can act as a hindrance in regards to determining if you have the correct skill set for a position.

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    Everyone has made a list of presents they wanted for their birthday at some point in their life. When you did, did you get everything you asked for? No. This is the exact approach a hiring manager takes when writing a job description. Many different technologies are listed, and in all likelihood, you are not using ALL of these in your current environment. Apply anyway! A job posting can be a very intimidating and the last thing you want to do is put yourself out there and get rejected, I get it. However, in the current tech market where there is an influx in open positions versus qualified candidates, you actually have the upper hand. It is necessary for companies to be flexible in order to ensure that their roles are filled quickly, which often requires them to hire a more junior candidate that can grow into the role.

    This is counterintuitive to what your thought process is while scanning job descriptions online. The most important thing is to find a company that you are passionate about and they will make a role for you. You are a hot commodity right now and any company would be fortunate to have you; this is the mindset you need to have when going into any job search, especially in this hiring market. Roles are staying open for longer than ever and head counts are being lost. Companies are now looking for reasons to hire someone rather than nitpicking on why they should hire you.

    If you are looking for a new job right now, you are in a position of power. Do not sell yourself short during this rare opportunity in the technology industry to truly dictate the next step in your career.

  • A How-To For Hiring the Best Tech Candidates

    Written by Chris Walek, Practice Manager in Jobspring Chicago

    I’ve read a plethora of articles about preparing for an interview, how to construct resumes, and which questions to be prepared to ask and answer. But what I rarely come across is an article about how to hire. 

    I manage a recruiting team here in Jobspring Chicago, and we specialize in the local open-source market; more specifically, Ruby on Rails, Python and JavaScript. These are currently very difficult-to-find skillsets, and having the ability to hire effectively is crucial to a company’s growth. 

    Since we act as an objective third party, we are able to observe many different hiring processes from many diverse companies and have the ability to identify which work best. Part of our recruiting process is actually consulting our clients on how to effectively hire the engineers they want. Here’s the advice that I give:

    Skip the Phone Screens

    If you see a resume that you like (strong degree, good communication demonstrated in description of roles, well organized, etc.) invite them on-site. Do whatever you can to get face-to-face interaction with that person as soon as possible. This allows the candidate to visualize you as a manager while you visualize them as a member of your team. 

    Culture is huge in this country. Coworkers and office environment are huge factors in why someone gets up and goes into work every day. A phone call just throws you into the slew of companies doing phone screens and not really treating that person as an individual of interest. Doing a meet and greet off the bat puts your company at the front of an engineer’s mind. (And gives you the potential to actually hire them!)

    In a market like this, every first-rate engineer is going to be employed. If a phone call must be done, the purpose should be to make the opportunity sound enticing enough that they want to come in. The technical phone calls with no enthusiasm give the impression that the company doesn’t care about hiring, or know how to do it. Let’s adapt, just like we ask of our engineers. 

    Sell, Sell, Sell

    As a hiring manager, it’s never been more important to sell to the candidate in front of you. Obviously, it’s crucial to vet them and make sure they are an appropriate fit, but after that, you must do everything possible to make your prospect sound better than the rest. A hiring manager who can sell their story-- why they joined the company, the growth path, the culture, is a hiring manager that people will want to work with.

    In a market that people believe is driven by money, implementing intangible strategies such as the sale of the opportunity gives the engineer the idea that it isn’t just about monetary gains, but an actual career. Building something they can be proud of, joining a group they hold in high regard, working for someone they look up to—that’s what a great employee will want. Every engineer has something they are extremely passionate about. Finding that and figuring out how it lines up within your company is an incredible tactic for closing a candidate.

    Quit it with the Tests

    No more tech tests. Just stop. Yes, you need to assess their skills, but if you’re giving a technical homework assignment to someone who is working full-time and battling off recruiters and other opportunities, you will lose. Instead, design a paired programming exercise so they can collaborate with the team and actually demonstrate better coding principles. 

    This is more efficient on both ends. If you give a tech test, the engineer will most likely be too busy to complete it in a timely fashion. You will end up farther behind than other companies (and less compelling), because you just gave them homework instead of coding with them.

    Speed it up

    Timing. Oh man, timing. I understand that as a company, you have a lot on your hands, and hiring is probably 5-10% of what you have going on. But timing can be a huge killer. I call it the “momentum of a hire.” When someone is interested in working for you, you need to push and finish the process. If a company doesn’t get back to a candidate within 48 hours, the candidate assumes they were a “no” and will focus efforts on the next thing, forgetting why they were ever interested. 

    Yes, I’ve heard the old “if they’re good for us they will still be there in two weeks.” If you did an unbelievable job selling and they only want you, then yes, this holds true. However, more realistically, he/she doesn’t believe you will come back in two weeks, and there are other very exciting opportunities available. (Remember, engineers doubtlessly get calls every single day about a new great opportunity.) 

    Try and keep the entire hiring process as short as possible. 5-7 days is good, but companies can make efficient hires within 72 hours when they identify the right candidate. That short time frame, combined with your awesome sell, enables a company to avoid a bidding war and get the candidate on board while they are most excited. It also shows the candidate that you are serious about hiring, and serious about hiring THEM. 

    Timing plays a huge role in effective placements. I constantly hear that candidates want one job over others because they swooped in and swept them off their feet quickly. It feels good to be sought after, and that is where they’ll want to work.

    Appreciate their Value

    And finally, make a good offer. Yes, as a recruiter this obviously benefits me, but let me explain. The one word you never want to hear in the hiring process is “counteroffer”. The engineer you want to hire is working full-time. That engineer is also a contributor to their company, and that company does NOT want to lose them. Offering $5-10k higher than what the engineer says they want shows that you appreciate their worth and you want to reward them for adding value to the company. 

    Counteroffers can come in many forms, but money is the most common. Offering high not only prevents this, but also demonstrates that you understand the market and are happy to keep your engineers well taken care of. 

    Another bit of advice-- don’t give long kill-dates on offers.  What I mean is, when you extend an offer via a traditional offer letter sent from Human Resources, DO NOT give them 7 days to accept. 24 hours should be a sufficient amount of time, and I suggest that a hiring manager always talk to the candidate the day of the offer.  If you give them longer to accept, you better believe they are reaching out to every company/recruiter and saying, “Hey, I just got X offer. Can you beat that?” Not a situation you want to be in.

    There are many ways to fill open engineering positions in this market- I’m one of them, but these are simple steps that are crucial even when working through a recruiter. Implement these recommendations and see how much easier it will be to extend offers and have them accepted by your A-team candidates. It was Satya Nadella of Microsoft who said, “In this industry, people don’t respect tradition, they respect innovation.”  I believe this holds true in all aspects of a thriving organization.

  • How Gender Plays a Role in the Tech Wave

    Article by Lindsey Jefferson, Lead Recruiter in Jobspring Chicago

    I’ve been a recruiter with Jobspring Partners for over two years, and in my time here, I’ve seen that the tech wave has brought on some pretty significant changes to the workforce; and I don’t mean the endless lists of open positions on company career pages. The influx has brought women to the table in a big way.

    It used to be the status quo for women to stay home and care for their children and husbands. “Working women” usually played the role as doting assistant to the CEO or Director. Obviously, women are now encouraged to choose whichever life path seems right for them, instead of blindly embracing societal expectations. The state of affairs has thankfully changed, but to what extent?

    It is pretty widely accepted for women to be in the working world these days, but there have also been changes in other wonderful ways. At present, it is not uncommon for women to be at the director level of any company, small or large. Furthermore, when it comes to salaries for women in specific industries, there is absolutely no gender gap in wages, according to a recent article posted by Cynthia Than. In her article, referenced here, she outlines that new research has shown that statistically, there is no difference in earnings when it comes to males and females that have made the same career choices and exhibit the same qualifications. Engineers, nurses, administrative assistants, social services professionals, life sciences and TECH (!) employees can all expect equal earnings. See the happy news illustrated on the chart below: 

    wages

    This is something that I’ve been able to see firsthand in Chicago. Within the tech sector, salaries remain consistent across genders. According to the article, “Despite strong evidence suggesting gender pay equality, there is still a general perception that women earn less than men do, and this perception is just one more factor discouraging women from entering the tech space.” As a tech recruiter, I hope we can do something to change this perception and we do start seeing more women entering the field.

    At a Tech in Motion event last month, a tech event series that Jobspring sponsors, we invited a panel of C-level executives to speak about taking their organizations out of the startup phase and into the success phase. Women were majorly represented on this panel. To be specific, three out of the five speakers were women, and this included the moderator. The ladies in the spotlight were the CEOs of popular Chicago companies JellyVisionGiveForward, and BuiltInChicago. Without even trying, we nearly held a “women in tech” panel and had our largest event to date, with almost 350 people in attendance. It was fascinating and inspiring to see passionate women in these leadership roles.

    Ultimately, ladies have come a long way since the days of only seeing aprons and feather dusters in their futures. The fact that women are now in the position to compete for high-level roles with men in the tech space is just the cherry on top. Hopefully, the promise of equal pay and available positions will continue to attract talented women to the tech industry.

  • Is Chicago the new Promised Land for Tech-Centric Businesses?

    Written by Adam Canton, Practice Manager in Jobspring Chicago

    aj

    Some cities have built a reputation for being a hub for technology-driven companies. San Francisco is best known as Silicon Valley. Manhattan has been dubbed Silicon Alley. However, it is apparent that after living in Chicago for eight months, Chicago is on the fast track to compete with the East Coast / West Coast rivalry.

    In sheer population size, Chicago is third largest city in the United States. While the East and West have a number of cities in which to build a business, Chicago is far and away the king of the Heart Land. Every year college grads from all universities within 500 miles of the city flock to Chicago. This means not only do young Computer Science and Engineering grads come to the Chicagoland area, but that business professionals and entrepreneurs also come to seek their fame and fortune. And as anyone with a bit of business savvy knows, technology is the best tool to leverage a successful business.

    The Stats:

    Now that we have an understanding of what drives people to settle in Chicago, all we need is a fertile ground to build business.

    Incubators like 1871 and Excelerate Labs are gaining traction in building out the startup community in Chicago. Incubators have proven to be both huge successes and epic failures, depending on the business model. Whether success or failure, what incubators do is drive technology into the market.

    Venture Capital firms pour money into new technology businesses. To mitigate their risk, they will fund a number of up-and-coming businesses. If one out of every five businesses becomes a success, the VC firms make their money back tenfold. What does this mean for those young business professionals and tech-hungry computer scientists? It means that there is no shortage of fuel to the technological business fire.

    Let’s not forget about Chicago and its relationship to corporations. It is easy for startups to implement the latest and greatest technologies to drive business, but don’t forget that large, established companies are not ignorant to the utility of technology. Chicago is ripe with massive healthcare, financial and retail companies. In order for those companies to stay relevant, they need to adopt new technologies. Just look at Hyatt and Microsoft moving offices from the suburbs to the downtown Chicago area. Almost monthly large companies are making plans to move to Chicago for one reason-- they want the ability to hire the best talent.

    The Outcome:

    In my opinion, Chicago is the enterprising new kid in technology advancement. If companies are not already established in Chicago, or don’t have plans to be, they are going to see their top employees making the switch to move. In the past three months, my team has personally relocated five people into new local roles. These technologists ranged from living in California, New York and the Southeast Coast. They all moved for the opportunity to work in the place to be, Chicago.

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