Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Courting a Coder

     A few months ago I was fortunate to get a great piece of advice from Casey Allen, current tribal leader at Health Rising.  I was explaining my pressing need for a great developer to take over my software platform, ideally to continue as a co-founder and lead a growing tech team.  Casey told me that finding a good developer is a lot like dating.  He was right.  Prior to that enlightening moment at Spyhouse Coffee, I thought I would simply make it known I was in the market for a developer to take on maintenance, updates and continued development of my amazing, brilliant, potentially high revenue producing product. I'd probably post it on Linkedin, TECHdotMN, Tweet it out etc..Surely there would be .net coders looking for work and some ownership in a cool new start-up.  Thank God Casey set me straight.

Coders are not all alike. First off, there should be a site, much like a dating site that connects the idea people with the developers because it is a lot like dating.  Just because a developer knows the language your product is coded in doesn't mean you want the same things or you communicate in human language, together, effectively.  It would save a lot of time if you could both really lay out what you're looking for in a technical relationship and list your deal breakers right up front.  Some developers are only interested in a part time gig for hourly pay, they don't want a long term relationship or even a commitment to one project.  Even if you think your product is beautiful and smart and interesting, you won't get them to commit. They like to play the field, jump from project to project and have no desire to settle down with one company or venture.  Some developers are open to a combination so to speak, they will commit a certain percentage of their time to your project but they will still work on other projects on the side as they intrigue them. This is the equivalent to a toothbrush in your medicine cabinet but don't go expecting a sleep over drawer, to use a dating analogy.  Having this information from the beginning would be helpful for both parties involved. Oh, and don't go thinking you can pretty up your product to entice the non-committal coder into a long term relationship. This is highly unlikely as developers, in my experience, are pretty clear about what they are and are not willing to do.  Which brings me to my next point.

Coders are in high demand and great ones are about as hard to find as that 22 year old thoughtful, sweet, monogamous Ben Affleck lookalike you were searching for in college (or now, sorry Ben).  Everyone thinks they have an amazing idea for an application that is going to change the world and make them rich.  Everyone is looking for a kick ass developer to bring their idea to fruition so you better be clear about what makes yours the best and will be the most exciting.  It's not all about money for coders either.  Oh no, some of them will be engaged by the idea and the amount of freedom they will have in creation of the product.  All of them will be assessing what it would be like to work with you and that alone can make or break the potential for a relationship.  Check yourself and act accordingly. Don't act like you know more than you do and be open and respectful.

Coders are special.  One of the most important things I can tell you about courting a coder is that they are unique in every way, some more so than others.  I often wonder what profession the coders I meet would be in if not for our current technology. I met with a coder just this week who, after about an hour long presentation on my product, told me "This is very exciting to me."  I was shocked because he looked about as excited as I look while loading the dishwasher.  They are not always easy to read.  Do not, I repeat do not EVER treat a developer like they are disposable. It is not as if you can just hire any old developer to take what is in your head and make it real or good.  This thought indicates you are, in fact, an idiot and is not what you want to lead with.  Great coders are artistic, superior problem solvers, incredible processors of information, master multi-taskers and the bottom line is, they know how to do something you don't so show some respect. If you are able to find a developer or a team who also communicates well with you and explains things in a way you understand, you have found gold my friend.  I have met some of these rare creatures, Casey Helbling founder of Software for Good is one, John O'Neil at the Nerdery is another.  Treat them right, be gracious and they will try to help you. They may introduce you to people who can help you realize your goals and even people you didn't know you needed to know.  If they choose to collaborate with you and their desires match your own….magic can happen.  I haven't figured the exact dynamics of what that relationship looks like long term.  However, I think I am on the verge of a real committed engagement and I can hardly contain my excitement.  I'll keep you posted.