New year, old stack

Attracting software developers remains a hot topic. There is no easy solution and in some cases, it can really block the growth of your organisation.

I was talking with a company that had a very specific but common problem. Happy customers, healthy growth, hard to find employees. They had a solution based on AngularJS and found it hard to attract developers.

Why is that?

For a developer, not staying up-to-date is career suicide. If you’ve poured the last 5 years purely in AngularJS, switching jobs is going to be a hassle.

Javascript frameworks are like the stock market. Go all-in on an unproven hip newbie and risk losing everything. Stick with the tried-and-tested and get small gains only.

Developers need to diversify their tech stack. Also: developers want to diversify their tech stack. Attracting and keeping devs with “old tech” is a problem.

So why don’t you just upgrade to the newest and best? Because by the time you’ve rewritten your front-end in Vue, Svelte is all the rage. It’s a never-ending race and in the meantime, you’re not delivering much value to your end-users.

So what can you do?

You can try and buy talent. Outsource the work to agencies and freelancers. For the right amount of mula, they will take on any codebase.

But there are other, better ways. There is no one great answer to this, but here are a few strategies you can attempt:

Hire juniors

Software developers can work everywhere unless they don’t have the right experience. Landing that first job is hard. So, see if your team has room for a junior developer. No, they will not hit the ground running and yes, you’ll have to invest time. You’ll end up with a developer who’s eager to learn and who can grow with your company.

Juniors don’t have to be straight-out-of-college either. The woman who did a Web Dev Bootcamp. The middle-aged project manager who always wanted to code and has a few pet projects on Github.

Go remote

If there aren’t a lot of AngularJS devs in your region, why limit yourself? The world is a big place and English has become the lingua franca. It takes some experimentation and trust to find a good remote dev, but once you do, the benefits can be staggering. Somewhere out there, there is a coding parent who lives in the middle of nowhere and doesn’t want to move to the big city. Welcome that person into your team, treat them well and they’ll never leave your company because of tech stack issues.

Diversify your tech anyway

Except for COBOL and the paperclip, no technology lasts forever. That means your current stack is going to become unsupported in the future. Finding people is going to become harder and more expensive over time. Diversifying your tech stack is not a bad idea. That’s not changing tech just to change tech, but a wise business strategy.

Have a new product on the horizon? Is there a new component in the works? Why not pick a new technology for those? You can get the best of both worlds. If you have an existing front-end in AngularJS, but a new greenfield project in Vue, it gets a lot easier to attract the right talent. It also makes sure your current team stays. They’re not wasting their marketability on an old technology either.

In short, don’t switch tech to attract devs, but make sure you as a company are not too far behind. Upgrade within your stack (shoutout to every company still running Java 8) and add newer technologies along the way. Don’t just aim for the average developer because they already have a job. Aim for the outliers.

There are far better ways to attract the right devs than rewriting your app and wasting money.