Are Junior Developers Best for Startups?

Susan Hall

It sounded pretty cool when I wrote last November about startup Pikimal, which was taking really smart folks in other majors — philosophy, political science — and letting them learn Ruby on Rails on the job.

In a post at OnStartups.com, Avi Flombaum, dean of The Flatiron School, argues that most startups don't need to hire hire senior engineers. In fact, he says:

... for most products, seeking out rockstar senior engineers is like hiring Picasso to paint your apartment.

Flombaum, of course, has an agenda. The Flatiron School offers an intensive 12-week program to train developers in languages such as Ruby. It's pricey: the course costs $5,500. He also recommends competitors  Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco and Code Academy in Chicago, though. There are others. Free online school Codecademy just added Python to its offerings.

Too often, companies don't want to train people and don't want to allow them time to grow into jobs. IT, though, can be a career that doesn't require a college degree  —  in fact, it might not even require a high school diploma. I've been concerned, though, when recruiters tell me that employers are looking for developers with five years or less of experience.

Flombaum makes some good points, though. With the IT work force near to full employment, it makes sense for job candidates to seek out jobs that challenge them at the top of their abilities. And unless startups can provide that level of challenge, it makes no sense to pay the salaries that top-flight talent can command. He writes:

By hiring junior developers and ensuring they're getting the continual training and development that they need, you can ensure that they stay engaged and derive as much personal and professional value out of your company as your company derives from them.

Flombaum offers tips on working with junior developers, repeatedly mentioning training and another key term: Patience.



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