Where the hell are all the great senior software developers and hands-on engineering directors?

I took over software engineering at an awesome little billion-dollar public company called 2U almost nine months ago.

Jeff Patton session on story mapping

In the interim, we’ve been undergoing a lot of awesome changes and bringing in world-class outside help like Fred George and Jeff Patton to help train up our talented and highly-motivated existing staff.

Recent OO Bootcamp training with my old Thoughtworks mentor Fred George

So far everything is going great except for one thing…

Recruiting great senior talent to expand the team is turning out to be near impossible.

Tons and tons of junior people out there, but we have enough of them already. Tons of interesting and potentially great people that have never paired or don’t know how to test-drive clean code, but we don’t need them either.

What I absolutely need is experienced agile craftspeople. People that have been XP evangelists. People that truly understand OO and SOLID principles (even if they’ve since moved on to functional paradigms.) People that earnestly believe in perpetual self-improvement, continuous learning and capable of mentoring less experienced, but eager-to-learn younger talent.

I’m starting to get super frustrated about it, because my assumption is that I have everything in place to be able to recruit the senior talent I need:

  1. Ed-tech company with positive mission, solid financial outlook and tons of interesting and complex software challenges [✓]
  2. Empowered, cross-functional teams writing clean, defect-free, well-tested code, doing Pivotal/Thoughtbot-style pair programming, and continually integrating and deploying their code. Strong emphasis on software craftsmanship (aka modern agile) [✓]
  3. A range of programming technologies and experts to work with, from the bleeding edge (serverless, clojure, docker, etc) to more traditional Python and Node stuff too [✓]
  4. Above-market total compensation packages, including bonus, great equity grants and benefits [✓]
  5. Opportunity to work with diverse set of peers of all colors, backgrounds, gender and orientation at our cool offices in NYC or full-time remote from home [✓]

Maybe I’m delusional and my list is not enough to compete with Google and cooler startups. Maybe the worldwide developer shortage is actually that bad. Maybe our job listings are not good enough? Or maybe I’m just not getting the word out widely enough??

I mean, talent should be flooding our pipeline, right?

We have hard-working internal recruiters. I comb Hired.com listings weekly. I spam my social media and personal networks. I’ve even started to pay attention to unsolicited emails from expensive outside recruiters…

Mind you, we do have a pipeline, in fact I’m interviewing at least one or two candidates every week. Lots of those candidates are nice, and qualified in a traditional sense, but they are not senior enough in the way that I want!

Bottom line: I swear this blog post is not just a recruiting gimmick!

If you consider yourself world class talent like I’m describing above — What the hell am I missing?

If you are a hiring manager in a similar situation, I really want to know — What’s your experience? Are you having the same issues? How are you finding top talent?

Please respond via medium or hit me up via email. Also there’s a Hacker News thread.