Talent Meetup – Grow an All-Star Dev Team (Event Recap)

On March 22nd, the BCTIA and BC Tech Jobs hosted another successful Talent Meetup where seasoned tech professionals shared insights on how to grow an all-star development team. On the panel were Bethany Foote from Hootsuite, Khurram Virani from Lighthouse Labs, Will Chan from East Side Games, Kevin Lysyk from Avigilon, and Joe Wong from Adacado. Panelists, moderated by Charlyne Fothergill of Lighthouse Labs, tackled each question from a different perspective and all shared valuable experiences with hiring companies and job seekers in the audience.

Talent Meetup Recap

Here are some highlights from the panel discussion:

How would you characterize a junior developer?

There is no industry standard and the label “junior” will vary from company to company. You need to look past titles, assess actual experiences, and determine how well they fit with the position’s desired skillset – many developers go through their entire careers focused on one single area and are not ready to go out and architect something on their own.

Co-ops at Hootsuite usually transition out of the junior role after 1 to 2 years of full-time work. Key indicators are their abilities to work independently, need for monitoring, and abilities to recognize when they are going off track. Other panelists stated that this time period cannot be applied to everyone and it should be a combination of time put in and level of confidence in their work.

What are some benefits of bringing in “green” talent?

They are very eager to learn and don’t come with predetermined notions of how something should be done. There is less hesitation if they don’t know what they are afraid of – often more experience leads to more hesitation.

Hiring juniors can help foster a mentoring culture at the company, which can impact the whole development team. Also, new grads, co-ops, and interns are much like “clean slates” and it is an awarding experience to see them grow into professionals.

How important is actual experience in your coding language?

It depends. There are languages that have their parallels and will be easy to pick up, but others will require additional training. Also, transitioning from non-functional to functional programming may be difficult and will take time to adjust – some coders are very visual, some are not.

Having full-stack developers allow them to specialize in a certain area but also have the opportunity to develop other skills – this is more common now with agile work systems.

When should you hold back on hiring a junior?

You need to look at your deliverables. If there are tight deadlines, refrain from bringing on a junior. It’s also important to assess the ratio of juniors, intermediates, and seniors on each team and make sure there is a good balance.

Startups that have a good business idea but not a lot of capital yet may consider hiring a junior to join their team. However, juniors should not work where they will be the only developer, since they lack experience in architecture and thinking about the “big picture”. Alternatively, you can bring on a part-time, hourly, senior developer who can help mentor the junior. Like a physiotherapist, the mentor can provide support in needed areas only and slowly “let go” as the mentee gains more experience and becomes more comfortable with the job.

General Advice

  • Fostering a culture of mentorship and trust are key to growing a successful team
  • Try to have more of a conversation with potential hires and not structure interviews like a test – getting them relaxed will allow you to see their full potential
  • Don’t hold them back, let them play! Get them straight to the code on the first day and have them start solving problems
  • Don’t give tasks that are too difficult because their confidence level will go down. Building confidence will lead to better decision making

A big thank you to Bethany, Khurram, Will, Kevin, and Joe for sharing their experiences and insights, and to all attendees for making this such a successful event. We look forward to seeing you at the next Talent Meetup!

Talent Meetups focus on a variety of current technology and career advancement topics. To stay tuned on upcoming events, join our Meetup group here. If you’d like to join a Meetup panel as a speaker and promote your employment brand, please email clouzada@bctia.org and ryan@bcjobs.ca.