We have two great interns, Sara and Zack, working remotely this summer building phone apps and, in parallel, employees Hokan and Matt are working hard on new phone apps here in the Sheridan offices as well. The bit of eye candy to the right is a screenshot Matt sent in yesterday of his progress so far to get HazMatPlacardsPlus running in the emulator on his development machine.
As always, in a startup, we’re trying to accomplish at least a couple of things at the same time: 1) get more product out into the marketplaces and 2) work out our tools, processes, and systems for utilizing short-term and/or remote technical resources.
There was a really interesting post and exchange of comments on the Hubspot blog earlier this year about how hard it is to find great developers in the Boston area. Now, I admit my initial reaction to Dharmesh Shah bemoaning how hard it is to find great talent in Boston was more like irritation than admiration. (Try doing it in Wyoming!) And several folks did post comments urging Dharmesh to, essentially, ‘get over it and hire remote developers instead’ with links to a 37 Signals post about how well remote teams can work. But I really admire and agree with Dharmesh’s response:
Regarding telecommuting — I think the ability to manage distribute teams is a great talent to have. If you have that, you should use it — it greatly expands the pool of potential talent. At my company, HubSpot, we haven’t invested in building that talent (we’ve invested elsewhere). There’s no right/wrong answer — but what’s right for us right now, is keeping the team “together” as much as possible.
In a startup you have to have focus and have to decide what core competencies you are going to develop and what you are NOT going to try to do. Hubspot has made the choice that they will take more time recruiting and pay more to have a co-located team; however hard/expensive that may be, it is certainly better than trying to both recruit locally and dabble around with remote resources.
“Here” at SPG, however, it is clear to me that managing distributed teams is going to HAVE to become a core competency so that some of us being here in Sheridan, Wyoming, does not become a limiting factor in what we can accomplish. Even more, I want to create a culture and a set of processes that lets us effectively partner with developers who are a) located elsewhere and b) may not want to work with us full-time, year-round, year after year. Our best partners are likely to be committed to a specific geography for some reason (whether they love it or are just tied to it through parenting a child who needs to finish high school or caring for an aging parent who needs someone living close by). And they may also view their technical skills as a ‘day job’ that pays for what they really want to do: climb mountains, make music, finish college, or stay home and take care of the kids.
I expect it is going to take us a long time to build up a workforce of such needles-in-haystacks stars. In the meantime, we can use experiments such as our Summer of Code to be ready to make them effective when we find them.