Scaling your team with junior developers is more important than ever.
The background of the article: A software development company at the heart of tech community.
We were very happy to visit the 2021 Web Summit in Lisbon. Despite the city being stormy and unwelcoming at first sight, we found it a really pleasant place to hang out and spend 3 busy days at the conference. Our main message at the booth was clear: We have the scala developers you need. And oh boy did it work… All 5 people from our team were constantly busy talking to various people – from CEO’s, Founders, CTO’s, Dev Team Leaders, and single developers. Everyone needed scala developers, immediately.
The need of junior developers
A common question we heard often was how can I get them asap? But there was also another question we heard perhaps even more important…
How can I secure the growth of my team in the long run?
The answer is: You need to abandon your prejudices toward junior developers and simply invest in them. Don’t have time and resources to do it? No worries, we can help you out.
Covid-19 has triggered the globalization of remote work and created new multi-national business connections. Some career opportunities at the biggest tech companies that require relocation – are no longer hidden behind huge distances and can attract the best talents from different continents. Many smaller companies suffer from being out-bid by the richest players on the planet, so posting another job opening that has 26 must-haves may not be the best way to gos. A lot of companies have already reached their limit with this approach, with numerous positions unstaffed for months. This can be an even bigger threat to more specialized technologies, such as in the Scala community.
An IT job market overview
There are a lot more job openings, than IT developers
The U.S. now has more job openings than at any time in history. We are hiring IT professionals at a record pace with 197,000 more IT jobs so far this year than at the same time last year, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In the Polish (EU) market itself, we lack 100,000 developers (there is a total number of 400,000 IT professionals actively working now). So the gap is huge.
In 2019, 90,200 new IT jobs were created as a result of the global pandemic.
In 2021, almost 150,000 jobs were added to the IT job market. At the same time, a recent study published by Joblist states that nearly 75% said they were actively thinking about quitting. And, roughly 34.4 million people have quit their jobs this year during 2021 as they reevaluate their working lives.
Again, who is far less likely to have professional burnout? Juniors, the ones that need to first make their way to the top, and earn enough money to allow them to enjoy long holidays.
Scala developers: a market overview
Open any job board there is Dice, Glassdoor, LinkedIn – and you’ll find a lot of scala job openings. Most of them, very similar – the same requirements, similar salaries – every software development company boasting about how awesome it is. Unfortunately, the talent pool of Scala developers is small, so we are all fighting for the same talent, who in return are doing everything they can to avoid any contact, or are playing us for the biggest salary they can get.
As the 2021 State of Software Engineering Report by Hired states, Scala is one of the languages that is most in-demand, and actually, there is 2.2 more demand than in the marketplace average.
And what’s more, all of us looking for Scala developers, are mostly looking for developers with 4-6 years of experience.
Almost no one is looking for… junior developers.
And here lies our great chance, as well as a great responsibility.
The risk: the scala market is shrinking
Consistently, fewer and fewer people are looking for Scala developers, including young developers entering the market. Scala is not usually what they are interested in.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Why? Because if we look at this graph showing what skills developers need to learn next (HackerRank Developer Skills Report 2020), Scala is at the top. Most young developers entering the market have never heard of it, so they are learning something else – therefore, we just need to reach out to juniors first, and show them, Scala. Their incentive? Salary. Scala Developers earn one of the best salaries.
Proof of concept: We have done it once, we can do it again
One of our customers from the banking sector who was struggling with the same issue – decided to put their trust in us and opened up a process for junior developers. Here’s how it worked:
Senior developer as a recon company
Our senior developers were already working closely as team members with the Bank inhouse staff. After a couple of months, they were able to write down all of the major requirements needed to formulate a statement – who we want and if this person will fit into the work environment.
We hired 4 new junior developers who seemed to be a perfect match and all of them were accepted by the Bank to join the project.
Our Junior Academy program started here, with a structured process of hiring junior devs and bringing them into a specific project, with the skills needed to deliver substantial work output.
Junior Academy – simple in theory but hard in practice.
While junior training under a senior’s supervision may sound both obvious and trivial, it is hard to put into practice and many companies put it at the top of their list of problems and inefficiencies. If you add the problems of vacant positions and lack of staff at full work capacity, the outcome will be a lose-lose situation, where unhappy and tired developers will not deliver the quality and attention to the training, and the trainees will surely get to realize this very quickly. Some of them may even quit the software development company, as a result.
With having our consultancy team backing them up, the Bank did not need to spend precious resources on the process. We searched and hired juniors as well as investing in them by giving them the specific training they required. We sought people not only with the technical skills we needed but also with the best cultural fit and a really valuable strong attitude towards self-development. Depending on their initial skills, it usually took 1-3 months to train a Junior to become a fully onboarded, delivering software developer – which is still faster than many of the vacant positions waiting at Dice or Glassdoor for at least average CV.
The Junior Academy is based on project experience, hands-down training, and a project-oriented hiring process.
Scaling up with mid developers that are already part of the team.
The goal of the program is to search for the best and most promising junior developers and prepare them for learning with a consistent approach. This process will create a constant pipeline of new candidates and will make any predictions of team scaling reliable.
The final outcome of the first 3 months was a team of 6 developers, who were simply able to deliver their tasks on time. This seems to be a really good alternative to every job opening hanging unfilled for months without any clear prospects in sight. While a team extension solution may still be viewed as “the last resort” and avoided if possible, creating junior academies with partners or by employees may be the only way of having getting anyone new at all onboard. When companies break the ice and open up to the idea of a consultancy team, they can scale much faster and often don’t want to go back to the previous models.
How about succeeding, hiring great people, and doing the right thing – all at the same time?
Our trip to Lisbon, to the Web Summit, helped us leave our comfort zone and see things from a different perspective. During these crazy COVID times, it was really great to talk to real human beings and see where and how they might be struggling. Scalac was born to help IT companies scale with their developers (#workhard), it was also created to be the best place to work (#havefun), but also to evangelize Scala, and bring young talents to the market (#dotherightthing).
That last point however is more important than ever. We know it’s risky to hire junior developers. But we can share the risks together, and do our best to shrink the gap between too few people and a hungry job market. Let’s make this mission our mutual responsibility. Your win is our win, and together we can create a chance for thousands of young people to become senior developers, something we all need badly.