/ What Software Skills Should I Ask For?

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Rob Exile Ward 07 Feb 2020

I'm involved with a small company that develops software for a small vertical market. We do pretty well developing the core desktop MS-SQL based app using .Net but we want to expand, adding browser or app functionality to our system. Trouble is, none of us have any experience in that space, so really need to beef up the team. Any suggestions about what skills we should be looking for, and where we should be looking?

mondite 07 Feb 2020
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

Is it going to be self hosted or will you be hosting? In which case extra set of skills will be needed. Either in direct setup or good knowledge of one of the cloud platforms.

For front end problem is the framework of choice seems to change monthly. Ask for one with knowledge of .Net for the backend which will reduce the numbers somewhat.

Either need design skills as well (or contract in a designer to do mockups) and decent knowledge of web accessibility.

1
Rob Exile Ward 07 Feb 2020
In reply to mondite:

Well I think we are pretty good at Azure - our application is usually hosted on it. I'm glad it's not just me then who thinks that framework fashions change so quickly.

Phil Anderson 07 Feb 2020
In reply to mondite:

Joel Spolsky did a series of blogs on interviewing which are well worth a read.

The basic thrust of them though, is that looking for specific software skills is not a good way to find great developers. What you really want is programmers who are "smart, and get things done".

They'll soon learn the stuff they don't know, and it's more important that they write well-structured, maintainable code than know every last detail of React/Angular/Ruby on Rails/Whatever. That stuff's only a google away.

freeflyer 08 Feb 2020
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

I haven't done any recruiting for a while, but this is what worked best for me:

A really good avenue is word of mouth via your existing staff; good devs tend to know each other.

Recruit locally by preference.

The ones that did best were nearly all self-starters rather than trained up to the eyeballs.

I ask them to describe a project they've done, and then give them one or two examples of things they might work on to see how they would approach it.

Do you need steady but sure, or brilliant and wayward; both have their uses.

Beware of the ambitious ones - you should be able to tell from the cv as well as the interview; best case, they move on after a couple of years, worst case they persuade the rest of your team to come too. I admit this is a bit paranoid, but it happened a couple of times.

I believe Spolsky did well with a whole load of interns, presumably before SO got huge and famous; could be a plan if you're on a budget. 

Alternatively, see who in the existing team is prepared to get stuck in.

Just reading your post, I'd say you might need several skill sets possibly not available in one person! Get someone with good web graphic design skills (or contract them in). This really pays dividends. I would look to sticking with the MS toolset as that's what you're familiar with, although of course, there will be many naysayers!

An alternative to web development would be to make the existing app work in a browser; it all depends on what people's expectations of the user interface are. Think about mobile phone support up front, as it's expensive and difficult, and pre-planning is essential.

Finally, look hard at the split of work between the server and the client, if you haven't already done so, as it's likely to be radically different on the web.

Good luck!

RomTheBear 08 Feb 2020
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

> I'm involved with a small company that develops software for a small vertical market. We do pretty well developing the core desktop MS-SQL based app using .Net but we want to expand, adding browser or app functionality to our system. Trouble is, none of us have any experience in that space, so really need to beef up the team. Any suggestions about what skills we should be looking for, and where we should be looking?

 

You’re probably looking for a good all round web developer. Someone with a good portfolio of complex, well designed business web apps using modern front end framework such as React or Vue. But it sounds like you’ll need that person to have some DevOps skills too.

Good luck, finding a good web developer is extremely difficult. There are mostly bad ones. It took me 1.5 years to finally find a good one !

wintertree 08 Feb 2020
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

You want someone who you can work with first and foremost - they’re going to be developing an appendage to a well defined core that is out of their control. Some people will want to come in, change/optimise/improve your core and get the hump at having to use something they weren’t involved in designing.  It doesn’t matter how good their software skills are if they’re not going to fit in to the team and the project landscape.

Conversely if you find a a developer with high motivation, positive team working and so on, you’ll be able to help them rapidly learn whatever skills they need for the project.

That being said, if you don’t have a person with a strong information security background on your team it’s something to consider when widening access to your core tech.

I’m afraid I’ve got no actual suggestions on specific skills as I’m far removed from the Microsoft ecosystem.  UI/UX would seem to be a priority thought - there I’d choose on experience and aptitude over technical proficiency with a specific environment as if you get someone with experience and motivation they’ll pick up any environment they need to.


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