In preparation for my presentation on Monday, I talked with CEOs of four different Drupal companies.  I had some good chats with the leaders of drupal.org as well.

Much of what I heard wasn’t a HUGE surprise, except for a couple of things:

  • It’s incredibly cool to see such a vibrant market, especially when the rest of the economy is struggling to stay afloat.
  • I heard that most people are targeted at BUYing talent rather than BUILDing it.

When I last lived through the “war for talent” in the 1990s, companies started to realize that they’d never get ahead of the competition just by trying to outbid for great employees.  And when you do that, costs can escalate rapidly, perhaps even leading to a bubble which might pop in, oh, 2000/2001.

Your company still has to be sustainable – you can’t totally rely on expectations that the market is going to be growing at 40-50% a year.  That pushes you into creating a cost structure that’s too high – “yeah, I can’t afford it now, but I should be able to next year!”

A very useful way to keep costs down is to build your talent, not buy it.

Yes, I know that takes longer.  But the way I see things, when you have good people with “great technical gears,” they’re used to learning new stuff all the time.  Picking up Drupal doesn’t take THAT long – if it did, this industry wouldn’t be growing so fast.  And once people are on the job, they STILL need to continue learning because the state of the art advances so quickly.

And a slightly more sensitive thought I’ll throw out there for you:  I got a sense of a bit of age bias here.  Not so much that I’ll yell “discrimination!” but still, a fairly strong preference for people who’ve just graduated in the last few years.

I’ve done a lot of cross-generational work, so I understand that people tend to work well with others of similar age, and that younger people tend to be more open, flexible, and versed on new technologies.  I get that.

But…  Give this a thought.  Older workers tend to be more experienced at working in teams, they’ll tend to be more loyal, and in high tech they’ve gotten used to constant learning as the technology changes.  And there’s a TON of them, including people who really are quite brilliant.

Will some have unrealistic salary expectations?  Sure.  Not be a great fit for your particular company?  Of course.  But these are things you have to watch for in ALL candidates.

If you’re willing to invest in helping people get up to speed on your technology needs, whether directly or in partnership with another teaching organization, you might just be rewarded with a great, diverse, and loyal set of talent.

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