Home > Uncategorized > Tech Firms Scramble to Attract Software Engineers

Tech Firms Scramble to Attract Software Engineers

By: Robin K. Cooper
Originally Published in The Business Review, July 29,2011

A shortage of qualified software engineers is forcing area technology companies to recruit outside the region and come up with creative ways to expand their staffs.

Agora Games , a developer of video game data-tracking software, is among several small Troy tech firms that are on a hiring spree.

Agora founder Michael DelPrete has hired nine employees in the past six months.

Two were local hires, but the majority of the new employees are working remotely from their homes in Brazil, Spain, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan and New Jersey.

The ninth new hire, Logan Koester, was recruited from Boston three months ago.

“We are making offers to people who are being recruited by Google and other Silicon Valley companies,” said Agora founder Michael DelPrete. “We can’t compete with that.”

Agora also has outsourced some work to Greane Tree Technology, a Troy company that develops web and data management systems.

Annmarie Lanesey, Greane Tree’s co-founder and president, said a growing number of tech companies are outsourcing projects to her firm. She also has picked up two large contracts in New York City—one from the City University of New York and another working on a project called NiteTables, a restaurant and nightclub reservation site.

Lanesey, who started Greane Tree two years ago with husband and co-founder Joseph Payette Jr., said the new business has prompted her to go on a hiring binge of her own.

The company has grown from two employees to six this year, and that still is not enough.

“The way our workload is, we need to hire right now, but there’s a definite shortage of hardcore developers,” Lanesey said.

Her first hire was Jennifer Hixon, a systems analyst developer from New York City. Lanesey, whose company operates out of the Russell Sage College incubator, also has been patrolling area universities to find talented interns who could turn into potential hires.

Greane Tree began working with three different recruiters early this spring to identify software engineers proficient with Java programming language, .Net and the PHP scripting language for used in web development.

The shortage is driven by several factors, according to New York University computer science professor and HackNY co-founder Evan Korth.

Many college students are unaware how lucrative programming jobs can be, Korth said in a blog post on the website of BP3, a Texas consulting company.

Korth also said there’s a misconception that was created after the dotcom bubble burst that all programming jobs were being outsourced to India, leaving few opportunities here.

The growth of the Internet is driving the need for many tech startups and they all need programmers.

That bodes well for people with programming skills, especially at a time when New York’s unemployment rate stands at 8 percent.

“There is a definite shortage of qualified programmers here and that has forced us to be creative,” said Mark Menard, founder and president of Enable Labs, a Troy web developer.

Menard, whose company focuses on the Ruby on Rails web development platform, overhauled its business model last year and has since grown from two employees to nine.

He hopes to reach a dozen employees by the end of the year.

Menard hired Jim Wilson to lead business development and identify skilled software engineers and programmers.

The company offers training sessions to programmers to help them become proficient with Ruby on Rails, a programming language used to manage web sites, email and servers, and store information in databases.

“These are good jobs,” Menard said. “If you are a proficient Ruby developer, total compensation can be between $90,000 and $100,000 a year.”

Enable recently hired its first employee from outside the region after finding a programmer from Rochester who is a recent graduate of the State University of New York at Oswego.

The company’s customers are primarily software-as-a-service firms. Enable helps its clients set up applications so a customer can begin selling subscriptions.

Part of the reason for the shortage of Ruby-proficient programmers, Wilson said, is because many people have not kept up with all of the technology advancements that have occurred in programming over the past three years.

“People hunkered down during the recession and kept working, but they didn’t keep up with the times,” Wilson said.

Menard and Wilson said networking at technology group meetings and developer events has been one of their best tools to help find new candidates.

“You never know where you are going to find people,” Menard said.

He hired 20-year-old Ryan Lewis of Troy two months ago after finding Lewis through Craigslist.

Lewis, a home-schooled and self-taught programmer, had a job stocking shelves at a local Price Chopper  grocery store at the time, Menard said.

When Menard is eyeing a potential new hire he quizzes them on tech buzz words and tests their skills by spending two or three hours writing programming code with them.

“Ryan had no professional exposure and he was completely self-taught. But he was fast and one of the most skilled Rubyists in the area,” Menard said.

In five years, Lewis will have no problem commanding a $200,000 salary from a company in Silicon Valley, Menard said.


Categories: Uncategorized
  1. October 31, 2011 at 6:30 am

    Useful informative blog on Web development. Thanks for sharing great information with us.

  1. August 1, 2011 at 8:04 am

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