Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Where have the PHP developers gone?

It seems as though there is a lack of PHP talent in the marketplace that has intensified over the last 6 months or so. In some of the select markets where we are always searching for good senior level PHP talent, it has been very slim pickings as opposed to just a year or two ago. Now, we have other areas where we experience the same phenomenon, especially in the area of Linux kernel engineers over the years, but the PHP market was not always that way. So, the question is, why is that the case? Here are a few of the reasons that I have come up with, but I would love to hear your thoughts as well.

1. PHP developers have moved to Ruby on Rails. That is one that I use to hear quite a bit. There is no doubt that there is some truth to that statement, but recently I have started to question it. Lately, I have spoken with a few PHP developers that ultimately became enthralled with RoR and thus made the switch. However, after developing with RoR for a year or so, they find themselves back where they started in the PHP world. And, that is by their own choice. So, I know that it is indeed taking some PHP developers away, but I am not as convinced as I was earlier that it is taking as many as I thought it was.

2. All the good talent already has jobs. There is no question that this is very much true. The market in our space is still a good one, and if you are a good engineer, there is no doubt it is not that hard to find a good position. But, even with that being said, before I would always see a new crop of PHP engineers emerge and join the ranks of their senior brethren. For some reason, I am not seeing the same in today's market. Perhaps we can go back to number one with this one, and all of the "up and coming" engineers, if you will, are more interested in RoR than PHP. I have not been able to come up with a conclusion on this as of yet.

3. The talent lies outside of the U.S. border. Well, that is a given just like everything other area of open source. We have made great strides in this country, but we are still behind the likes of the European Union in developing open source talent. And, I think you can lump PHP into this equation. I have seen a lot of engineering schools embrace Linux and other open source software into their education programs, but this takes some time to evolve. So, we are probably on the right track (somewhat), but we have a way to go yet.

4. Consulting firms are eating up all the talent. This is the one that I have come to believe might be the most crucial out there. It appears that lately when I come across a good senior PHP developer, they are tied to some consulting firm. Essentially, these consulting firms are applying for as many H1-B visa applications as they can, and then bringing in some of that talent that lies overseas. Why this is well and good, it does not help out the organization that is looking for a PHP developer to be their employee. They are nearly forced into the situation of having to deal with a consulting firm due to the lack of talent in the marketplace. And, ultimately this might be a hinderance in keeping these talented individuals on our soil long term. That is if they choose to stay. The consulting firm might just keep their visa current for as long as they can engage in client projects, and then send them back to their homeland if things dry up for that particular firm. Instead, a company that is able to bring this person on as an employee might fill out the necessary paperwork to try to get this person the documentation to keep this individual in the country for the long haul and thus preserving technical talent that this country desperately needs.

So, that is just a few of the areas that I feel might be causing this imbalance in the marketplace. But, I would like to hear from anyone that might have input on this as well. Look forward to hearing from you.

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