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16 ways to build a better dev team

Paul Heltzel | June 21, 2016
The secret to building and maintaining a great development team requires transparency, flexibility, and yes, good vibes

13. Lean on your team when looking for new hires

Attracting -- and retaining -- top talent is possibly the most important part of engineering good products. The time spent fixing problems related to staffing, misunderstandings between groups, and keeping people motivated is better spent developing, communicating effectively, and cleaning up technical debt.

“Make sure that your teams are strong stakeholders in the recruiting process,” says GitHub’s Lambert. “Look for people who match the skills of the team.”

Recruitment is one of the hardest parts of running a good dev team, and it doesn’t necessarily get easier, says Skyla Loomis, director of Cloudant engineering for IBM Analytic Platform Services. But the answer to some recruiting problems may be closer than you think.

“A good place to start is leveraging the network of your existing team,” Loomis says. “A friend or ex-colleague is going to be most effective at influencing a strong candidate, and they're more likely to be a match for your team's culture.”

Bret Waters, CEO of Bay area software consulting company Tivix, says nothing is more important than how you recruit top talent.

“We have every new candidate interview with five to six members of the existing engineering team,” Waters says. “Strong teams participate in recruiting and selecting new team members. Weak teams have new bozos selected for them.”

14. Be open -- and practical -- when hiring

Given the importance of team cohesion, not to mention the sellers’ market when it comes to hiring devs, the recruiting process should find your team and projects a bit more center stage than you might think.

“Shape the recruiting process around the work they are actually going to be doing,” says GitHub’s Lambert. “Give them a chance to evaluate you and the company as much as you are evaluating them, and as part of that, share as much as you can about the inner workings of the company and direct them to resources that can better help them understand the organization -- for example, your engineering blog.”

15. Recruit passively -- and promote from within

Sencha’s senior director of product management, Gautam Agrawal, advises what he calls a passive recruitment strategy that gives you a sense of who’s available before you have a position to fill.

“Just as employees look for opportunities, employers should also create a program where they are networking with candidates that they would like to have to generate a pool of candidates that would help them to pick someone when they actually need them.” -- Gautam Agrawal, senior director of product management, Sencha

“Just as employees look for opportunities, employers should also create a program where they are networking with candidates that they would like to have to generate a pool of candidates that would help them to pick someone when they actually need them,” Agrawal says.

 

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