Warning: I’m quite sarcastic (at least this is what I’m told …) so please don’t be offended by anything you’ll read below!
When you start to build your own company, you are, most likely, not able to hire very experienced and skilled staff — trust me, I’ve been there. For the first 5–6 years of running MPC, I couldn’t afford higher top-shelf developers either. Here come some questions to think about: should you actually worry about that? Or should you hire one great developer and no one else? Well, I honestly think that if you don’t hire Junior staff, you do not deserve the seniors, and here is why.
Your First Hire
The first hire is a big step for any person. Many companies start with few co-founders, each of them good at something else so it’s much easier to get more work done. In that case, there’s no need to hasten the hiring as you aren’t alone (it was just the opposite for me).
Believe me, hiring the initial employee and inviting someone to join you in your business adventure is an immense experience! I was a lone wolf for years before I could afford that luxury. As you may know, I didn’t build my company with outside funding like VCs or loans. My first employee was actually my friend from the University. We studied together. We were roughly at the same level in terms of technical skills (but this soon changed as Adrian is a technical genius). It turned out that a business and a technical/creative mind created the best combo.
Time passed, we had to find more people to help us as the business grew — don’t worry, it will happen to you as well (unless it won’t). But then, a wall called salaries emerged. In today’s world, a great developer doesn’t look for a job. The job looks for him/her. On top of that, the wages that they can get from more prominent players on the market are enormous. What is the solution?
Well, you can get another mortgage on your house, sell your kidney or rob a bank! No, just kidding :) There’s a much easier way.
The solution is to hire less experienced and skilled people but with great potential (because let’s face it, no one is born a coding master). Yes, they will be hard to find, and of course, it will take time to get them up to speed. On top of that, the interview won’t tell you for sure if someone is showing talent…
But even considering the risks, it’s simply worth it. You can find a brilliant developer when you least expect it. In my career, we have hired dozens of developers just after high school who are now seniors and are the leading technology drivers at MPC.
Of course, it wasn’t an easy task and required a lot of patience… I know now that there were some candidates we shouldn’t have rejected as well as there were some that we shouldn’t have hired. But this is all part of the game — sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but overall it’s well worth it.
You’re probably thinking that you need someone experienced right now, not in a distant future. Sure, this may be true and there might be no other way than to put your money on the table… But, the sooner you start hiring open-minded, young people, the better for your company. It would also be helpful to focus not only on the present but also on the future. This process takes time, and you know what they say — Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Think about this as a long-term investment that will benefit both you and the young people you employ. Of course, there is an economic advantage as well — let’s not forget that it’s business after all. It’s not only about becoming a Santa Claus in the IT world, helping someone get into the industry (and probably giving them their first real job).
When hiring Juniors, you’re able to share your experience with someone who is willing and wants to learn. They won’t have to make the same mistakes you did in the beginning. At MPC, no matter what your “rank” is, you can have an impact on company decisions, processes, etc. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve. Young, creative people are full of ideas! It’s a win-win situation.
What To Look For
Discovering hidden gems isn’t effortless. In fact, this is the hardest part of building your team. You need to know who you want to hire. From my experience, no matter how cruel it may sound, you’re looking for a young candidate with great potential who doesn’t care about the world outside the computer and the internet (some would call such a person a “no-life”). Of course, I am not talking about browsing Facebook all day long; I’m talking about people who are curious about how things work. People who write code for pleasure, who spend countless hours trying to solve a puzzle just for fun.
A side note: if you look at the CV and under interests, there is no Heavy Metal, RPG, or Fantasy Literature, this is probably not your candidate and a huge red flag. This is a 99% sufficient criteria!
Work With What You Got
This is a great benefit; hiring junior developers teaches you to work with what you got. You need to learn how to teach, continually. You can also focus on instilling the best developer practices and the best way you like to organize your work.
Juniors are like a blank canvas, and you are the one who can create a masterpiece (I got carried away a bit). Such experience isn’t only beneficial for them; you can learn something new and valuable from every person you encounter in your life. Junior employees are particularly good examples of that as they’re not limited by any past experiences and are able to prove everyone wrong thanks to their clear heads.
The benefits are countless. When you invest and believe in someone, there’s some sort of gratitude present in your relation, as well as more devotion to the success of your company. When I look back, all people we hired just after high school are still with us — and loyalty to the company seems pretty uncommon nowadays. Another huge advantage is that you work with very young, creative colleagues full of energy. I am one of the oldest people at MPC, and I am “just” 33.
This approach also builds a great team spirit, when your coworkers see that you’re giving something back and invest in the youth. There are many possibilities apart from the recruitment process to discover talented people: internships, free workshops, or lectures.
The thing is that the internship can’t be seen as cheap labor for 1 or 3 months. If you know you can’t afford someone don’t offer them an internship (or make it clear in the beginning that you won’t be able to hire them in the long run). This could cause your company terrible press and isn’t the right thing to do. Be nice!
Give Something Back
You may not agree with me on this, but I will defend the claim that companies that don’t invest in Junior employees aren’t worthy of having Senior staff. Hiring Juniors is a win-win situation, and I cannot wrap my head around the idea of not doing so. It is essential to pass the knowledge and (believe me) a lot cheaper than hiring only experienced staff.
Thanks for reading! Hopefully, you found something interesting in the article — I can assure you that every word in the text is honest and comes from my own experience when I was building MPC (and I actually still am, we’re constantly growing). Please share your thoughts and I will be more than glad to discuss the topic further!