Chicago’s ruby developer crisis

Trying to hire Ruby developers in Chicago is hard right now. Really hard. Like, I think every single one of them is happily engaged in their work. This is great for Chicago Ruby developers. This is frustrating for people trying to ramp-up their teams with local Ruby talent. How did we get here? How do we get out of this problem?

We got here because there are so many successful Ruby-friendly businesses that have grown quickly in the last year. Groupon is a Rails app and they have grown faster than anyone, ever. Braintree, 37 Signals, and Enova are growing. DRW hired David Chelimsky, Jay Fields, Dave Astels, Dean Wampler, and many other great developers who know Ruby. Over a year ago, Obtiva started relocating Ruby developers from other midwestern states, and Obtiva is now relocating Ruby developers from Australia and Canada.

But not everyone is in a position to attract people internationally. In a recent email conversation with Fred Lee, Kevin Taylor proposed two alternatives

to relocation…

Grow Rubyists

We’ve hired several strong. NET and Java developers who have made great transitions to Ruby. We look for deep backgrounds in agile development and object-oriented programming, and assume that type of developer can learn Ruby quickly. We have also apprenticed several people in the last year, 2 of whom are now working on Rails with us at Groupon.

This presents a huge opportunity for non-Ruby developers in Chicago who are unhappy with their current job situation. I remember having lunch with a younger friend of mine in early 2010 and giving him some advice as he was considering his next move. His day job was in Java, and he wasn’t feeling particularly challenged, so he had taught himself Ruby. “If you want more options and opportunities and Chicago, focus on Ruby.” That’s what he did and a couple months later he was hired by Groupon to join their API team.

Foster Community

We already have a good software developer community in Chicago. Ray Hightower and his crew are a big part of that. Yet, there is certainly still room for more people to step up and help out. Sponsoring, hosting, and starting user groups are cheap, especially if you compare it to the cost of hiring a recruiter. Nicholas Young started Chicago Geek Breakfast, and is connecting all sorts of people. Make it a priority for your people to participate in the community. Encourage them to speak publicly about what they’re working on. Consider open sourcing part of your codebase to give your team some community exposure. Send your people to local conferences and ask them to find people they want to work with.

We are going to have to get creative because the Ruby talent pool is dry. It’s likely that if we don’t improve things, businesses will opt for other languages that are easier to hire for. We want our businesses to have options. Consider trying some of these ideas before you shell out money to an outside recruiter. They’ve worked wonders for us at Obtiva.

Chicago’s ruby developer crisis