Usergroup Networking

This group is doing it wrong.

Posted by AgileCoder on September 1, 2016

A while back I switched jobs at work. For the past 6 years I have been supervising teams working on projects in the .Net world. I’ve picked up some technical skills over that time, like a bit of AngularJS, and some web service architecture and development I hadn’t done before. But over that time my primary skill development has been in the areas of people and project management.

When I was recruited for the new job, one of the things that excited me was the opportunity to move to a team that is doing almost exclusively Java and JavaScript web development. One of the things that excited my new boss was that I recognized the key to being successful in this job would be focusing on my management and people related “soft skills”. Of those, one that I have been pretty good (lucky…) at is new team members.

I don’t know that I have any great tips for recruiting or interviewing. I can only tell you what I try to do:

  • Cast a wide net.
  • Have a consistent phone screen.
  • Pair program on relatively simple code katas during the in-person interview.
  • Value team fit/personality over raw skill.

The problem I ran into with my first team vacancy was with “Cast a wide net” and it shocked me. In the .Net world in my area there is a pretty active user group. That user group actively welcomes job-related networking on their site and at their meetings. So, when I had a vacancy on my new Java-based team, my first impulse was to contact the local Java Users Group. I tried a couple times to post a job to their forum. They were rejected with an auto-response:

Hi, thanks for interest in the jobs list. Right now we have 500 people on this list. We restrict messages to ujug sponsors, otherwise we couldn’t pay for pizza at meetings.

I reached out to the site admins.

As far as I know I have no way of becoming a sponsor as an employee of a state government agency, and certainly can’t work it out in time to broadcast this opening before the recruitment closes.

I’m just the person who is trying to fill the job. I’m a former .Net programmer who got asked to take over a Java web development team and since my contacts in the Java world are pretty limited I was looking for ways to piggy-back on an existing community.

I understand if you feel you still need to reject this message to limit the board to sponsors, but at the same time, there may be any number of people in your community looking for a new or different opportunity, and right now the State of Utah has two positions open. This is not contract work, it’s not a recruiter collecting a fee. I’m the guy in the trenches just trying to add good people to a fun team.

The final response I got was:

I understand recruiting is tough, but it’s not fair to our paying sponsors if we let others use the resources. Good luck!

Look, I get it. You have a group that meets monthly and you have to find and maybe pay for a space, you may need to have prizes occasionally, you may need pizza or other eats each meeting.

That said, I think my point about the service to members is key. My guess is that the average developer showing up for the meeting has no idea that their networking in the case of job loss is far less effective than it could be.

The local .Net group has an open job discussion board.

The local JavaScript group has a jobs channel on Slack.

The local Java Group - you have to pay $750 a year minimum to post a job.

Want to reward your sponsors? That’s great. But find a way for the average member of your group to get the word out about any job opportunity you know about. Job related networking? It may just be my opinion, but you are doing it wrong.