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You can't coach height

May 17, 2010 @ 9:34am

Crowd Fusion needs to add three more solid developers ASAP just to work with our existing customers, but we hire really slowly because these aren't traditional developer jobs.

I mentioned that Craig posted to Authentic Jobs looking for developer talent. That got me thinking about the people we've worked with at Weblogs, Inc., Blogsmith, Netscape and Crowd Fusion who were a successful fit. Many of them had run their own personal consulting businesses or startups before they worked with us. That makes sense. If someone understands how to get enough done to pay their rent each month, how to land new customers while not disappointing existing customers, how to deliver projects on time AND how to do all of that from home, then they've probably got what we need.

Being a developer at Crowd Fusion is not like being a developer at a bank. Crowd Fusion is a totally virtual company. Everyone works from home. There are some downsides to this, like we don't go to lunch together every day and you can't have an assistant come and work out of your house while you're away on a business trip, but the good far outweighs the bad.

37signals talks about the dangers of interruptions in the workplace and even call it the interruption tax. I'm sitting at my desk, trying to get into a problem solving zone, and you come and stand in my doorway because you've got something you need to talk to me about right now. Those interruptions are a killer. Most of the things you want to discuss can wait. Send me an email or a text message. Open a ticket in Assembla and assign it to me. Type your question into our Campfire group chatroom. Just don't stand in my doorway and stare at me.

I've been working out of my basement office since 2002 and I don't miss the workplace interruptions, but working from home doesn't mean you don't get interrupted. I've got three kids and three dogs so there is plenty going on!

To be successful at working from home you need two important things: 1) personal discipline and 2) cooperation from your family. If you aren't a self-starter, you can't work from home. If the people (or animals) you're living with equate you being home with you being off the clock, then you're just trading one set of interruptions for another.

There's an old saying in basketball that I heard a lot when the Jeff Van Gundy took the New York Knicks to the NBA Finals and their center Patrick Ewing was injured along the way. I was at MSG when the much shorter Knicks team lost to the San Antonio Spurs and their two seven-footers, Tim Duncan and David Robinson. That saying is "you can't coach height." Van Gundy could teach the Knicks a lot of things, but all the coaching skills in the world couldn't make his team taller.

Someone with solid development skills in another language like Java can be trained to make great Crowd Fusion PHP code, but I don't believe you can easily train someone to be an effective virtual employee. I'd rather find a responsible, passionate person who can learn to code better, than find a smart developer who needs to be in an office with co-workers to get things done.

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