Friday, October 5, 2007

Pulling from the Community

I just read another article about a company that has been able to make what appears to be most of its' key hires through pulling people from the open source community in which they built their organization on. In this article, JT Smith, President of Plain Black Corporation, talks about the process he has gone through to hire the necessary developers to keep up with the expansion that his company is realizing. It is a well written piece that describes the process that Plain Black undergoes when examining potential talent for the organization. In essence, they have been able to make the recruiting piece of their business very efficient by utilizing the talent that they interact with on a daily basis. Thus, hiring the members of that community that they feel are best suited for their corporate culture. Good approach by JT and the other members of his staff, since recruiting can sometimes be a long and arduous process (especially in this market).

There are a few items that might be missing from this article if anyone else is looking to mimic this recruiting process. I would be willing to bet that JT has allowed some of his staff to work remotely. Usually, from our experience, open source based startups have been good at realizing the benefits of a telecommute arrangement. However, that is not always the case. I know I have stressed this time and time again, but in order to build the best engineering team, I believe it is a must to be flexible in the work arrangements that you offer. And, no more so than in the open source world. Unfortunately, this message has fallen on deaf ears more times than not.

The other major point is potential competition for Plain Black. I do not know enough about the WebGUI project and the number of organizations utilizing it as a base of their business model. But, I would imagine that luckily for JT and his organization, they rule the roost. Therefore, they essentially get the pick of the litter, because they are the WebGUI company. Very similar to Zend when they were formed. They are after all, Zend, the PHP company, so they were able to attract some of the best and brightest minds from the PHP community. As PHP has continued to gather steam over the years, you continually see influential active members of the PHP community dispersed throughout a number of companies.

Once that happens, we revert back to factors that companies deal with whether or not they operate in the open source space. Items such as compensation and benefits become very important to prospective employees, and it is essential that your offerings are competitive in the market. Also important is culture, and this is hopefully where open source companies can set themselves apart. There should be a likeness in the values and ideals of the potential employee and the company based on the project. That can give your organization a very big leg up in the constant hunt for talent. But, as I always hear on a daily basis, candidates always want to know about the entire package. So, there are always certain items that are more relevant to one person and not so much to the other. It is the beauty of being in the people business.

As I said before, this was a good read. I am always interested in hearing about the success of open source based companies and their recruiting methodologies. So far, it seems that JT and his staff are approaching their need for talent in a very good manner.

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