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So You Want To Hire A Programmer?

| 01.17.2014 |

One of the key tools used by many companies to get ahead of the competition is by the development of proprietary software. However, not every entrepreneur is adept at programming, nor is everyone plugged into the programming community. And this creates a dilemma: how can you find the right programmer to create your dream product?


For advice on hiring programmers, we turned to Mark Lassoff, founder and president of LearnToProgram.TV. Based in Vernon, Conn., LearnToProgram.TV publishes web, mobile, and game development courses that are used by over 70,000 people in 65 countries.


Q: I want to hire a programmer. What should I consider when seeking a programmer to join my team?


Mark Lassoff: First, I can tell you what is not important: where they went to college, or whether they went tocollege. Some of the best programmers I know never graduated from high school. What you are looking for is someone who obviously knows the code.


You are looking for a pattern of completing projects and someone who is smart and adept at problem solving. Programming is problem solving, and very specific problem solving.


Another thing is communication skills. At some point, the programmer has to leave the world of code and join the world of humans to describe what they are doing accurately.


Q: How do you feel about the outsourcing of programming projects to other countries?


Mark Lassoff: There are very good programmers in India and very good programmers here in the U.S. There is a cultural context within which problems are solved, interfaces are developed, that are hard to overcome when you are working with people in a different culture. Too often, your savings in hiring an overseas programmer for less money are snuffed by trying to overcome that cultural context in developing the software.


I am an American and I am in favor of hiring people here in the U.S. But I also know some very good offshore teams. It is more about hiring the person with the right skill-set, attitude, communication skills versus location. Location is becoming less and less relevant.


Q: Is there a wide number of programmers to choose from, or is there a shortage of high-quality programmers in today’s workforce?


Mark Lassoff: That’s a hard question to answer. You’ve heard the expression that if you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail? I think there are a lot of programmers now that are only carrying a hammer around. But we have a lot of different problems right now that cannot be solved with a hammer. So we have some incongruous situations now between the skill-set that a lot of programmers have and the skill-sets that are needed, and a lot of retraining needs to happen.


At the same time, bigger companies perhaps are comparing apples and oranges with the programmers willing to work for the wages they can pay overseas with what they can pay here. Programmers in the U.S. are generally well compensated, so sometimes there might be a shortage of programmers willing to work for a much lower wage that would be considered adequate in the U.S.


Q: What are the hot areas in today’s programming world?


Mark Lassoff: Mobile development is huge. The numbers on mobile are growing almost exponentially; if you walk around any college campus or shopping mall, you find people walking around with their mobile phones – using apps, consuming content, using data. The ability to code for mobile is crucial, and looking at mobile before you look at traditional web is one of the most important things for you to do.