The NYC Test: Can We Hire a Local PHP Developer?

February 4, 2008   

(photo credit: Dave Parmet)
A few weeks back, Charlie O’Donnell asked, in a blog post, an important question: Why aren’t you working for a startup?

Now it’s my turn to ask: “Developers of New York, why aren’t you working for BricaBox?”

Two weeks ago, Kyle and I posted a job opening at BricaBox on the nextNY job board, Authentic Jobs, 37Signals, Zend Jobs, Center Networks, and Craigslist.

One may hope (I did), with the greater-than-zero visibility our project has, we could get the attention of some great independents. People who know us know that working with Kyle and me would be a fun, flexible, and meaningful. We made it clear in our postings that we’re looking for someone to be a local team-member, not just a code-monkey we send specs to and then don’t invite out to drink beers at 2A, or get BBQ at Georgia’s or sip coffee at The Roasting Plant.

No, we were looking to form a great relationship with someone and we’re building something of engineering importance and intrinsic value. And while it may not be the dreamiest of the dream jobs out there, I know from reading the other job postings on the same boards, that working with us is in the top-teir of rewarding jobs in NY market right now.

So, before analyzing the lack of response to our ads as total rejection [tear], I started asking around.

First I turned to my startup CTO friends – folks who are developers themselves and also looking for more hands to help on their projects. Guess what: everyone is having the same problem. The shortage of talent in NYC is real. There are tons of great developers available in other places – I heard from folks in Chicago, Colorado, Washington, India, and California – but the lack of response in NYC was beyond startling. It was troubling, for me and everyone else.

Probably the best insight on the matter came from my very own partner and CTO of BricaBox: Kyle. He reminded me that startups = risk, and that with the economy the way it is right now people would feel more comfortable working in an unexciting job that’s definitely going to be around in a year. While we can hope and expect this for our own startups, we can’t compete with most companies in the job security market. We’re offering a 3 month contract, and while that should look like security for many independents, perhaps it’s getting more and more frightening considering the economic crisis our country is in.

Of course there’s another obvious analysis here: supply is not low, demand is high. I imagine this is also a part of the equation, but I think supply and risk is the real issue here.

So, it’s sad for me to say, because I’m such a booster of the NY tech community, but in my mind NYC is failing us right now. I’d almost like to think that we’re the only ones having this problem, but I know we’re not. Everyone is. And this makes me wonder: what’s the solution? Are we fools to try and work with local folks? Can we only hire when it’s permanent? Should we kick the dream of finding a team-member, rather than a code-monkey, to the curb? I can’t imagine the latter is more attractive than the former, but it all goes back to Charlie’s question:

Why aren’t you working for a startup?

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