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"Programmer. Come Work For Us" (myles.io)
345 points by mkrecny on May 14, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 144 comments

Developers are an extremely varied bunch. I'd suspect that HN leans towards the wide interests side because startups tend to disrupt (in the traditional sense of the word) your ability to program rather than enhance it.

But not everyone is like that. Some developers want nothing more than a real, meaty technical challenge. Scaling up a site that's crashing every hour. Crunching huge datasets and extracting important data. If you find one, you might actually be lucky- they probably have more focus than I do.

Personally, while the whole starting a business idea seems pretty cool to me, it's just far too grand, far too difficult and far too expensive right now!

I'm 20, I want to go to my simple 9 to 5 job, tackle a really difficult challenge, maybe debug some Magento because that's where the real challenge is at my company, then maybe for the last couple of hours I'll work on some of our in house products to enjoy the freedom of custom development.

Then I'll go home, make something to eat (at a reasonable hour) and hopefully spend a great night cuddling with my girlfriend while we watch old movies on my laptop.

While being a billionaire business man is very enticing, right now, at this point in my life, all I want is to be happy, and working 80 hour weeks to risk it on a 3% chance to make it something amazing just isn't worth it for it.

The one counter-argument I'd give to that is that you'll never have more time or freedom than you do right now. If you're interested in starting a business, don't feel any rush to do it immediately, but your twenties are a great time to try it.

But don't get trapped working for a startup and kidding yourself that their success is your success. If it isn't your company you probably don't own a meaningful amount of stock- it's never worth busting your gut over.

"But don't get trapped working for a startup and kidding yourself that their success is your success"

I hear this line a lot on HN and frankly, I have to call bullshit on it.

A real startup (which I define as "a currently small business with large, untapped potential market") with a real business, (which I define as "make something you can sell to people for money"), is a great place to find work at with a real chance to make significant amount of money (which I define as, "I can take 1/2/3 years off to do whatever I like without worrying about paying the rent") in case of success. And the odds of that level of success are not bad if you're smart about choosing your company carefully.

How do I know ? Personal experience on multiple occasions.

(btw, note that my definition does not include "this website/mobile-app we hope will catch Marissa Meyer's eye for a quick $X0 Million flip.)

Twenties does seem a great time to start a business, but somehow in real statistics the average age when successful entrepreneurs start their companies is 40+. You won't have more time, but you will have more resources, skills, and in-depth understanding of some problem domain, which is a key part of any successful business.

> somehow in real statistics the average age when successful entrepreneurs start their companies is 40+.

Given just this information, it's still possible that people who start companies in their twenties are more likely to be successful; but most people who start companies are 40+. I don't necessarily expect that to be the case, but do you happen to know offhand?

I think most people who start a business are people who worked in that sector and at some pointed decided that they can do it better. Think for example about a bakery.

That is however very different from the type of startup that we usually talk about here, which does not an have an well established businesses model already.

What would be neat to see is how many of those 40+ success stories had failed businesses in their twenties.

I can't remember the source now, but IIRC the actual measurement was the age when they founded their first company. But quite a few of them by that time had hands-on business experience managing businesses owned by others.

Thanks for the update. Though it would still be intriguing to see how past business failures affect future successes. Is it better to try and fail in your 20s, or not try at all until you are 40+, for instance? I wonder if that kind of data is available anywhere?

You have to fail a bit in order to succeed. There are very few people who hit a walk-off grand slam in their first major league at bat.

This was my immediate reaction.

The minute you have kids your discretionary free time drops massively (in many cases to zero for a while, especially if both parents work). Plus your view of your finances change - you have other little people depending on you so that steady income from that steady job looks really appealing.

If you're not someone who wants to set up on their own, that's great. Personally I have other priorities too (damn pesty kids...), but I'd say if you don't think you want to do it in your early / mid 20s when you have energy and time, you probably need to accept you actually don't want to do it at all.

In a way, my company is a start up, I was employee 9, there are now eleven, the company is only a year or so old (and I've been here for 7 months now.)

But they showed faith in me when I really needed a job, they hired me on the day of the interview and even paid me early when I was about to be homeless (again.)

I love the culture at my company, I love table tennis at lunch and Bacon Fridays, I enjoy my work and the people I'm with. Regardless of where I want to be in 5 years, why would I give all that up for a minor chance at being rich?

You're twenty. Your twenties will continue for about nine years.

It's a good question. Why would you? Maybe it's just because it's a vast challenge. There's plenty of time though, don't worry.

Sometimes, people grow apart from the environment they're in - for what I've seen and thought, that's probably when we're open for a larger challenge and with that, some new risk/opportunities.

or you start company in your late 40s ,early 50s when freedom kicks again :-)

F*ck yeah, that's right on the money.

Debugging Magento is a real challenge because Magento is horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible.

It's horrible.

I like your outlook, but man, even in PHP land there are vastly better frameworks that won't make you hate your life (Magento has a nasty track record for me and several other devs I worked with). ExpressionEngine, CodeIgniter, even Symfony... if you want to do PHP, do yourself a favor and do something that's not Magento.

Unfortunately, my company took over a Magento project the last developers majorly screwed up on - we didn't know anything about Zend or Magento until we jumped in to it. I do agree though, Magento is a minefield - but that's part of the fun.

That being said, I am a big fan of CodeIgniter, I love the simplicity of it's MVC system and I wish I did more work with it.

Why do you say "even Symfony"? The buzz I hear is that Symfony is pretty much the most forward thinking framework in PHP and that it's offspring such as Laravel take cake if you're looking for something a bit more streamlined.

Just looking at job boards tells me those tech + drupal seems to be where all the work is (in the UK at least), so yeah, why the "even"?

I haven't done an ecommerce project in quite a while, what would you suggest instead of Magento?

I had the dubious honor of setting up a heavily customized Magento site barely after they released 1.0 - it was a nightmare. No docs, barely any participation in the forums, blog posts with outdated (already) information... I didn't have a say in picking Magento and eventually the client moved to something else as updates and expansion became too much of a hassle.

I'd also be very interested in this. I'm looking for an ecommerce package that does faceted search, supports catering for non US regions, and doesn't require the effort Magento requires to reskin. Something where the goods-in process is easy, no EPOS integration required. Anybody got any good recent experiences?

I hear good things about Woocommerce [1] these days if you're using Wordpress for your main site. It's no where near in the realm of Magento, but fine if you're looking for something simpler but less powerful.

[1] http://www.woothemes.com/woocommerce/

I've used Lemonstand for a few projects and really enjoy working with it. There are a few features it's lacking still (no gift certificates, no faceted search) but it's a very flexible system.


For a developer? Hm, foxy cart, or spree (open source): http://spreecommerce.com/

If you already know Drupal, Commerce is awesome.

Well, its 2013, you can't talk about php frameworks and leave out laravel. And I think you should've also mentioned the cool set of packages available on composer.

Time is on your side. Keep learning about technology, keep learning about yourself. In this learning process you are going to make mistakes. Make them on someone else's dime.

I personally have always been an entrepreneur at heart. It wasn't until a month ago (at the age of 33, married with one kid) that I decided to strike it out on my own. Ultimately, I knew I would regret not doing it. I have built up plenty of experience both technically and leadership wise. I've made a ton of mistakes in the past 11 years, but most importantly have lived with and learned from them.

You've got time, just keep learning.

It's totally cool if you're happy doing what you do. For some people "to be happy" means NOT to got to their simple 9 to 5 job.

You gotta start failing and learning early on. A business does not have to be huge, just sell something. Whatever.

It's quite possible to run a meaningful startup doing 9-5 hours, without burning yourself doing 80 hour work weeks. Sure, it won't be a billion or a million $ company but it'll be a successful business.

Even Nostradamus can't predict which startups will succeed and by how much. Yet you can, simply by adding up the hours worked? That's pretty simplistic.

Yup. Some are deeply focussed on the technical and see that as their mission in life/work. Some are in a similar position but are blinkered (I think I was here) and some are simply insecure about softer skills or striking out on their own (may have been here too).

> Some developers want nothing more than a real, meaty technical challenge.

That's a big reason why I left a cushy office job - working at the Twin Towers - to work as an engineer in a factory. Coding software for robots was more satisfying than whatever the hell I did at the consultancy I worked with.

I would say all developers want more than just a technical challenge.

They just don't all look for that "more" in their job.

"Programmer: I'll be forced to learn things outside of programming. Things like how to design, how to market and how to do customer service.

MBA: But you, are a programmer.

Programmer: I'm also a person. Programming is just one thing I do."

I graduated in business administration, and when I tell people I can actually code and have been learning how to do it for the past few years, I mostly get blank stares, which is sometimes followed by the question: "why do you learn it if you ain't a programmer? You should hire a programmer instead."

They don't get it when I explain that the programmer I would need to do the work I want done wouldn't need me as much as I would need him. They also question me why didn't I graduate in something related to programming instead of BA, as if studying something outside of your area of expertise is waste.

I once had a job interview for a programming job in which I was asked about the several (programming-related) publications I had listed on my resume.

"Why did you do this? It looks like you want to be a writer, not a programmer!"

I find it hard to imagine being so consumed with programming that you don't do anything else at all, even things that are related to, but not actually, programming. But even harder to imagine is why anyone would expect someone to be that consumed with only programming?

At my current job, it seems like I am constantly being pressured into being a "systems engineer" or somesuch. The fact of the matter is, I really love writing code, finding and fixing bugs, and just generally all around playing with software. I can appreciate, and am even very interested in, things such as hardware, materials science, physics, chemistry, etc. But there is more than enough for one lifetime (multiple lifetimes!) in software, and I just find it so cool that I don't want to do much else. Don't get me wrong; outside of work I'm an amateur musician and a volunteer SAR member. I also appreciate stretching your mind, getting a different POV and cross-training, etc, etc, but as long as people are willing to pay me to make software, that's the job I'll continue to do. Try to push me into something I'm not interested in, and you'll have to find another code monkey. I'll dive into wildly differing domains, but mainly so I can tackle them better in software.

I would find it off-putting if someone pulled that line on me in an interview too. Being a programmer does not mean that you are a simply a code monkey, incapable of expanding your knowledge of the field.

You would think that all companies would want someone who understood programming enough to be able to write about it in a way that others could understand, but perhaps not. Some places "get it" and some don't.

If learning multiple disciplines is your thing then keep going for it. I've gotten similar reactions being on the opposite side -- I'm a dev that has some business and design knowledge. "Why don't you just stick to back-end data crunching analytics services?" Because I like interacting with people, and I'm not as useful to others if I can't communicate my ideas and thoughts.

This is the worst thing about the "college major" system. Yes, comparative advantage is a good thing, but that doesn't logically conclude in overspecialization.

With humans, specialization is often another word for structurally imperfect information.

For a few years after my MS I started focusing on programming exclusively. After a trip to NY and meeting lots of interesting people in Brooklyn, I remembered that things such as cross expertise, learning totally different disciplines and inspiration are actually the most important things if you are going to spend more time thinking than coding.

> Yes. But when I affect someone's life, I'll get a email, maybe a call about it, and I'll have a real conversation with someone. I'll know who they are and how I affected them.

And a few hundred 1-star reviews on the app store(s), saying that while they use your app daily, it really isn't worth the $1.99 they paid for, and people should use X instead, which is FREE. Or 3-star reviews that say the app is PERFECT, they love it, but it needs feature X (assuring you that they'll bump up their reviews to 5 star when you add the said feature).

At times like that, I'm sure you'd rather you worked for some giant corporation and didn't have to deal with customers directly.

You're making a pretty big assumption that everyone works in consumer-facing markets, and not with small- to medium-sized businesses.

The app store model is broken because it has too much Internet in it. Anonymity + Platform = arsehat. Dealing with clients one-on-one is really rewarding.

Clients can be rewarding or a nightmare. I have dealt with both. There are good and bad clients you deal with just as there are "arsehats" in the consumer facing businesses.

I wish this was an accurate mindset of the kinds of programmers I have to work with. Sometimes I picture myself tying my scarf around my head, leaping onto my desk and screaming "Come on! Lets go! F--k this place, we can do it better than they do it. You don't have to sit here day-in, day-out doing the same monotonous things. We can do better this, we owe it to ourselves to do this properly. No more people in suits ranting about deadlines, no more shitty coffee, no more PowerPoint. We'll do it better, we'll do it cleverer and you will feel so much the lighter for it. To the door!"

But they'd just stare at me in horror.

But they'd just stare at me in horror

Maybe try without the scarf?

I think you should do it, with the scarf. You never really know what will happen until you try.

Once with the scarf, once without, and compare results.

AB testing. Nice.

You'll need a project manager for that.

You should definitely do this. Do it now. Post video. Use the video as part of your pitch deck.

Fourthed, and if shit hits the fan you can crash at my house

Not saying this is accurate, but the first thing I though of when reading this was http://xkcd.com/610/.

Edit: As an aside, to find this I searched for "xkcd everyone thinking the same thing". It was the first result on Google and the second on Bing. I'm honestly kind of amazed by current search technology.

I third you on doing this.

You just made my day

> How quaint.

Perhaps the best way to describe the condescending startup hiring culture where aspirational devs are encouraged to give up their dreams to work for yet another VC funded rocket ship that is "changing the world."

Another recent article with this attitude:


My guess is developers are starting to see through this BS and realize that they very well can run their own companies.

Wow, I knew PandoDaily was bad but that is just out of control.

This end of the tech cycle is terrible. We're due for an adjustment.

> My guess is developers are starting to see through this BS and realize that they very well can run their own companies.

A tiny, tiny, minority that is well represented on this site. In reality most developers out there have no clue how to run or startup a business and they frankly shouldn't because they will fail.

I think failing a business is good life experience, especially for programmers, since the starting costs are relatively very low.

A failed startup is a great learning experience but when you're not ready for it or don't learn from it, it becomes less of a benefit and more of a poor choice. Having said that the circumstances one must be in to startup his or her own business are very specific.

> since the starting costs are relatively very low

I'd have to disagree. Unless you're weighing "cost" on just monetary value. A startup will cost you your free time, your health, your current career, and in some cases your relationship if you have one. Truly being successful in the startup world is extremely challenging and one that comes at many costs.

It appears to be that in most cases they can't and end up working for Facebook or Google anyway though right?

Kinda true BUT....

Maybe you'd be surprised how many programmers there are out there who don't care if anyone uses what they do, don't want to interact with users and aren't really bothered who it affects, and would rather be left alone with the purity of "here is a task, go, be a programmer".

I'm not like that now, but I used to be, and I know a lot of people that still are. All that messy stuff like business decisions, market research/development, customer support, requirements capture... all that is so much more soft and ill defined than me, my DE, a defined goal (that I may or may not have helped set) and a paycheck at the end of it. Then I don't have to think about anything but the code.

I broadly agree with you, but I can't help but feel that you're patronizing the position needlessly.

I think it's perfectly respectable for someone to care if anyone uses what they do and to want to interact with users and care if their problems are solved - but, at the same time, desiring to do this within an order of magnitude of 40 hours a week, receive benefits, not have to worry about paying the bills, even if the client can't be bothered to, don't have to deal with the nitty-gritty of sales and bookkeeping and boardmeetings and fundraising and the landlord and sourcing a new datacenter[1] and dealing with the ISP[1] and making sure the Jenkins box is keeping up with backups[1] etc etc.

The career options for a developer (especially a good one) is a broad spectrum of opportunities, not just a black and white selection between the machine room of a bank or your own startup.

Edit: 1: Unless that's what you want to do.

I certainly didn't mean to come across as patronising, sorry about that, it's a mindset I've been in and one I sympathise with and frankly one I'm tempted to go back to.

It's really nice to have only(!) the technical challenges laid out in front of you and not have to deal with the business fluff.

  > Maybe you'd be surprised how many programmers there are
  > out there who don't care if anyone uses what they do,
  > don't want to interact with users and aren't really
  > bothered who it affects, and would rather be left alone
  > with the purity of "here is a task, go, 
  > be a programmer".
We're really talking about people who have single domain expertise versus those who have multi-domain expertise. Most people can get by just fine with single-domain expertise, and have little motivation to go through the growing pains of learning another.

Interestingly, I've noticed that along with the increased amount of "startup porn" on the interwebs, I'm encountering more and more programmers who think that they want to move out of their comfort zone and deal with all of that messy business stuff. I suspect that it's articles like this that are causing programming specialists to become insecure, as there's a subtle arrogance to them. From TFA:

  > I'm also a person. Programming is just one thing I do.
As if those who choose focus on programming are not people.

You can NOT have a single domain of expertise as a programmer, and be a great programmer.

You have to at LEAST have a good base knowledge of both programming, how to solve/codify problems and solutions, AND the domain knowledge of the problem you are trying to solve. Almost no programming is providing programming solutions for programming alone... the vast majority come from real world business needs.

Yes, there are some domains that are programming tools.. languages, platforms and frameworks... and many programmers focus on that, which is why there are plenty of options. However, that alone will not make you a great programmer.

I've spent most of my career doing contract work, because I absorb domain knowledge like a sponge, and enjoy it... I think my most productive time was in aerospace e-learning. It meant becoming a domain expert in e-learning, as well as the subject matter for the content of the e-learning. Now, I'm not a jet engine mechanic, and have no inclination to be, but being able to create a simulated interface for some of those systems was really enlightening, and I learned a lot about sheer engineering from that experience.

I've also had the chance to learn about systems security, and business processes in other positions... Not to mention providing a clear user interface and experience for interaction along the way. I love to learn, and have never enjoyed traditional education. Programming has given me the opportunity to learn in more depth about more subjects than a typical person does in several lifetimes.

If you aren't learning in this industry, and are only focused on programming, then you will be continuously behind... then again, there is plenty of work out there for mediocre code monkeys.

  > You can NOT have a single domain of expertise as a 
  > programmer, and be a great programmer
Nobody said anything about great programmer.

edit: And you're defining great only one way: Someone with multi-domain expertise. Certainly someone who is expert at databases can be a great programmer too.

edit 2: great is measured relative to the problem at hand... If you have a deep technical problem, then multi-domain expertise doesn't really give you any edge. If you have a business problem that needs a technical solution, then having expertise in both the business side and technical side is an advantage.

Personally, I have no problem consulting the domain experts before coming up with a solution. Personally, that's all a great programmer really needs to be able to do in my opinion.

You really think you're a domain expert because someone discussed their business requirments with you in order that you complete a job? Ah maybe you are, but's it's not the impression I feel you're giving off right now.

No offense though, it's probably just a cultural thing. I have a hard time calling myself an expert in anything, yet many with much less skill sell themselves quite a bit harder.

No... I only said I became an eLearning domain expert... What I said was you need to know more than just programming, and insight into the problem domain is critical to delivering the best product (in terms of time, and budget constraints)... knowing what is really needed is important.

I don't really consider myself as much of an expert on anything... I know I'm better than most at JavaScript, and that I (used to) know a lot of current technology surrounding e-learning specifically (haven't followed the tincan project much, which is replacing SCORM).

I never meant to imply that one had to be an expert in the problem domain, only that you had to learn the domain to deliver an exceptional product.

There are also people who write insanely complicated and featured software for themself. They open-source or might even sell it, but their only target user is themself.

You can code a long way solely - because you spend no time on communication.

Sometimes their software is useless for anyone but themself. Sometimes it is useful and then it forms a whole fanatical community around it.

How to determine you've hit this piece of software: it has tons and tons of features and they all interact beautifully, provided your needs fit whatever task the Creator had in mind. Everything you can think of is already there and works.

Example: Far Manager (for windows; early versions, anyway).

Paradigm shifts tend to leave such projects on the sideway because the previous paradigm was pretty fine for the Creator so he sticks to it.

And I think you would be surprised by how equally dispersed it is out there. For every developer that doesn't care there is at least one more who does.

Errr... I'm not saying there isn't, and it would be very hard to put a number on it, I just wanted to point out that there does exist a large group of tech folk who actually want the sort of situation described.

Where exactly are the programmers of which this article alludes? I recently received seed funding for my next startup (http://www.podaris.com/jobs.php), and am finding hiring developers to be extremely difficult. Yes, the work will be extremely diverse, you'll get to interact directly with customers, and you'll get to shape and take significant equity a product which can genuinely change the world -- but most developers out there don't seem to be looking for that. So far, 99% of the developers I've encountered have fit into one of two categories:

1.) Freelancers, who are committing to remaining so because of the lifestyle perks -- they want to be able to bugger off to that Australian walkabout more or less whenever they feel like it -- and the level of commitment which a startup requires just isn't appealing to them.

2.) 9-to-5ers, who want the safety and security of job with a large corporation or agency, and really don't mind dealing with the world through a dashboard.

I can understand where both types of people are coming from, and can't fault them for it. What I haven't found is an abundance of developers who have the appetite for the high-commitment, high-uncertainty life which a startup entails.

I think you answered your question yourself.

The guys who want to do it all are all busy doing it all. Notice the quote in the linked article: "I was actually thinking of starting my own business." That's what those guys are doing.

If you're looking for somebody who's motivated to run every aspect of a business, but would prefer to run every aspect of your business rather than one in which he'd get 100% of everything, then yes, you're going to have a tough time of it.

I'd recommend hiring one of those Australian Walkabout guys on their terms. They're probably just as capable of doing what you want done, and they don't come with any unrealistic expectations of what you'll give them. Pay them money in exchange for work until you either don't need them anymore or the money runs out. Then let them go with no hard feelings on either side.

Well, I'm certainly not looking for somebody to run "every aspect" of my business. I've raised the finance, developed the marketing plan, established contacts with almost a thousand prospective client organisations, defined the product requirements in consultation with the industry, and written the prototype software myself. That's taken years of work and is not something to sneeze at! But ultimately, I'm not a skilled developer, and my cobbled-together prototype is not something that can be taken to market. So a lot of programming will be required to turn this into commercial-quality software.

The reason that I won't hire contractors to do that is that this is a highly specialised application -- not something that fits the mould of a typical web application -- and the developers will be instrumental in developing the core IP. It will take a few months for even the most skilled and experienced developer to get up to get fully up to speed with the internals details of this truly unique platform, and there will need to be many iterations of the platform as the product evolves. While it may be possible to do some of the peripheral work with freelancers (eg., the UI stuff, which will use fairly standard kit wherever possible), the unique core of the platform will only be maintainable if there is a stable team of developers to maintain it.

Imagine if Google had tried to design and implement Pagerank, the Google File System, and its custom server architecture using catch-as-catch-can freelancers. That would have been a catastrophe; you just can't develop truly unique systems that way. I'm in roughly the same boat.

However, if anything about what I've said has given the impression that I want people to "run every aspect of my business", then I am obviously not conveying my message clearly. I welcome suggestions for improvement!

I think you might be overstating the flakiness of independent contractors. I'm pretty much the exemplar of your "catch as catch can" type (though I've never called myself a freelancer), but I've had my share of long-term clients.

I've had recurring stints with individual companies (with the aforemention bugger-off-to-Australia period in between when they didn't need me) spread out over the course of several years, and I've had multi-year contracts working 40 hour weeks building Big Things.

The important bit that you might be missing is that it's generally the project owner who determines the length of the engagement. A pro will stick around as long as you need him. Then he'll take off and enjoy those lifestyle perks. Find some of that guy and you won't have any trouble getting your PagerankFileSystem finished.

It's not really "flakiness" that concerns me -- it's "ownership". I need people who will take genuine ownership of the central pieces of the platform -- who will design and implement the architecture of the platform, carefully follow its performance as the product and the market matures, and make improvements accordingly. That requires being in the same room with myself and the rest of the development team, until the product reaches a stage of stability and self-documentation that others can slip into that role with relative ease.

Based on my prior experience starting software companies (this will be my third), I know that the developers team will need to be working fulltime on this (well, evenings, weekends, and holidays excluded...), in the same room as the rest of the development team. And I estimate this shakedown period will last 2-3 years -- not freelance time, any way you cut it.

Again, this is really not meant to be a slight upon freelancers. They can be excellent at what they do. But I would never ask one to take a critical role in developing unique, cutting-edge IP in what I am certain will be a long-term evolutionary process.

It sounds like you want an employee / contractor who will act like an owner. If you want this level of commitment from someone very good, you usually have to give them part of your company. And I don't mean just options and profit sharing; I mean partners or shareholders.

Even then it is difficult, because you already have invested years in this, so obviously anyone you bring on will be a minority stakeholder. As a minority holder, they will have no real say-so in the business (you can always override them in a disagreement), they have liability they wouldn't have as a contractor / employee, and there probably will not be any profit to share for a long time. And even when there is profit, you get to decide what to do with it - not them. And you get the added burden of not screwing over your new minority holder, at least not too much.

Try putting yourself in their shoes: let's say a programmer has invested 3 years in writing a cool new program and has developed "cutting-edge IP". But they have no marketing or business experience. You do. What would you want from this guy to dedicate 3 years of your life to him and his company in a "critical role", and "take genuine ownership" for developing his business? (The quotes are not there to be snippy, but to use your own words to describe what you are looking for.)

No, I want a CTO, and certainly not a contractor who will act like an owner. (I've said many times in this thread that I am not looking for contractors, and state on the jobs page that I'm seeking full-time permanent employees).

To answer your question: what I'd want is a stake in the equity and governance of the company. These things aren't unusual when joining a new company, and in my prior two ventures (futurescaper.com, imatest.com), I've hired both CTOs and CEOs without difficulty, and successfully integrated them into the governance of the companies.

Somehow, this time around, my recruiting efforts seem to be generating a crazy number of misunderstandings. People assume that I'm looking for contractors (I'm not). People assume that I won't be paying competitive salaries (I will be). People assume that I won't be giving away equity (I will be). People assume that I won't be including officers of the company in its governance (I will be). And people make these assumptions even when my job descriptions explicitly say otherwise. I'm baffled by this, since I haven't encountered these presumptions with my prior startups.

I'm starting to wonder if developers in the web application space have perhaps been so badly burned by prior startup experiences that at this point they basically presume bad faith from any new venture they encounter. If so, that's really unfortunate, and I guess there's nothing I can do about it except either A.) hide the fact that I'm a startup (which would hardly be honest), or B.) Accept that that 90% of prospective candidates will weed themselves out simply by making bad assumptions, and realise that I probably didn't want those people anyway.

Also, I have to say that this experience is also starting to really warm me up to recruiters, who presumably are more skilled than I at dealing with the sort of industry dynamics that lead to these kind of misunderstandings.

> I recently received seed funding for my next startup (http://www.podaris.com/jobs.php), and am finding hiring developers to be extremely difficult.

I'm not surprised. You're trying to hire people with experience and significant skills - for which they're probably already being paid really well. Why would they quit their current projects and come work for you?

Honestly, a lot of start-ups just seem to want to hire incredible valuable people and offer almost nothing in return for that value. Everyone wants experience - most commonly because they don't know enough about the project themselves to design a test that will distinguish those who know what they're doing from those who don't (which is hardly inspiring to begin with.) Why would anyone want a high-commitment, high-risk lifestyle without the probability of commensurably high returns though? You talk about high equity but equity in a failed project's not worth diddly.

It's like... will you go work for this iffy guy in his shed for a couple of years on the basis of this product he's pinky-promised is awesome?

You need to offer people something they can't get elsewhere if you want to hire them. And all you're offering is the chance to interact with customers and the chance to 'shape' the product. Which is just... marketing jargon. You can't trust that to mean anything.

I suspect you'd be best off designing a test so that you can hire people with less experience, or just hiring one of the free lancers and accepting the uncertainty that they're going to stick around (trade on a risk for risk basis, essentially.)

> I'm not surprised. You're trying to hire people with experience and significant skills - for which they're probably already being paid really well. Why would they quit their current projects and come work for you?

Because I'd pay them just as well, and offer them much more exciting and meaningful work, with a potentially huge equity payoff if things go really well?

> Honestly, a lot of start-ups just seem to want to hire incredible valuable people and offer almost nothing in return for that value.

-- Argh, stop right there. I really need to figure out how to combat this conclusion that people jump to. People see "startup" and immediately assume "slave wages". I'm equipped to pay competitive salaries PLUS significant equity. Unfortunately, nobody seems to believe that a startup will really do that, even when I say so in black-and-white. How can I improve my messaging so that people don't jump to this false conclusion?

> It's like... will you go work for this iffy guy in his shed for a couple of years on the basis of this product he's pinky-promised is awesome?

This "iffy guy" is actually widely recognised as the world's top expert in this particular field, who's executed over $100M in projects in the past few years, and who is getting significant backing to set up a development team in a nice office in London's Silicon Roundabout. But when I say that "I have a startup and we're hiring full-time developers", people automatically assume that I'm some dodgy character who will pay you peanuts to work out of a shed.

Obviously I need to improve my message somewhat; possibly just dropping the word "startup", since this seems to cause people to jump to wildly false conclusions.

See my other replies on this thread for why freelancers are not an option for me.

I am currently contracting for a company in London, using more or less the same technologies as you do. They asked me to help build their team as well, so I know both sides of the table.

I would not even think twice offering a job to someone decent with javascript at £45K. The job is 9-to-5, the company is mature, has been around for 2 decades, will probably still be in another 2. They'd be in the comfort of knowing that their salary will be in their account at each and every end of month.

Betting companies are pushing the market upwards. Every person who took another offer over mine went to a betting company. So I have a feeling that I am only pitching for people who are morally against betting.

So are you paying that kind of money? I have a feeling that you'd have to pay at least £10K over for my offer to compensate for the inherent uncertainty and as a premium the find that person quick.

Yes, I'm certainly expecting to pay around £50k for the lower-level developers; significantly more for the lead developer, and meaningful equity to boot. Unfortunately people see "startup" and assume that this means "sweat equity, slave wages". I don't believe in running a business that way -- haven't done it with my last two startups (both of which have been successful), and won't do it with this one either. But apparently stating that I'm offering competitive salaries isn't enough to convince people that I'm really offering, you know, competitive salaries. Is there a better way to drive this message home?

Maybe you can delay revealing the fact that you are a startup. Don't mention the equity till you come to negotiation, drop "Silicon Roundabout" from your job pages.

Most developers have been burnt by startups at least once. I'd try not to remind the bad experiences before I have at least a chance to talk to them in person.

Yes, the word "startup" does seem to cause many developers to jump to wildly false conclusions about how much I intend to pay, what kind of backing I have, what the working conditions will be like, etc. This is a surprise to me!

Anyhow, I think you've given some very good advice, and I'll take it. Will you be at tomorrows's HNLondon meetup? I'd love to pick your brain for more advice on how to build a team here -- if not there, then perhaps over coffee sometime. Email me at nathan@podaris.com if you're interested.

I think this is certainly happending - my own first reaction to your job ad was "meh....equity over salary for a product that yesterday I didn't know existed".....

fwiw and from my perspective perhaps the problem is that you aren't advertising the salary you are offering - you want someone with significant experience - so we aren't talking about a recent graduate here, but someone with significant technical lead experience - experience most often comes with (at least a bit of) age and age comes with other responsibilities like family, kids, mortgage etc. Now they also have to believe in your product - so either they've already thought of it, or they need it sold to them.

maybe you need to go developer courting rather than waiting for them to drop through your door?

I've been actively courting developers for a few weeks now. I've found loads of qualified developers who are willing to freelance for a couple of months -- which unfortunately excludes them from consideration for the kind of roles I need.

You're perhaps right that explicitly stating the salary might be a better way to go. I've been patterning my job listings after those of more established companies, which generally do not state their salaries upfront. But when people see that we're a new company, their immediate assumptions are so negative (and wrong) that perhaps we need to go the extra mile to overcome those...

It's not just about salary. It's about the culture of people.

Your job descriptions talk about what YOU want and the tech, and you claim that we are going to change the world. What about what your prospective team wants? That's who you need to appeal to.

For instance, look at Shopify's career page.


-Video of the team (Show don't tell, culture, work and play)

-Lists of the benefits (You're a human, that has a life, and we aren't going to abandon you when life events happen. We want you to stay healthy, have current gear, an vestation in the company and the ability to hone your skills and keep learning.)

-Pictures of a great environment and what it's like, testimonials from team members.

Salary HAS to be competitive, because no one in their right mind would say "Now hiring for 20% less than the industry median!" Get real. You need to talk to people about why it's worth it to come in and work their asses off for a super risky company.

Not a very useful comparison, to be honest: Shopify is a well-established company at this point, and I'm a startup. Obviously I have every intention of creating a great environment for and with the team, but in the beginning, it's only possible to say that, not show it. So you're asking to see something (videos, pictures, and testimonials from the team) that no startup -- ever -- can demonstrate. You can't eat a pie before you have it.

Fair enough on the established thing. My point was more to the fact that before you even see a job description, or what they want from you, they lead with why they want to you

as an early startup, I'd be interested in why you don't have a programmer/technical cofounder? That's normally how you'd get that ownership you want. I know I sure wouldn't own a project (YOUR project) on the level you describe without significant equity.

Cause otherwise its a gig that will probably be gone in a year.

> My point was more to the fact that before you even see a job description, or what they want from you, they lead with why they want to you

Fair enough. I'll work on the language to emphasise that more.

> As an early startup, I'd be interested in why you don't have a programmer/technical cofounder?

Because I haven't found one yet -- that's why I'm looking. Most web startups are created by people already working within web-focused industries, so they have constant access and strong social ties to myriads of potential technical co-founders. A good idea starts getting tossed around between mates at the pub, and after a while they decide to give their day jobs a shove and go for it full-time. But I'm coming out of the world of transport planning: there simply aren't any potential technical co-founders within my professional or social circles.

So I've spent the last couple of months making inroads into the London software-development scene, trying to find a technical co-founder. Unfortunately, I've found that "I'm looking for a co-founder" translates, in virtually everyone's mind, as "I have no money nor am I ever likely to, and want you to work long hours for nothing more than sweat equity" -- an assumption which closed off every conversation before it had a chance to begin. So because I already had a committed investor on-board, I switched to saying I was hiring a lead developer instead. Unfortunately, this leads to the following:

> I know I sure wouldn't own a project (YOUR project) on the level you describe without significant equity.

Exactly! Which is why the job posting very clearly states that I'm offering significant equity AS WELL as a competitive salary. And I really mean it!

But this just isn't coming through. If I tell people "I'm looking for a technical co-founder, and can pay a competitive salary", then they say they're not interested, because they can't take a job that doesn't pay a good salary. But if I tell people that I'm hiring at competitive salary for what is essentially a co-founder position -- with all the equity and responsibility that this implies -- then they say that they're not interested, because they wouldn't want to work in a startup that doesn't give them significant equity.

Somehow, developers assume that equity and salary are such binary opposites that the majority of them are literally incapable of parsing a verbal or written offer of BOTH. This is proving to be more than a bit crazy-making -- but I keep telling myself that I wouldn't have wanted to hire such nincompoops in any case. Eventually I'll find a technical person who both has the skills that I need and is sharp enough to parse what I'm saying...

The developer community is (rightly) full of stories in which obnoxious and intellectually-lazy businesspeople just couldn't comprehend what was directly in front of their eyes. I've always gotten a good chuckle out of those stories, because I identify much more strongly as a geek than as an MBA. But now I'm learning that it's possible to tell such stories from both sides of the divide. This is a tough lesson to absorb!

Perhaps you should market more towards a co-founder then just a programmer. Or market as looking for a CTO? It's not really your fault that underfunded CEOs often think that they can lure someone in with the potential of a mega-exit, when that isn't the case.

I'm wondering if equity-only positions actually ever even get filled?

Good luck though, you're probably on the right track by not just hiring the first person in your lap (happened a lot at the last company. Bad move).

well, last opinion from this peanut gallery - you've done a better job selling your startup on this thread than on your job add - the advert you have up there is prosaic and doesn't really express the passion you obviously have. Of course, just my opinion :)

I won't be attending tomorrow's meetup. I'll drop you an email.

Great, I look forward to it!

There is an other category: people who want high-commitment, high-uncertainty, and chance of high reward they get by starting their own startup.

Maybe you're asking people the same sacrifice you're doing, except that they'll be doing it for you rather than for themselves?

That's because your startup is likely to fail. why should people want to design a multi-million dollar system in a "HTML5" - Browserbased - Solution done by a (max) 10 person-team? I just don't get how you'll ever appeal to your target group.

But maybe -- hopefully -- I am wrong.

That's quite a jaded view of freelancers. We've depended upon four at Sococo, who have given their lives, weekends, intellect and experience every bit as much as founders.

I use freelancers quite a bit for one of my other companies (www.futurescaper.com), and I have a huge amount of respect for them. I am happy to use them for many, many tasks. But not for developing the core, unique IP, since this is something that can't be worked on in a relatively plug-and-play fashion.

As I said in another reply, imagine if Google had tried to design and implement Pagerank, the Google File System, and its custom server architecture using catch-as-catch-can freelancers. I'm in roughly the same boat. Freelancers can be stupendously great for working on more or less standard types of technology -- but when it comes to defining and maintaining truly unique pieces of technology, they are not the way to go.

Hm. Our three core pieces of technology were developed by freelancers - our GUI engine, our audio/visual networking modules, and our server-side app model were all done by three different non-employees. They are all employees today, which I admit did change things. Principally, it means they can't/don't work the hours they used to (they work normal hours now). Since their compensation doesn't change with greater hours, they just don't have the same motivation they used to.

Don't think it has to be stock options that made the difference. They got more of that as freelancers too - they exchanged a rate cut for options early on and came out ahead of any employee there too.

Interesting. Did you have detailed specifications and requirements for each of those three components in advance of hiring the freelancers? Or was spec'ing out the architecture of the platform part of their brief? If the latter, then how did you ensure that the architecture they were developing was a good fit to the long-term development strategy for the platform, and how did you ensure coordination and cohesion between them?

These aren't rhetorical questions, by the way -- I'm genuinely curious and would eager to have a chat about this. My experience has very much been that it's only really possible to integrate freelancers into a development process and product that's either fairly conventional or fairly mature. But if you've got a different experience, then I'd be keen to hear about it and learn from it! Contact me at nathan@podaris.com if you feel like talking in more depth at some point.

The founders knew what they wanted functionally. These first three developers became architects out of necessity. Only broad technology had been selected, no code design, not even tool chains.

Two of the freelancers worked out of their office (they were partners in their firm). The third lived in the same town. Both were 2000 miles from the corporate office.

The product was a collaboration tool. In a few months the first features were demo-able. After that the company 'ate its own dog food' i.e. used this tool to meet multiple times a day. Eventually we spend our entire day logged into this tool, available for instant communication, aware of what other communication is occurring in our 'area', sharing documents and status freely.

Plug: this tool is amazing, and enables freelancers and remote workers to behave as if in the same office. We often notice we get LESS done when we travel to other sites, because its harder to stay connected when travelling.

Most interesting. You're the first person I've talked to who's had success with engaging freelancers in this way -- but since it's worked for you, I can't discount it. I'll definitely give more consideration towards taking this route.

And that's quite a good plug for Sococo -- I'll definitely check it out. Thanks again for sharing your experience here!

Entrepreneurship fluff. These posts seem to forget the reality of life. What about health care? House payments? The cost of raising children? The social network job will allow for those. The business? Good luck with that. Oh, but you might get some funding, you say? Try explaining to a VC how you are using their money to pay for your children. Many of them don't even want you to have base salary.

These posts are written by 20-somethings that don't have children or thing about health care.

Entrepreneurial folks -- younger ones especially -- are more apt to take the risks or shirk the responsibilities you list. Not everyone will have those responsibilities and many will grant themselves the flexibility to try their own business and see how it goes, because they put a higher value on self-run small business autonomy.

And not every business needs to grow to a VC-backed behemoth. It's possible to manage a smaller business and keep it that way. OP also notes he's looking forward to the challenges associated with that path.

> I'm also a person. Programming is just one thing I do.

This is not universally true. Yes, we're all people, but some people don't want to serve as tech support, marketing, etc, themselves. Some people just want to show up and work in a specific, technical problem.

HN isn't filled with that type, I don't think, but they certainly do exist. And I'd guess they're the majority, too.

A lot of this depends on timing. My interest in doing more than solving a bunch of meaty technical problems (where doing more includes managing a team, speaking to people, customer service) follows a sort of sine wave pattern.

Sometimes for 6-12 months all I want to do is immerse myself in programming. Other times I want to "change the world."

You can affect people's lives even if working at Big Corp X.

Often, you can ask to do more things than programming at Big Corp X, if you show interest and are valued as an employee.

Not every Big Corp X. deals with social networks for alien life forms on earth : there are big corps X developing medical devices, airplanes and space vehicles, public infrastructure, or researching new, game changing technology.

A lot of people working at Big (or Medium/Small) Corp X. are passionate about their work.

I agree that by doing your own thing you have a much more direct impact on the result, but I don't think there is such a manichean and romantic division.

>there are big corps X developing medical devices, airplanes and space vehicles, public infrastructure, or researching new, game changing technology.

Please let this always be true. I don't want to get into software if it's just gonna be webapps, not that those aren't cool, but I don't know if I like it much.

I work at Coursera now, and we have tens of thousands of users in each class. Like the post author, I really like to feel connected to users, to feel that individual connection, so I go out of my way to get that by wandering around the support forums and monitoring Twitter mentions. Every once in a while, I run into people I know too, and the world feels that much smaller. :-) So, yes, it's easy to feel disconnected from people when you work on a product with many users, but if you want to, I think there's often a way to find them.

This is exactly what I do as well, and it works quite well. It's also one of my favorite parts about running a small company, and I think I'd like to make it a policy that programmers should interact directly with the customers at least sometimes.

I've worked in very large companies, small companies and I'm now in a 4-man startup. At the end of the day it's about the environment and challenges you enjoy, and the ways in which you want to grow. Some people get a kick out of being a tiny cog in a huge, complex and influential machine, and others would rather that their tiny cog be the only (and therefore largest, and most important) cog. You can use a fish/pond based analogy if you prefer.

Why on Earth is this linking to some shortener rather than to the actual page, http://edu.mkrecny.com/thoughts/programmer-come-work-for-us ?

Presumably because the submitter's username is also the domain, so by using a link shortener he can hide the fact that it was submitted by the author.

Yay! Everyone start their own company! I mean why not? Who needs salaried work? It's just so easy and risk-free if you already know how to program!

Come on now, start a company when you've identified a problem that really needs a fix, and that has a huge potential of profit. A great way to find that problem is in a paid position. Starting a company for the sake of starting a company won't get you anywhere.

I'd started my own company at one point, and utterly failed at it... didn't enjoy it at all, and it wasn't at all freeing.. in fact I never felt more constrained.

I also spent 8 months in a Director level position, managing several teams and several projects. Also much more constrained. Though, I did learn that there is far more mediocrity in the majority of programmers than greatness at that time.

Now, I'm much more about putting in my time, making the projects I work on better when I leave than when I start. I enjoy contract work as I get to learn new things constantly (domain knowledge in diverse cultures), which to me is a lot of fun. Right now, I'm working for an internal development operations group, which means creating services for other development groups... It's interesting for the moment, though I'm enjoying the slower pace so far.

I spent the last year and a half before where I am working on changing the environment of a set of very stale projects that had become maintenance nightmares, and bringing them into more current structures. Enhancing the UI as well as simplifying other systems. It really depends.

I couldn't agree with this more. Unfortunately, for every "I am a person" developer out there, there are 2-3 "all I care about is code" developer. It's depressing.

I'm not sure why it's depressing that someone would enjoy coding and not business + coding. Some people tend towards specialism, some generalism. It's probably good that we have both sorts of people.

Me, I'm a specialist at heart - I have no interest at all in business. All I want in the world is for someone to come to me with an interesting problem to solve, and to help them solve it. Fortunately, I have that, and I get plenty of enjoyable interaction from helping less technically able (but more customer-focused) people to produce what they want to produce.

Classifying specialists as not-people is condescending and pathetic, every bit as much as it would be for someone like me to dismiss generalists as morons because of their lack of technical depth.

And don't forget about people who don't like to specialize, yet wouldn't like to be anywhere near business administration. The idea of being only a programmer seems to me as depressing as running a business. It's just not for me; there are a ton of things to learn, and I prefer those that stimulate my brain before anything that stimulates my wallet (and yes, business administration may stimulate someone's brain, just not me).

I prefer to have a 9-to-5 job that pays the bills and then, back home, study anything else.

Alternatively, some people realize that a statistically significant impact on billions of people matters more than the fuzzies you get from a good review or a personal email.

This shit comes from the fact the industry consider tech-savvy people like inhuman monsters. Nerds and geeks and otakus and such, are considered like a plague, while in fact there were pioneers.

Computing is still considered like magic, and it will stay like that for a long time.

I love the ending! "I'm also a person. Programming is just one thing I do."

I'm a programmer, but creating a product of their own is difficult and I commend those that do so. I've learned while doing my projects that aside from programming, I need to be...

An Investor...investing money into hardware, but MOST importantly, time. Time to code, to learn, and time from work and for family.

My Own Boss...doesn't mean I don't answer to anyone, it means I need to be harder on myself to get *ish done, because there is no team to offload work on.

Open-minded...even though working a 9-5 would allow me to specialize in a specific area and a lovely paycheck bi-weekly, my projects/businesses required that I learn so many new things that it's continually frustrating and irritating. Ex: filing articles of incorporation, learning photoshop (I was strictly a coder), micromanaging lists of tasks, formulate a way to pay the bills while donating time to my projects (emphasis on donating).

Side Note: Even though at times I may get jealous of my peers that I know that work at Google and the state...there's a fire inside me burning, just knowing that I will be something big, and I am my only true investor...programming IS just one of the things I do.

Work "for" us? How about work "with" us?

The work FOR us theme is present throughout. I'd guess it was intentional...

I'm young (in the scheme of life).

But I think the quicker you learn what's truly important to you, you start to spend more time on those projects/with those people/in that place/etc and you feel more fulfilled, and that you're making more of an impact, than you ever did before.

Then you learn that all places are terrible and become an old grumpy man (in the scheme of life) like me.

I suppose that's one option. :)

This is how I see myself, too.

I will just continue reading and doing things by my own will until somebody finally realises that domain dependent thinking is rarely innovative and that they might be able to get a competitive advantage from utilising the broad-range of expertise I am trying to grow.

Everybody is different; some of us require variety to focus; and some of us get-off on bridging gaps in between disparate domains.

This has been my experience with recruiters but once you get past the wall of pleasantries and fake attitudes, they usually talk with more sense.

Edit: Sibling comments are talking a lot about the author's personal motivating factors but are ignoring the bigger message of poor hiring tactics like repeating talking points and marginalizing personal goals. I got you, though, op.

Haha. This would be great compared to emails headhunters like to send.

"Come work for a company we won't mention here. You will need all of these skills: ...


One thing I learned from an honest manager: He felt his managerial position was more at risk than his position as a developer.

It's an interesting interpretation of the fields of marketing and customer service to lead one to believe it would be desirable to do more work in those roles and less work in software engineering. To each, their own.

This is why I pushed to have my company fly me across the country to an client event we're doing. I've been working here for a year but I've never met a single person who uses the code I write on a daily basis.

> At times, new code that you write will correlate with a statistically significant change in one of the numbers on that dashboard. You will then know that you have affected billions of beings.

Correlation == ...causation?

So. wait. I can't actually write software for alien beings? Tease.

Anyway, agree with the sentiments personally, but not sure that's true of those who identify strongly with the moniker "programmer".

respectfully, i honestly cannot even guess what the point of this post is.

Very pain full, but very very valuable. Being a human.


Good :)


The mooninites (http://aqua-teen-hunger-force.wikia.com/wiki/The_Mooninites) are the perfect voice for that persuading.

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