Digital transformation has been on the lips of business leaders for years, but it looks like those long-held visions are becoming a reality. According to new research, almost 70% of enterprise organisations are in the process of migrating their operational applications, like ERP, to the cloud. This mass shift to serverless computing isn’t exclusive to big businesses either; small or midsized companies are also making moves to take advantage of everything the cloud has to offer.
If you’re a business about to head off into the exciting realm of cloud development, you’ll need someone in your corner to help you build, deploy, and manage your cloud applications. You might have dealt with or even employed software developers before, and while cloud developers aren’t a completely distinct species, they are a different breed.
Cloud developers are building apps on and for a different kind of landscape than those who create with on-premise in mind. Cloud apps can be scaled at speed, they need to be resilient to meet users’ expectations of constant availability, and they’re packed with features and abilities that you won’t find offline. Being able to develop products that meet cloud standards and leverage this new power requires a different set of skills altogether.
If you’re new to the cloud hiring market, you might find it tricky to locate and qualify developer candidates. Serverless computing is still a novel concept to many businesses, and if you’re just getting aboard the cloud train how do you know what a good cloud developer looks like, what skillsets they should have, or where to find them?
If Python is just a type of snake to you, or the only sort of stack you’re familiar with involves pancakes, worry not. You can still hire a great programmer even if you’re relatively new to cloud computing.
Here are a few tips to help you land your first cloud developer.
1. Create a great spec, but be flexible
Firstly, you need to map out a job specification. Include everything you need from your developer, all the tools and technologies that you currently use, plus any you want to utilize in the future, and build up a clear picture of what your ideal hire looks like.
Think about the goals you’re looking to achieve with this hire, what development standards they’ll be expected to adhere to, whether they’ll be working with specific libraries and toolkits, and whether you already have a code base in place, or if they’ll be creating applications from scratch.
This profile will be your guide throughout the hiring process, and help you nail down candidates with the right skill set for the role, but it absolutely should not be taken as gospel.
There’s a finite number of cloud developers available, and the number of businesses who want their services far outstrip the amount of talent in the market. Sticking rigidly to a vision of a developer who might not even exist, much less be willing and able to join your team, is a recipe for disaster, so try and be flexible. Don’t waste time and effort looking for a unicorn when a horse can get you from A to B just as well.
Separate your job spec into must-haves and nice-to-haves, and keep in mind that often a candidate who’s enthusiastic about learning new things and keeping their skills up to date is just as valuable as a development oracle. Remember, things change quickly in tech, so without a keenness to learn, a rigid set of skills can become outdated fast.
Of course, the exact skills you’re after will depend on the cloud service and environment you’re using, but here are some key cloud development skills to look out for:
- Languages like .NET, Java, J2EE, Spring, Ruby on Rails, and Scala
- Python, Perl, HTML5 and PHP
- APIs like REST and SOAP
- Design patterns and UML
- Object-oriented programming
- Big data handling tech like Hadoop, HPCC, Storm, or Qubole
- Continuous integration skills like Moles, PEX, and Delegate
- Platform as a service and infrastructure-as-a-service platforms
- DevOps technologies such as CFEngine, Zookeeper, Capistrano, and Chef
- Agile software development practices
2. How to find the best talent
Good cloud developers aren’t exactly falling from the sky, so don’t expect to throw out a handful of LinkedIn messages and find your dream candidate. That’s essentially what your competitors will be doing, so be prepared to do some extra legwork to beat them to the best candidates.
Look to alternative pools of talent. Online communities like GitHub and StackOverflow, niche job boards, user groups, and university hiring fairs are all sources you should be utilising to find developers.
If you really want to position your company as an engaged, exciting place for tech professionals to work, then create spaces for them and let them come to you. Sponsor hackathons, host meetups, or support up-and-coming developers by offering advice or resources to local students nearing graduation.
3. If you build it, they will come
Knowing where to look is the first part of tracking down your first developer. The second part is selling them on your brand.
Since they’re so in-demand, good developers will be batting off pitches from companies and recruiters on a regular basis. This is where you need to differentiate your business. All the best developers work for someone else, so you need to offer a tempting package to lure them away.
That’s not to say that smaller businesses can’t compete with bigger firms with bigger budgets - you just need to get creative. If you’re an SME, you’re in a great position to be more flexible and think outside the box when it comes to what you can offer a developer.
When you’re trying to attract great talent, especially in a tight market, you need to remember that it’s a two-way street; you need to sell yourself to the candidate as much as you’d expect them to sell themselves to you.
A lot of professionals today have things they value as much, if not more, than a fat cheque. Things like robust training options, a clear career path, flexible working, or simply the chance to work in a challenging role and supporting a great mission can often be enough to pique the interest of passionate, dedicated people. Be authentic, sell them on your culture, and focus on what makes your company a better place to work than the countless other places that will be vying to hire the same candidate. Find out what they want from a job and do your best to make that work for both of you.
4. Sizing up a candidate
It doesn’t always take a developer to hire a developer, but if you’re looking to hire your very first programmer then you might want some resource in place to help you size up your potential candidates.
If you have other tech department staff who can help decipher the technical aspects of a candidate’s CV or sit in on the interview to ask the right questions, get them involved. Many developers will have code portfolios where you can see their past work, or have credentials documented on platforms like CoderByte. There are also tools out there to help you validate a developer’s technical skills. Sites like Coderbyte, Codewars, or Quick Base can be used to set coding challenges.
Perhaps the most important thing to do is have a candidate walk you through a recent project from beginning to end. You can read a list of skills and technologies from a CV but getting the developer to explain how they’ve used those skills practically to solve problems or actively improve the companies they’ve worked for will give you a better idea of how they operate. Problem-solving skills, how they communicate with others, and how they approach issues are all crucial factors to consider.
Great cloud developers are out there, even if you might need to turn over more than a few stones to find them. Distilling the essence of what you want from a programmer, being flexible on everything else, and creating a great package that will attract professionals to your brand will help you reel in the talent you need to achieve your cloud goals.
About the Author
James McDonagh is Director of EMEA at Microsoft technology recruitment specialist Nigel Frank International. James joined the firm in 2010 after completing a Master's degree in international studies and diplomacy. Based in Newcastle upon Tyne, he also oversees the company’s Warsaw office, which launched in 2018.