Getting your development talent mix right

Getting your development talent mix right

Why bother?

You’re probably wondering why you should even care about talent mix. We need to ship more code! We need more developers to do it! Hire some already!

Here’s why you should bother: hiring a developer with the wrong talents can slow you down and lead to a worse product. Odds are there is a bottleneck somewhere in your team: you need to find it and hire someone who can help solve that problem. Bottleneck gone = faster team.

Rank your current team

It’s more than just frontend and backend. Before you get started, take a couple minutes to rank each team member on the following factors on a scale of 1-5 with 1 being the worst:

1. Frontend
2. Backend
3. Business analysis (requirements gathering, needs finding, etc)
4. DevOps
5. Leadership
6. UX
7. Seniority

This should give you insight in to the soft spots on your team. Look at the averages for each factor: are you really low on one? Look for that in a new candidate! Is one person really low on several? Look to train them up.

Next, rank each item in the list above for how badly you feel your team needs each one. It's worth taking the time to ask current team members (not just developers!) to do the same to see if you have a consensus.

Once you've done that, compare the two lists of rankings: it should become clear what you need to look for, if anything.

A note about first hires

If you’re looking for that first engineering hire then you should focus on the first three factors above. Business analysis is arguably the most important at this stage, so weight it a bit more heavily in your decision making.

Remember: your first hire doesn’t need to be perfect at everything, only what your company needs!

Always be cross-training

Now that you have your team ranked, you’ve already identified some gaps. While you’re hiring, try to find some good pairings: can you have your DevOps person teach your backend developer some tricks of the trade? Single points of failure can be catastrophic to software companies, so it’s worth the investment!

On seniority

Generally speaking, for early hires you should only be looking for senior-level developers. They cost more, but juniors will cost you more time which is worse. For later hires you can start to hire juniors if they fill in a gap in your talent mix rankings.

Remember: it will take several weeks before a new developer will be productive and he or she will slow down your team until then. Wait to start new developers until after large or critical projects finish.

Need a hand?

I provide hiring, management, full stack development, and coaching services for startups. Click here to learn more, or schedule a free 30 minute consultation.

Want to go more in-depth?

This article is pretty high-level. If you want more details and tactics on how to deal with developers, sign up to get 50% off my upcoming book, Dealing with Developers.

Questions or comments? Drop me a line at or tweet me @remyphelps.