10 Lessons Building a Rockstar Development Team as a Non-Technical Co-Founder
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
One of the biggest questions that haunt startup entrepreneurs relates to hiring staff for roles in areas that they have little or no knowledge of. Finding the right people for the job is no easy task and would typically require expert knowledge in the field you’re hiring for.
Building a development team, without having a technical background, may be unnerving, but it isn’t impossible. All successful entrepreneurs do it. I, for one, did it. Sometimes, it takes a little trial-and-error to learn certain important business lessons.
Mentioned ahead are a few important hiring lessons in building a development team despite lacking the technical background that I learned and want to share with budding entrepreneurs.
1. Logic is everything.
You must have a logical understanding of the products you are going to build and the skills required to do so, and you must know how to pick and choose the technologies to be used when building them. You should be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of these technologies.
We use LAMP, iOS, and Android technologies in the projects we undertake, and I am always equipped with the information required to convince clients as to why these technologies fit their project requirements best.
2. Hire through references.
This is how I prefer to hire the best developers at the top levels. Ask your friends, current and ex colleagues, or others you know closely in the industry to refer someone they know well. This way, you will not have to worry about their technical skills and abilities.
Strong top-level hires will further help you build a team of competent developers going forward. A lot of my initial hiring was done through references and helped me tremendously in building a great team.
3. Propagate sensible discussion during interviews.
The way candidates interact with you in the interview is important to understand their sense of humor, personality traits, and smartness. When you are developing a smart product for smart people, your developers should be witty enough to have a great sense of humor.
Great product idea + dull developers = clutter product
I prefer to hire people, who communicate sensibly irrespective of the technologies they know and have worked with.
4. Ask about real-time challenges.
During the interview, ask candidates about the most challenging projects they have undertaken so far and how they overcame those challenges, along with the time they took to solve the problems.
This will help you identify how they perceive challenges; face them; solve them; and learn from them. It’s important to know the turn-around time too because challenges should not take forever to get resolved.
5. Look beyond programming.
Give them an instant practical problem to solve, and see how they analyze it; estimate it; and plan the execution. By doing so, you can get an idea of their grip on the technical concepts, especially if they are able to envision and anticipate every stage of product development.
When interviewing mobile-app developers, for example, I ask them to estimate and explain how the Uber app works and what it will take to develop a similar app. This way, I get to know about their ability to understand and execute the product, and not just develop it.
6. Learn about their hosting-server and quality assurance (QA) knowledge.
Developers should have strong knowledge of different hosting-server environments and building applications, which can easily fit in the cloud-hosting environment.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is on its way to dominate hosting spaces. It helps startups build faster and more scalable products without having to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in setting up the infrastructure.
Every developer should know about AWS instances and Content Delivery Network (CDN) to build scalable, faster and more secure products.
It’s important for developers to test the quality of the products they build. They cannot fully rely on QA engineers to test the product that they have built over a period of time.
7. Hire doers, not mere talkers.
After having interviewed hundreds of developers, I have realized that those developers, who talk big to flaunt their knowledge of app-building and mobile technologies to impress you, may not necessarily be able to perform to that level and live up to their words.
To separate the doers from the talkers, ask your candidates this simple question: Are you a talker or a doer?
8. Hire at least two interns for your team.
Even though you may have a great product idea for a complex product, I recommend that you hire at least two development interns. They should not be the primary developers for your company, but they can be hired when you have someone in the technical lead position to train them.
So far, I have hired around five interns, and they have proved to be great assets for the company over time.
Interns come with loads of energy, enthusiasm and self-learning abilities. They are like newborns in the programming world. You can groom them the way you want, and you never know what wonders they'll do when the time comes.
Hiring interns will also help you lower the cost of building your development team.
9. Look for a good cultural fit.
It’s important that your employees are able to fit in with your company’s culture.
Great products are the outcome of solid teamwork. It’s crucial to hire people who fit into your company’s culture and adjust themselves in the least amount of time possible.
10. Look out for hybrid and full-stack developers.
Every successful product requires hybrid technologies to become faster, more scalable and more reliable.
If your developers know, or are willing to work on hybrid technologies, you will not have to worry about product scalability as you grow. Otherwise, you will have to hire new developers to integrate new technologies to scale your product.
Full-stack developers help build products faster, and grow your team quickly. If you require 10 developers to build your product, I’d recommend hiring five full-stack developers, as they will do a better job compared to 10 regular developers.
Finding people to work for you is seldom a challenge, but identifying and hiring the right talent to work for you is what ultimately makes a difference to your startup. The initial years are crucial for every startup venture, which is why it is important to have people with the desired skillset onboard from the very beginning.While it is easy for expert recruiters to handpick such staff, entrepreneurs without a technical background need not break into a sweat. The above tips should help non-technical executives do a great job of hiring top development talent, who will perform and bring laurels to the startup business.