In the last year, I have spoken with over 100 companies about their experiences working with new-to-tech talent. I’ve heard the best success stories and some of the worst. Through it all, there’s a solid agreement that keeping a junior talent pipeline is critical, and here’s what they say about why.
As one panelist at a LaunchCode event put it, “Junior developers remind me why I liked my job in the first place.” We like to celebrate wins, and we like to see people accomplishing their goals. It gives employees mile markers to feel good about in between sprints and product releases because every week becomes a measure of progress.
“Junior developers remind me why I liked my job in the first place.”
Our processes and our products get better when team members ask great questions. As learners, new tech talent helps teams see inefficiencies in their processes. When we teach, we learn more and see things in a new light.
Furthermore, advanced team members feel seen and acknowledged when asked to provide mentorship. It’s a sign to them that their coding skills, business acumen, or raw talent is noticed and appreciated.
We all do. But the part of our jobs that we have done so many times, over and over again is new and invigorating for someone who is early in their coding career. Not everything we touch in a week necessitates the use of the best part of our professional experience. Let’s spread those experiences and knowledge around.
The part of our jobs that we have done so many times, over and over again is new and invigorating for someone who is early in their coding career.
A company partner recently commented to me that adding data analysts to his data scientist team meant that the folks with advanced degrees and more years of experience could focus on increasingly complex questions. He didn’t need to burn them out by putting more on their plates when he could divvy up the tasks in a different manner.
Teams that actively engage feedback in all directions and identify formal and informal ladders for professional growth, foster junior developers who are loyal to that company. Loyal employees work hard, build amazing products, stay longer than average, and serve as great recruiters for future hires.
Scientists also tell us that diversity makes for a healthy ecosystem. This is no less true for companies with too much senior talent. It makes for heavy budgets, limited promotions, and frustrated engineers. By making sure that your team is balanced, you make sure that there is a flow and reduce the likelihood of a constant hiring churn.
Building job descriptions that require purple unicorns can be an exhausting, time consuming, and expensive process. One engineer who had spent months conducting technical interviews remarked to me “What if I had put all that time into supporting the ramp up of someone who is ALSO putting in all that time?”
[bctt tweet="Building job descriptions that require purple unicorns can be exhausting" username="launch_code"]
Junior talent costs less, which is good for your company’s budget, but is also good for our local economy. We need people buying mid-priced houses. We need stores and restaurants that people at many economic levels can afford. We need somebody to buy used cards. If there are not jobs that compensate at grounded rates, our neighborhoods just float to the top and price most of us out of a liveable life.
There’s also an inherent challenge of relying exclusively on junior talent from colleges and universities. For example, it’s estimated that Portland, Oregon will have roughly 8,000 vacant tech jobs by 2020, a small portion of the one million expected nationally. Oregon colleges and universities are producing roughly 500 computer science graduates per year, leaving a large talent gap that can be filled with expensive relocations or local candidates with compensation expectations that match the local cost of living.
I am unable to count the number of technical folks who tell me about an early supervisor, instructor, or colleague who took a chance on them. That person cheered them on when they hit a huge road block, introduced them to shortcuts in the development environment, shone a light on sticky office politics, or was simply kind and humane when a code review didn’t go well. If you think about it, you probably have a couple of these folks in your work history too. How are you paying it forward in your current role? Are you?
How are you paying it forward in your current role? Are you?
A community leader at a recent women in tech event noted that if we always hire people with 10-15 years experience, we will only find the employees who were in the business 10-15 years ago. The tech sector consistently talks about wanting to diversify our employee base and create inclusive cultures. Programs aimed at K-12 and higher education are important, but it will take us a long time to measure their effectiveness. If we want to iterate at anything faster than a multi-generational speed, we have to find new ways to get adult code learners into our companies - so that they can then advance into mid and senior levels.
By Kari Fass
LaunchCode Company Relations Manager