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Part 1: Interview with Rita Rovira

Published 7/5/2016

In today's episode I talk with Rita Rovira, who has been in the business of hiring developers for most of her career.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and in today's episode I'm interviewing Rita Rovira. Today's episode is brought to you by Linode. With Linode you can instantly deploy and manage an SSD server in the Linode Cloud. You can get a server running in just seconds with your choice of Linux distribution, resources and the node location. And there's some special information about Linode. Hopefully you heard it on Friday. Linode is now offering two gigabytes of RAM for only $10 a month. We'll talk more about what Linode has to offer later on in today's episode. Rita has been hiring developers for years. Most recently she was a director of hiring partnerships at Wingco Academy. That's when Rita reached out and told me that she'd like to talk to the Developer Tea audience about the hiring process. So needless to say I was excited to talk to Rita about all of those specific things that make getting a job as a developer a little less painful. If you enjoy today's episode make sure you don't forget to subscribe to Developer Tea and whatever podcasting app you are using. That will ensure that you don't miss out on the second part of the interview with Rita. Now let's jump straight into our discussion with Rita Rovira. Welcome to the show. Thanks so much. Excited to be here. I'm excited to have you. And this is kind of an unconventional type of guest to have on the show. Typically we have people who are primarily working on a product. But what you do is a totally different scenario. Can you tell people kind of what your job is and some of your experiences? Sure. I've been in the staff augmentation space for roughly about, let's say my oldest son is 12 years old. So roughly about 12, 13 years. Focusing in legal and technology. When I was introduced to Developer Tea I was actually working with WinCode which is a development bootcamp. And I was teaching business skills to students as well as assisting them with placement. That's awesome. So you said staff augmentation is that the correct term for it? I think that's the prettiest term for it. Generally when companies have a vacancy that's hard to fill, I work with them and fulfilling it. Specifically in the technology space, whether it be a director of technology, a CTO, or CIO, or a lead developer, software engineer, the person that they come to to help fix those problems. Sure. So let's stop for a second and think about the bad that comes with this job. There's a lot of bad terminology and I'm sure that you have intentionally avoided it. But let's address it on the nose. There are some really bad, I'll say the bad R word, recruiters out there. The last thing that you want to be called as recruiter Rita, right? That's not what you want. Especially since your last name starts with an R as well. But here's the reality, recruiting is so large and outsourced now because there's such a huge demand for developers. Would you agree with that? Absolutely, that's the truth. I mean, when you look at recruiters, they're kind of seen as the used car salesman of the business. They really are. That's definitely true. Which is kind of funny because my ex-husband is a used car salesman, works for car max. Really good guy. Teachers are seen that way and it's unfortunate. Specifically in a technology space because frankly, we're quite needed and we're needed for different reasons. Not like we're needed in legal and finance but specifically in technology, the demand so outweighs the supply. Companies come to us looking for the best of the best, looking for the individuals that are passive seekers, if you will. Not really looking but might be available. When it comes to developers, frankly, so many of them work independently that they're really not on full-time payroll sometimes. Companies come to recruiters to find the top talent. Although we are perceived again as the used car salesman of the business, we are actually needed in this particular market. I say that to encourage the listeners to try to reject this bad stigma because the reality is recruiters have a pretty hard job. A lot of people who are working in this space, they don't have an understanding of the tech that they're hiring for. It may be that they have a limited understanding but a lot of them, they're having to jump between five or six different tech stacks. They aren't studying it like a developer would and the thing that turns a lot of developers off is the language that's used in emails that isn't accurate. That's the common Reddit post is this email that I received from a recruiter. Look how dumb it is. But the truth is these poor recruiters, their job is to try to help companies find people to fulfill positions. They can't acquire all the knowledge that you spent years and years studying and working with this technology. A recruiter can't acquire all of that knowledge in a couple of weeks of studying. They aren't going to study a couple of weeks just for that job position necessarily, especially if they're hiring, if they're new to the tech recruiting industry. Go easy on these people. They're there to hopefully a lot of them are there to help. I have a rejection for that stigma that I want to encourage others to adopt rejection of that stigma as well. I think recruiting is such an important part of the industry because finding people to match up to these jobs, it's really difficult to do. It's like anything, so it's just like if you're a technologist, a developer, a director of technology, whatever it is that you are in that particular field. We've all come across it. We see an ad posting that's clearly written by HR because they're asking for experience in a technology of five years plus that just was created two years ago. That happens all the time. Creators often are, they're really translators, what they're trying to do, it's translated job rack, find the person that matches it, and also with recruitment, it's generally split up into two different areas. You have your recruiters that have their ear to the ground, they know what's going on in the candidate market, and then you have your business development professionals that are focused on more of the client's servicing side to really communicate for the candidate on the client side. That in itself is an art. But like everything, not all recruiters are the same, not all HR professionals are the same, not all technology departments are the same. It's important to keep an open mind, but also ask questions that help you kind of decipher, do I want to work with this person, do I want to trust them to present me in a way that makes sense for my career trajectory? Yeah, absolutely. The reason it's so important in my opinion, and the reason I bring this up is because I want the people who are listening to this show, I want for you to have a career in this. I think there are so many good careers in this field. Really, it's not just one field. It's kind of a meta field that covers all fields. You can work in almost any subject you want to work in. Do you like sports? You can go work for a sports company doing programming. Do you like nature? You can go and work for a nature oriented, I don't know. There's so many topics. I want for you to have a career as a programmer. That's one of my goals on the show is to empower people to get a job in this field. One of the ways that you're going to get a job is through a recruiter. If you are rejecting recruiter simply because they are saying, hey, I need somebody with 10 years of experience and react when react is not even five years old. The truth is that you're not going to be working with the recruiter. A lot of people think, well, I don't want to work with the person who wrote this email, but that's not the person that's going to be writing code next to you. That's not the company that's going to be writing code next to you. That's like you're saying, Rita, a translator. That translator, if you were to tell them, hey, react has only been out for five years. They would probably fix their listing, to be honest, because their job is to actually place people. Agreed. Agreed. It's a relationship that needs to be considered not so much the quality of the email. But at the same time, there should be a certain level of quality to it. It's just like if you hate to use the car analogy, but let's do it. It's just like if you go to buy a car, you don't expect the salesperson to tell you how the engine was made or how the transmission flow works differently. They're going to take you on a 15-minute test drive. They're going to say, this is a spec to the car. This is a gas efficiency. And hey, this is what it costs. Would you like to buy the car? But you're going to do your own research on the company. You're going to do your own interviewing. You're going to do your own test drive to make the determination, if it makes sense for you. That analogy is actually extremely applicable. To go further with it, if recruiters were so in depth as to the aspects of technology that were necessary for the role, chances are they'd be developers. Yeah. Be recruiters. We have to call a spade a spade there and be fair to the recruiting industry as it comes to some of those emails. I've seen them go out. I've seen some of the emails go out that make no sense. But what's important to do is to ask questions and to correct. So for example, if you see that somebody sends an email for 10 years of experience and react, we're applying kind very nicely. Hey, I noticed that you contacted me about this. Not sure how much technology you experience you have, that technology has been around for X amount of years. And you can kind of have a little bit of banter back and forth to make the determination, is this someone that I want to walk with to make career decisions with me and for me? And if it's not, you can pull away from it, but all recruiters are not created the same. And I think that's an important thing to consider. Absolutely. I totally agree with that. And I think you need to, as a developer, if you're listening to the show right now and you're dealing with recruiters, I want you to ask this. It's kind of a critical, self-critical question. Are you being hateful or helpful? And it's something that can really drive you in the right direction in your career in general, right? It's very easy to be hateful. It's very easy to be prideful and arrogant about the stuff that you know. Because the truth is, as a developer, you probably do know a lot of stuff that your friends and family don't, right? And that extends to people that you don't know around you that probably extends to the recruiter who sent you an email. Are you going to be hateful with that knowledge and hold it over someone's head and say, look how much more I know than you do? Or are you going to be helpful and teach people the people who have long illustrious careers in any field, teach, write that down. Like if you don't get anything else from this episode, the people who have long, you know, colorful, exciting, rewarding careers, they're not hateful. They're teaching people. You hit the nail on the head there and I would go even further with that because you know, some people don't see themselves as teachers, but that really speaks to soft skills. And I used to tell the WinCoat students all the time and I tell every candidate that I ever work with because I qualify all my candidates that my recruiters present to me before I send them off to a client and I tell every single one of them to treat every single person you meet, whether it's at public, whether it's at an interview, whether it's at a happy hour, as if number one, they either have what you are looking for or be know the person that has what you are looking for. And that really speaks to soft skills. And I think for a long time, technologists, developers were in a back room with, you know, the Star Wars posters and there was a stigma associated with them. They didn't come to the table with the sea level executives. They weren't involved in those financial conversations, but that was about eight years ago. Newsflash, now it's extremely different. The development team, the technology team is being brought in. They're sitting with the sea level executives. They have to explain how the technology is going to impact deliverable execution and revenue. So soft skills are extremely important and how one liaisons with a recruiter that could end up being a corporate recruiter. I had a conversation with a gentleman today that I tried to recruit two years ago that worked for a staff and company. Now he's a corporate recruiter for a large managed services company. He's looking to staff three engineers and we had a conversation about his transition. Soft skills is extremely important. Today's episode is sponsored by Linode. With Linode, you can instantly deploy and manage an SSD server in the Linode Cloud. That cloud consists of eight data centers and they're playing start at just $10 a month. You can get a server running in under a minute and they have hourly billing with a monthly cap on all of their plans and their add-on services. That includes backups, no balancers and long view. Virtual machines can be spun up for full control. You can run a Docker container. You can have an encrypted disk or a VPN. You can even run a private get server. Linode has native, solid state drive storage on a 40 gigabit internal network with Intel E5 processors and a seven day money back guarantee. And as of July 1st, that's his past Friday, Linode now offers two gigabytes of RAM for only $10 a month. If this hasn't convinced you yet, Linode is also offering developer T-listeners $20 worth of credit. So that breaks down to $100 a year for two gigabytes of RAM on a server. It's a little over a quarter a day. Go and check it out. Linode.com slash Developer Teause the code Developer Tea 20 at checkout to get $20 of credit on Linode. Thanks again to Linode for sponsoring Developer Tea and of course that link and the code can be found in the show notes at spec.fm. So we're hitting all around something that I want to talk about for a second that I think is probably crippling a lot of developers who are listening to this show. And I've talked about it a few times in the past. And it's this idea of a title as well as the idea of qualification. So if you're a developer and you go out and you read a job post and you see that that job post requires that you have a bachelor's in computer science and it requires that you have extensive experience with angular JS. And in reality you've been working in the industry for four years but you started working right out of high school and maybe you have experience with in burj. The most likely scenario is that you are probably qualified for that job, right? And even though you look at those those pre-rex on that job calling on that listing, whatever even though you're not matching up to those one to one. It is most likely that if you were to go and apply for this job that they aren't even going to care so much about those minimum requirements as much as they're going to care about your ability to present yourself. If you have significant experience in similar things, if you have equivalent, that's the word, the magic word is equivalent experience. If you have something that is equivalent to what that person or that hiring company is looking for, if you have equivalent experience or if you have really good soft skills or if they can invest a small amount and get you where you need to be, maybe you don't have angular JS experience, but you're a really good JavaScript developer. And if you were to spend a week or two or three weeks learning angular, then you'd be a rock star at it, right? These companies are smarter than what their job, you know, the job call may make it seem like they are. So there's multi layers with that. I'll go the business professional side and then I'll also kind of make it personal as an example because I always like to use personal examples that are relatable. Perfect. So the first side of it, what I always tell candidates and what I always tell students when I was at WinCode is that if you have three of the technology skills that are required, whatever they are, if you have three apply, period and of sense, the average senior developer role, at least in the Florida market, stays open for six to nine months before it is filled because the supply and demand is so skewed here. That's incredible. And so, you know, the average is four months. So it's kind of a hit to use this analogy, but I will. It's kind of like when you go out dating, right? Everybody wants the six foot tall blonde, beautiful or the six foot tall guy who makes six figures and drives a sports cart, news flash, but you actually settle for Mary and have a long term relationship. Generally, it's not that demographic. So with that, same thing when it comes to employment, you know, I may think I need this extremely intense talent for lack of a better word choice, but as that chair remains vacant, as the work continues to pile, as we miss calendar, deliverable after deliverable after deliverable and our investors are looking at us and saying, what are we doing? Well, our thought process changed because you can train a junior developer or a mid-level developer in six months or three months on that technology they don't have, providing that they have the drive and the willingness. So with that, I say apply to a job that has at least the three skills that you have applied to it. Forget about that long, long tree list. It was written by somebody in HR who doesn't even work with a development team. That's the first thing that I would say. The second thing that I would say is that make sure if you're committed, if you're working on GitHub, whatever it is that you're committing to, make sure that you have activity that shows that you are practicing your craft. Because technology is ever changing. I remember the days of C-sharp, C++, things are so different. When you look at developers, they're embarking on a career that demands a thirst for an ever-changing knowledge. What is intricate today is obsolete tomorrow. So with that, all that one needs to document is their ability to learn, relearn, learn again, and continue to learn. And if you can do that on some sort of platform that shows it and everybody's GitHub account or whatever it is that they choose to commit to, should absolutely be on their resume with the link to portfolio. My personal opinion, that's how I sell it as a recruiter. I will say skip the resume because it doesn't really matter. Pull up their GitHub and look what they're contributing to. That's great. That's what I generally say. Now the personal aspect that I'll add to that is that I am a high school dropout. I got my GD at the age of roughly 16 because I had a sick parent. I went on to school after, but I changed my major six times. So although I have over 183 credits towards a bachelor's degree, I think all that's required is roughly 145, they weren't concentrated in any particular area because I changed focus so many times, if you will. With that, every single job I've had for the last ten years has required a bachelor's degree. I've been a VP for a staffing company, I've been a director, numerous amounts of times, I have launched businesses and people have trusted me to launch businesses and markets where they didn't have business and I've been successful. So with that, and I see this so much with developers and in Poster Syndrome and in concern, that piece of paper, skip it specifically when it comes to technology, I had a rougher time with skipping it because I was more in business, but when it comes to technology, it's so insignificant in comparison to your ability to learn and the creative aspect of what you can do. Absolutely. I couldn't agree more because we're talking about an industry that the skills that you learn this year may be lost on your job in a year from now. And the skills you learn next year may be gone even faster than the ones you learn this year. I'm describing Moore's law in a really abstract way, but the basic idea here is we're moving very quickly. And so the stuff, the buzzwords that you can write on your resume, that stuff is not nearly as important to me. I've hired a few people now. That stuff is not nearly as important to me as what happens when you come in for your trial month with my company, right? If you come in and you sit down and you write a great pull request and you can communicate clearly and you test your stuff, your thorough, your detail oriented, your on time, those are the kinds of things that a lot of developers have taken for granted that they don't need to do because they've been able to work out of their basement quite honestly, right? And a lot of developers seem to think that they can kind of set their own terms. And when you apply to a company that's no longer true, right? If you're freelancing, then you can somewhat do that kind of thing, right? You can set your own terms, set your own hours, you know, and that's a great situation for a lot of people. But if you want to be in an office working for a company, if you want a stable job, a salary, that kind of stuff, then you can't set your term, your own terms anymore. You need to get good at these off skills, right? And that's kind of the theme of where we're going with this. And I love this story, Rita, of you not even finishing your first degree in high school, but then completely overcoming those odds. And really what we're saying is that it's not even overcoming the odds. It's just reality, right? It's not even that things were against you in those moments. It's that the reality is those degrees are not nearly as important as who you are and what you can do. 100,000 percent. And I saw a lot of that at WinCode because WinCode is obviously alternate education. So it's for the individuals. I mean, some individuals had CS degrees and it came to the program to really learn the code aspect of it and then some individuals were career changers over 80 percent were career changers. But with that, I would tell students all the time because they would get hung up on the fact, well, I don't have a CS degree. I mean, as soon as I'm meeting with a client and they tell me I need a CS degree, I literally say why? I mean, automatically, why do you feel that way? Oh, because this is an engineering role. Great. So what exactly does that mean to you? And then I will sit there and I'll get personal with them and I say, well, you know, you're looking to me to consult you about infrastructure, which is the most important and most critical point of any company being successful is infrastructure. And you're talking to someone who's the high school dropout. Yeah, I've been doing this for 12 years and been extremely successful. So let me know if you want to continue the conversation. I mean, literally, that's literally what I say. However, I do have something that I tell the students is to dip your voice in hunting when you say it. Because if it sounds sweeter, it's less argumentative. You know what I mean? Yeah, of course. Of course. But, you know, it don't get me wrong. I'm not saying there isn't a value to a CS degree or to any degree. There absolutely is. That said, we are living in a world right now that is moving so quickly and so fast that the investment in four years of education, when someone can invest four years of truly learning development and consistently building and breaking something and building it again is going to be much more viable than it is in any other industry. You can't take that shortcut to being a lawyer. You can't take that shortcut to being a doctor. It's different. It's a very different field. That said, as we're speaking about technology, it's extremely different. And I agree with you, you were chatting about, you know, if you wanted to get into sports or if you wanted to get into, you know, environmental energy, whatever the case may be, every company is a technology company right now. I mean, that's where we are. I have my 12 year old learning code. I have my seven year old learning code. And as soon as my three year old can cite, guess what? She's learning code code. Yeah. What languages are you teaching them, by the way? So I have my son. He actually just finished code. I'm sorry. He's a con Academy for his age group. And he's now going on to code Academy. Wow. Good for him. I have him more learning open source with a strong backbone and job out because I think it makes sense. Stella, my seven year old is more, you know, with con Academy, she's making cars move and things like that and heavily into Minecraft. My three year old isn't quite there yet. My partner's eight year old is about to start her coding curriculum next week, actually. That's awesome. I have all my kids learning it because I feel that not that they will necessarily be the Lebelvers or engineers or not, which, you know, if they are amazing, because I think there's so much opportunity there, that said, it is the new literacy. In the 1980s, we saw an influx in curriculum change in the United States. Spanish, all of a sudden, became something that became an elective in the United States in terms of curriculum. I guarantee you in the next 10 years across the board, we are going to see coding as an elective for language in every school across the US. It's the only way that we can make that. Still the way. Yeah. Yeah. I think that even beyond that, I think they're going to start integrating code into math and science classes a little bit more. But we're speculating at this point, but that to me is a very positive direction. I would say even in art classes, we're going to see code being introduced. A lot of that potentially, you know, in the hands of the teachers. But you know, we learned on these calculators that could do graphs, right? We learned code without realizing that we're learning code. We learned pure functions in our calculus classes. And we learned about systems. We learned about the debugging process. We learned in seventh grade when we learned about the scientific method. Like there's so many things that we've learned in school that really, you know, code fits right into those subjects. But in any case, I do agree with you 100% that code is going to be, I think it'll be in every high school probably by the time my children end up in high school. And I haven't had children yet, so, but hopefully, hopefully by that point, you know, code is going to be, and we were saying code just generally speaking because I think, you know, regardless of the language, a lot of people listening right now are maybe turning their nose up at the idea that we're not using anything specific regarding languages. But at that point, the language isn't going to matter nearly as much as the concepts. Agreed. And I think that that is to your point, individuals that kind of caught up on what would it be, what would it be, open source, what would it be, but, you know, I agree the concepts are going to be taught funny enough, my children are starting a school in Miami in the fall that starts coding fourth grade. And the only reason that they have that built into a curriculum is that one of the fourth grade teachers whose massive math genius thought that it would be valuable, he petitions to the school board and they've allowed it. And that's part of the reason why I've selected that school is that they start teaching code in fourth grade. I mean, that's amazing. That's amazing. That's great. Yeah. Yeah, it's amazing. It outlines once again how important it is for Developer To continue learning, but also because, you know, the literacy of code is no longer going to be the unique factor. It's once again, outlining the importance of these human skills we've been talking about. Yes. Because eventually, you know, programmers are going to be everywhere. That's a prediction I have at least. I think you'd probably agree, Rita, that programming is going to be a very common skill in our children's children most likely. Yes, I wish there was something that I can compare it to in the past, but frankly, I can't because every company, again, and I'll say it, I'll say it again and again, every company is a technology company. I recently met with Zumba Fitness. So Zumba, everybody's seen those classes, right? And they haven't heard of the planning gym. They happen off-site. I mean, they have nothing to do with technology. One would think, but here in South Florida, they have a fairly large technology group and a ton of developers on their staff. And it's really interesting that one would see it's a fitness company. Why would they need developers? Newsfush, they do. Every company is a technology company because there's websites, there's applications. How data is exchanged. When you look at internet usage, 85% of internet usage happens on a cell phone. Who develops that? The developers. Who makes that happen? So I think that people, I hear it all the time in the developer community, there's an oversaturation of the market. I don't necessarily agree with that. I think that it's important for individuals to hone additional skills, to not get comfortable in the space that they exist in. So if you're a done that developer, maybe you should learn open source, have you an open source developer, maybe you should learn.net. You should be looking towards always sharpening your tools and gaining more knowledge. But I also think that it's really important to network and see the soft skill component. Because for the senior developers out there, from someone who's worked in a recruiting for a long time, and you're probably not going to like what I'm about to say, but I'm going to say it. For the very tenured senior Developer That have, you know, 10 to 15 years in experience that feel like they know everything they're used to know, guess what? There's someone who doesn't know what you know, but has a better attitude and is more eager and is more hungry than you are. And that person's going to get the job. Yes. Every time. Every time. Every time. And for that individual that feels like they don't have enough experience, that is painfully suffering from a posture syndrome in a corner and says, I can't apply. I'm not worthy. I don't know enough what I would tell that individual, which is the same thing that I would tell the students at WinCode is there are two ways to get over in posture syndrome. One, practice your craft so you can't anymore and get up again and practice it more. And you secure the job for the craft you think you don't have. It's like training for a marathon. You know, day one, I've ran a half marathon. So day one, you can't run three miles. That seems insane. Forget about everything point one miles, but you get up every day and you do it again and you continue and you do your interval training and you teach yourself and you stretch your muscles and you push yourself. And then all of a sudden, you're doing a damn half marathon. Same thing. That's how you get a posture syndrome. You practice your craft and you continue. Thanks so much for listening to this first half of the interview with Rita Rovira. We'll be back with the second half of the interview on Wednesday. So if you don't want to miss out on the second half, make sure you subscribe to Developer Tea and whatever podcasting app you use. Thanks again to Leno for sponsoring today's episode with Leno. You can instantly deploy and manage an SSD server in the Leno Cloud. You get two gigabytes of RAM for only $10 a month and a $20 credit by using the code Developer Tea 20 or going to linod.com slash Developer Tea. Thanks again to linod for sponsoring today's episode. Thank you once again for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.