I had the opportunity to do my internship at LiquaDry, a fast growing food ingredient company that makes barley grass powder that go into products like Green Magma. It was a pretty random place to work, but gave me great insights on what it is like to work at a fast growing (non-tech) company.
I finished my assignment faster than expected and the next assignment coming down the pipe ended up being much smaller than anyone anticipated. With several weeks of the summer still available, I ended up creating a dashboard to track some of their production metrics. As I worked through it, I tried to recruit anyone I could (to no avail) to hope on and take it over. “90% of what I am doing, anyone can do. They just need to have some interest,” I would say. “The other 10% I have already finished…and if anything else comes up you can contract me later on.” They weren’t opposed to having me do future work for them, but I never really did find someone to continue development on what I started. Even though I am confident that someone else could have done a lot of my work, I never really got to test that belief out.
I had to opportunity to talk with Ralph Yarro at ThinkAtomic this past week as well as Steve (can’t remember his last name) about a lot of the ventures they are working on. Steve has a software background and we hit it off right away, probably because our different experiences have led use to so many of the same conclusions. One of the things that ThinkAtomic does is hire kids right out of high school and teaches them to code on the job. Steve described it as similar to electricians going from journeyman to apprentice to master. Steve said he believes he could teach up to 10 people and is working to hire more people. “I just need them to want to program,” he told me.
One of my concerns with this approach was that most people I know who have tried to skip college never really learn the advanced topics and therefore never become masters. Steve agreed with me, but was able to identify some people that had made the full advancement. I didn’t realize this at the time, but my old officemate, now Founder of Saltstack, Tom Hatch is probably one of the best examples of people successfully doing this.
While not always the solution for every job, a single master programmer with a teacher’s heart can create a solid development team from people who only have interest. In the current market of scarce developer talent, maybe it’s time to make your own talent.