Finding a software developer is difficult. Finding a good software developer is almost impossible.Frugal Local
One of my friends owns a small dev house, employing 5 developers and some support staff. He has spent months finding a good developer who joined the team. After joining, 3 of his other developers resigned within 3 months. the unsatiated hunger of the industry is so big, that work history is of little concern. If you can (sort of) do the job, you get the job.
The skill shortage in South Africa in the technology sector isn’t just a thing out there – it’s happening all around us. Big corporates are willing to negotiate really good financial packages to get the best developers and small companies give amazing job perks to keep their developers with them.
To illustrate the hunger for coders, you need to look no further than me – the Local. Even though I’ve been running my own software development consultancy for almost two years, I am still getting requests for full-time employment on a regular basis. When I was a junior developer, I had 25 calls IN TWO DAYS, after posting my CV online.
Finding a solution to the developer shortage
Historically, companies favoured degreed students and developers who have certifications such as Microsoft’s Most Valued Professional (MVP) and PHP Zend Certification. Due to the shortage, this is nice to have. For me, I don’t believe that certification is important, though it is cool. Over the years, I’ve met many people who have BSc Computer Science degrees, and still can’t code. I have also met people with no coding background one who has a questionable grade 9, who became amazing coders.
We need more software developers – this is the long and the short of it. The only way to do this is to train more software developers. It’s impossible to become a software developer after an 8-hour online course. We need mentoring and input from people. Building a community or having a mentor in software development is often out of reach of many people. For this reason, having a gathering of aspiring developers can become invaluable.
To overcome this challenge, I am creating the Local Code School. I am starting with small videos on TikTok and will be aiming at doing a take-in of a physical 1-year course on teaching people how to code.
Doing viability testing and how to get a message out there
With my small business consulting, I’ve learnt that every new founder/owner starting out thinks his company is the best thing ever. They believe wholeheartedly that their business will be successful – which is a good thing. This is, however, hardly the case if we look at the number of failed businesses.
As discussed in my article on how small businesses can win against big corporates, I believe that we need to do things differently. Testing the viability of your assumptions is just that – staying humble enough to know that you don’t know your customers and offering that well.
I like to test my ideas using validated learning. I make assumptions and then test them. The feedback I get from potential customers teaches me what it is that people want.
As I have a following already, I am able to test ideas and business viability through social media. I put content out there, and see if there is any interest. I’ve done so with multiple courses, ebooks, initiatives and content. The content that has traction will be taken further.
I know that not everyone has a following or a place to test their ideas. In this scenario, it’s worth exploring the following:
- Find relevant groups and communities on Meetup.com, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media. Test your ideas here!
- Find influencers that align with your ideas and send them a DM. Some are awesome and will repost.
- Post videos on TikTok – the community isn’t as tightly knit there as on other platforms.
- Run a Google Ad campaign to see if there is interest – you don’t need the full product built, you’re only testing to see if there is interest.
Building in public – documenting the journey
Before testing my idea, I have been spying on Facebook groups and the DevZA slack group for a while. I read posts, comments and relevant questions. I realised that people don’t know the basics of software development. There’s an idea that learning only syntax is enough to get a job.
Giving away free content and knowledge is not only about getting a following – it’s about discovering who you are, where you want your business to go and in which direction you need to grow. The paper trail of videos, blog posts, tweets and posts gives credibility and empowers you to speak with authority.
The power of online communities
Building a community (especially online) is very valuable, as you’re basically building relationships with your customers-to-be.
With this knowledge, I am gearing up my social media to build small little lessons in bite-sized chunks. I am planning on expanding this in the coming months to other channels, including YouTube, a blog and other social media channels.
Where to find me:
Though I know that code isn’t for everyone, I do believe that many people who should be coders are not coders simply because they don’t know where to start. Starting a business and building in public is all about focusing on people – and not on the product or offering.
The feedback received from your followers can be used to change direction quickly to offer the value through a pull strategy, rather than a push strategy.
For me, I take the social media approach of building online communities. Even though my eventual product will be offline, I believe that the relationships built are valuable.