Talent Conveyor Belt


There is a tech talent shortage. Currently, the market for any tech talent in the UK is ballistic. The pandemic forced people to switch to remote working. Tech talent, largely, embraced this and showed that as tech talent is very tech literate there was no impact on their ability to perform their core functions.

This then also opened the market up for every company hiring remote tech talent to hire talent from anywhere in the UK. Which has meant that a lot of regional developers have taken roles for London/Southern salaries while continuing to live in the regions where the cost of living is much lower.

Salaries are shooting up. High end, experienced talent can pick and chose their roles. Companies are hurting for experienced talent.

And this is only an amplification of a pain the industry was already feeling before the pandemic.

Many companies are not prepared to hire the masses of people looking to get started in the industry. They’re not prepared to take on and develop juniors. They have a short-sighted mindset and no willingness to invest in the future.

I’ve worked for many years in companies where we have had our own talent conveyor belt. This has been a long term investment that has served each business incredibly well. We’ve taken on students on placement programs, brought them back as graduates and invested in their development.

I see a great deal of concern with companies saying they don’t hire/develop juniors because that investment is wasted when they leave.

When you get this right, many of these people will stay with you for a long time and help you develop the next generation. Sometimes, the most talented in the team will out-pace your ability to promote and develop them in higher roles. Sometimes they will get to a point where they are more interested in going elsewhere to expand their skill set or try something new or different.

If you’ve invested in their development right, they’ve had a good experience working for you and will tell other people that. That will help you hire experienced talent and also the next wave of the junior engineers with the most potential. Your alumni are one of your biggest strengths advertising for why someone would want to work for you.

Sometimes they’ll go away, gain valuable new skills, experience and ideas elsewhere, then come back to a more senior role and add even more value to your team with those new ideas.

If all your juniors are getting just enough experience to leave for something better, then you need to look to your culture, development and environment and work out why it is that giving people their first break and developing them is not giving you any staff retention.

The skills shortage has hit the point where graduates in tech degrees aren’t even enough. So there are lots of schemes providing boot camps and transition programs to move people into tech careers. Apprenticeship schemes can provide some incredible talent. You don’t have to do a three year programming degree to be a programmer. It’s more about the aptitude and interest. With the right support, a decent bootcamp can give you a decent apprentice who can be rapidly coached and developed.

I’ve found that most developers are keen to pay it forward, to share their excitement and interest in tech with the next generation. Most developers will also value the new ideas, thoughts and challenges that people new to the industry bring.

I’ve also always found that the act of teaching another is the best way to improve someone’s skills. Getting your experienced developers to coach an junior or apprentice gives you a real boost in skillset for your experienced engineers, lifting them to a new level too. It’s a great way of gaining Reflective Competence

What got me really focussed on this topic (again) was a LinkedIn post by Monarch Wadia, and the comment discussions on it. Monarch said:

Coding is a trade and requires apprenticeship


This sums it up for me. You can learn to code for yourself, but, to execute it right, to make sure you’re doing the right stuff in the right way, needs a mentor and/or team to work with to turn the theory into good practice. The best way to make sure that you get a developer who’s had that right coaching at the start of their career, is to build that talent conveyor belt for yourself and make sure it’s delivering the high quality experienced engineers you and the industry need.

It’s also very rewarding, I’m still in touch with and speak with a lot of people who I gave their first break. It’s great to see where they are now and the progress they are making. Feels like a bigger achievement than any of the actual software delivery. Paying it forward for many years.