Category Archives: Recruitment

Video: My HR Interview Advice

HR interviews can be a sticky wicket, but they’re easy to pass as long as you bear in mind a couple of simple facts and do a little preparation before hand. Here’s my explanation of the key points:

Martin Jee’s HR interview advice

My top 10 predictions for Software Development in 2017

mjs-future-predictions-2017

These are my predictions, based on nothing more than my observations over the year so far.

 

  1. Machine learning is going to be BIG – demand for anyone with commercial experience or a PHD in Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence will be massive. Watch out of Neural Networks and Bayesian Optimisation

 

  1. Microservices will continue to be adopted, driving up demand for the skills like SOA and RESTful Webservices, and driving down contractor rates

 

  1. React will overtake Angular the Front End space

 

  1. Enter Kotlin : a new Jetbrains language, based on the JVM there are already a handful of commercial projects in flight, but I think this new language will gain more traction and recognition this year

 

  1. Growth of Web-based mobile apps – and therefore less demand for specific iOS and Android developers

 

  1. PAAS – I’ve seen a lot of service-based companies building Platforms As A Service encouraging their buyers to cut down their own internal infrastructure teams, and I think this trend will only continue

 

  1. OpenStack and DevOps As A Service projects – we’ll see the technologists who have learnt to use these tools this year hit the market in 2017

 

  1. NancyFX (an “OpenSource” Microsoft lightweight development framework) will become an in demand skill in the C# development world

 

  1. Software Development Engineers In Test become increasingly in demand – we will continue to witness the steady decline of manual testing skills as automation and agile methodologies continue top penetrate the Software Test Lifecycle

 

  1. Enter the Age of “X is Code” – Infrastructure As Code, Networking As Code, etc. It will become increasingly harder for any hands on technologists who are non-coders to compete for the top positions

 

Employing Autistic People In Technology

Yesterday I met a learning psychologist to discuss how people who are on the Autism and Aspergers spectrum can be integrated into the technology workforce (Aspergers is a form or type of Autism) and I thought it would be good to share my notes and thoughts following my fascinating meeting with her.

DUSTIN HOFFMAN MAKES A FORMAL INTRODUCTION

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Gainfully employing autistic people is something that I think has been at the back of the Western World’s mind ever since “Rain Man” came out, and I certainly don’t think it’s unusual for someone to have watched that film and wondered to themselves how that character’s strengths could be implemented in their industry!

(One thing that she soon told me – and that I should point out here – is that the Raymond Babbit character in the film is a portrayal of an autistic person who also has “savant abilities”, his almost super human ability to do maths and remember things is very far from being a typical trait of autism!)

 

MY FIRST NON-NEUROTYPICAL CANDIDATE

But recruiting autistic people in technology is certainly been something that has been on my mind since the beginning of my career. That’s because I remember very early on I found a developer’s CV who had a PhD in Computer Science and had mentioned that he had Aspergers at the bottom of his CV. I called him up, partly out of curiosity, and to my surprise he seemed to be nothing like Dustin Hoffman’s character, there was something about his communication style that was a little “askew”, but there was nothing inhibiting his ability to express himself in verbal communication. We discussed some positions I had at the time and I went ahead and submitted him for them. Disappointingly we got absolutely no traction in the market and I when I called him  back a couple of weeks later it turned out he had decided to go back into academia.

 

My feeling was/is that his story is not uncommon. Whenever the industry has a drive to hire “diversity” candidates, we almost always see the same thing. Lots of enthusiasm and fanfare at the top, but at the hiring manager level things tend to peter out. I’m not so sure this is an active resistance but probably something more passive and risk-adverse.

 

THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN’

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But there are lots of reasons to think that times might indeed be changing. SAP began a pilot scheme to hire autistic people in 2013 and Microsoft began one in February 2015 (non-Neurotypical), and a year later they opened up 10 new positions across the UK. By 2015 SAP reported they had hired 66 people across the world and only 2 had left, which is an excellent attrition rate given that its not unusual for autistic people to lose their job within the first year.

 

AUTISTIC HIRES HAVE BOTH MET AND EXCEEDED EXPECTATIONS

Both have teamed up with Specialisterne, a specialist non-Neurotypical recruitment company to help achieve this, and both report that their hires have either met or exceeded expectations. Both companies have been keen to hold up their successes to show the world what can be done with an open mind and some specialist training.

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AUTISTISM IN TECHNOLOGY

SAP have said that autistic people are well suited to being “software testers, programmers, and data-quality-assurance specialists” and given that autistic people tend to be either at average or above average intelligence, that makes sense to me!

 

So hopefully, an increased consciousness across the IT sector that autistic people can bring an awful lot to a company’s development efforts, will bring more and more people into the technology workplace.

 

NOTES ON EMPLOYING AUTISTIC PEOPLE

So it was with these ideas bubbling at the back of mind that I met a learning psychologist to find out more about what employers should think about when considering hiring technologists with these conditions. These are my notes, they’re not a definitive guide, if you want to learn more about hiring autistic people I’d suggest that the Papworth Trust and the National Autistic Society are both good places to start:

 

  • STRUCTURE AND ROUTINE Autistic people are most comfortable being able to follow the same routine or set of routines day in, day out.
  • NOT FLEXIBLE And they won’t respond well if your business demands mean that work will chop and change frequently.
  • JOBS WITH A START AND AN END Autistic people will thrive in an environment where challenges have a clear “start to finish” nature.
  • VERY LOYAL Autistic people can be very loyal employees, often if they find a place they like, they won’t move. That doesn’t mean if you manage to hire someone you’ve got them for life, it’s still a quid pro quo agreement, but in general they’ll stick around.
  • BREAKS Autistic people are often reluctant to take breaks because they don’t feel comfortable in the typical work-based socialising that is involved. As an employer you’ll still have to ensure that your hires take breaks though, so work with them to find a solution.
  • ENGAGING WORK Autistic people tend to be at average or above average intelligence, so it stands to reason that successfully employing an autistic person will require giving them work that they consider challenging and engaging, an art that is undoubtedly one of the most difficult challenges to surmount in this arena.
  • That said if you’re successful on this point, Autistic people don’t tend to expect promotions in the same way that Neurotypical people do, they’ll be unlikely to be interested in management or work that involves close technical collaboration.
  • EXCELL AT DILIGENCE The fact that they don’t get bored by very repetitive tasks means that they are well suited to software testing and quality assurance roles where churning out work that requires a high degree of attention to detail.
  • AVOID TASKS WHICH REQUIRE QUALITATIVE JUDGEMENTS As a generalisation Autistic people don’t tend to thrive with tasks that require making opinion calls, or qualitative judgements. Their thinking is much more binary.
  • TAILOR INSTRUCTIONS AND COMMUNICATION Autistic people are very literal, and dislike and can get confused by common language idioms and “business speak” (the nuances of being told that someone found a task very “challenging” in a workplace context might well be completely lost on an autistic person).
  • SOME HAVE A LANGUAGE DISORDER Some Autistic people actually have a language disorder as well as being on the autism spectrum which will add an extra layer of complexity to an employment environment. Although it should be noted that the relationship between poor social skills, language and autism is a massive area of ongoing scientific research.
  • VERY HONEST Given their binary nature many employers find their Autistic hires “what you see is what you get” helpful and refreshing. Without any real concept of “business speak” someone who speaks their mind, often with a seemingly ruthless honesty, and no “hidden agenda” can be a real asset to a team.
  • SOCIAL SKILLS PROGRESSIVELY IMPROVE Many Austic people’s social skills gradually improve over the years with increased experience at socialising.
  • AVERSION TO FLUORESCENT LIGHTS Employers looking to hire autistic people should be aware that it’s common for people on this spectrum to have an aversion to very bright or fluorescent lighting, so you might need to check out the ambience of your empty work station!
  • CASE BY CASE BASIS!! Finally it’s well worth bearing in mind that each Autistic person will have this condition to a greater or lesser extent.

 

+++ This is what I learnt from my meeting and having since read into what’s happening in the tech industry in general. If you read this and you think there’s something wrong, or a misrepresentation please email me martin.jee@energonpeople.com so I can make any corrections that are needed +++

Whatever you do in 2013, don’t…

Don’t quit your job before getting a new one.

Sayonara

This is a subject I speak to so many developers about. We start to discuss their next career move and they reveal that they are planning on quitting their job soon so that they will become immediately available for a contract. The logic being that only technologists who are immediately available are eligible for contract positions…

Notice periods

There are two problems with this course of action. In my experience it is a complete fallacy that you can only get a contract position if you don’t have a notice period. If you are the right candidate for the position nine times out of ten the client will wait 4 weeks for you to start. Now at this point I would point out that my experience of recruitment is purely limited to the financial markets, so I am not speaking for any other market; but despite clients almost always stating that they would prefer to hire a candidate who can start straight away, in practice they are always happy to wait for the right candidate.

A deep recession

Despite the appearance of “green shoots” in the banking sector, we are still very much in a deep recession at the moment. Everyone who reads the papers or has any contact with life outside of the Square Mile can see that. They’re even talking about the country going into a triple dip recession (not a new icecream flavour) – so the idea of quitting your job without already having lined up something to go to is madness. The contract market is still depressed, and there are still lots of contractors out there looking for their next contract, so competition for each position is fierce.

“Ready to go contracting”

After about 5 years development experience many developers start to consider the prospect of going contracting. In general contracting is a good career option for someone who is a strong technologist but not interested in team leadership or corporate titles. The problem is that the contract market is not buoyant at the moment, with many of the investment banks trying to replace contractor numbers with permies. So there are lots of developers out there who feel that they are “ready to go contracting” but have not been able to.

My advice to these people is to be patient. Quitting your stable, permie job in the hope that it will make it easier for you to find a contract will not make it happen faster. Doing so runs the risk that you will end up waiting for months without finding that dream contract job, or even end up taking another permie job! You might be ready, but if the market is not, nothing you do will change that. If you are determined to go contracting, I think you are better off either staying where you are and applying for contract positions as and when you come up (despite your notice period) or taking a new permie position that will improve your prospects to enter the contract market when it does pick up. But one thing is for sure, being unemployed in a recession is no fun.

Good news for the start of 2013

I’ve got a feeling that despite all my gloomy predictions at the end of last year, 2013 is going to be a good year for the City of London. I started to think that things might not be as bad as I had thought they would be when within a few days of being back in the office we started to get some interesting roles being released. Now, 17 days into the year we have about as many live roles now as I did at my busiest period at any point last year.

A healthy number of roles is always a good sign, but IT recruitment tends to be a “bellweather” for how the financial markets are doing, as opposed to an accurate indicator. For instance lots of roles in January could just be a sign that it’s the New Year and companies wanting to test the market to see what the quality is like, rather than actually having a need to hire.

Good news from the States means good news for us

But there has actually been some low level good noise floating about since the summer, I refer mainly the Oil and Gas boom in the USA. Their enthusiastic adoption of “fracking” has revolutionised their national energy landscape, which is going to help their economy recover, leading to surprising stories that the US is now a net exporter of oil and that they expect to export more oil than Saudi by 2020 flying around.

The US economy is flying

Then last week I read this article in the BBC news Bank of America to pay Fannie Mae billions to settle mortgage claims. Now that Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan and Wells Fargo have settled their dispute with the US Government (Fannie Mae), the toxic debts they acquired in the lead up to 2007 / 08 will have been cleared off their liability books, which will improve their balance sheets at a stroke, meaning that they can now lend more, pay more dividends and be in a stronger position for the banking standards currently being implemented (i.e. Volcker and the rest of Dodd-Frank). Now they don’t have set aside so much capital to meet these liabilities many of the banks can start chalking up bigger profits.

And today the front page of City AM sees JP Morgan announce, alongside Goldman Sachs, that profits are up 12%. And even better news was that Goldman Sachs recorded a 19% rise in total revenues in 2012. As these two top investment bank do well, we should start to see the other banks also starting to do well. And with all the cost cutting the banks have been doing since 2011, they should be in a place where profits can come quite quickly.

Which can only mean good news for Java developers in the City of London and Finance Technology recruiters like myself. Hopefully this recent spate of jobs will be the beginning of a more successful period than recent years!

On an aside I just can’t help but think what a shame it is that whilst the US banks have been able to sort themselves out, the UK still seems to lag behind. How long do we have to wait for our own banks to move on from the quagmire of 2008?

My predictions for the Java development market in 2013

It appears that in 2013 the economy will continue to remain largely flat, with hiring continuing at the same slow rate that we saw in 2012. This year we saw hiring driven largely by regulatory changes, replacement of contractors by off shore and permanent resources, a rise in specific-tendered-for consultancy work and a limited amount of strategic projects driven by long-term, global business decisions.

In 2013 a number of high profile banks will be recovering from regulatory fines levied in 2012 and it looks as if we are yet to see the full fall-out from the Libor scandal. July 2013 will see the new Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney take control of Threadneedle street, I don’t know much about his approach but I have heard that he doesn’t like QE and that he is also likely to increase the base interest rate during his tenure.

So not great news to bear in mind during the festive season, but probably no surprise to anyone as no one has really been predicted a massive improvement in the economy in 2013. It is interesting to reflect that when the economy crashed in 2007, there were some hard-to-believe predictions that the economy would take 10 years to recover, 5 years later and it doesn’t look so hard to believe. Saying that I have started to hear that things will look very different in 2014, and that despite any national economic predictions, the City might well do very well indeed…

It is worth bearing in mind that every market has its winners and losers, and some people will be making lots of money this year, so my overall advice to Java developers for 2013 is to get your CV ready, so that you can capitalise on good opportunities when they come along.

My tips for 2013:

THE GENERAL RECRUITMENT SCENE

• Offers have been largely flat this year, so make career choices that will pay off in the long run rather than the short term. Opportunities that will increase your technical portfolio, your business skills or project management experience will all help your career to continue to develop during these difficult financial years

• If you have a want to achieve a big pay rise – say you believe you are being paid about 10 – 20k less than your market worth – you are unlikely to achieve it with one career move. HR and procurement are looking closer than ever at percentage increases on basic salary / daily rate, and large increases are becoming much rarer. So making a strategic move in 2013, with a view to moving on again the year after, will be more likely to get you where you want to be, rather than simply waiting for the economy to pick up in 2014

• Many budgets will continue to remain flat and BAU work will reign. This will make opportunities to work on greenfield projects will hot property

• The contractor share of the developer market will continue to suffer as employers continue to look to make savings by hiring permies and outsourcing.

• 2012 was not a good year for experienced developers in general, be they contractors or permies, with juniors being in especially high demand. I don’t think 2013 will see any change

• Offshoring and nearshoring will continue to increase, with countries like Poland and the Ukraine being the main beneficiaries, whilst Hungary, Romania, Israel, Vietnam, India, Singapore, China and Russia also benefiting. A knock on benefit of this will be continued demand for dev managers with offshore and Agile experience.

FINANCIAL REGULATORY REFORM

This year we have seen more a dramatic increase in stringent regulatory requirements coming from Dodd-Frank, Basel III and the FTT, I think a rule of thumb will be:

• The French Financial-Transactions Tax (FTT) or “Tobin Tax” is threatening to wreck the Euronext market, and therefore much of the UK high frequency trading market, taking a large chunk of UK revenues from FX and equities trading with it

• Basel III will wreak serious damage to the fixed income business, as new capitalisation rules mean many bank’s revenues from fixed income trading will be down

• Dodd-Frank will seriously limit the ability of the investment banks to make money out of derivatives products and exotic swaps (continuing to reduce the effectiveness of the OTC derivatives market)

HOT TECHNOLOGIES

• Java 8 will be released in the summer providing Java developers with the ability to write Lambda expressions into their code for the first time, a feature that has been widely enjoyed by C# developers since 2007. Java 8 will also include the final components of Oracle’s new Rich Internet Application package “JavaFX” which was otherwise released with Java 7

• 2012 now looks like it was the year of Big Data and NoSQL, and I expect both technology veins to continue to do well in 2013. Both were picked up to varying degrees by the financial markets and were largely used for their analytics features in response to regulatory reporting requirements

• Scala is still gaining in popularity with many developers in the City having learnt it in their spare time and 2012 saw an increase Scala projects led from top down. I suspect the trend will continue in Scala’s favour over 2013.

• Adobe’s CQ5 UI suite really took off in 2012 and I suspect it will continue to do so in 2013.

• HTML5 is now practically considered an industry standard and will continue to solidify its position in 2013

• Mobile and web applications will continue to grow in importance in 2013 – I don’t think this market has reached its potential by any stretch. As security measures improve for iOS we will continue to see increased utilisation of smart phones and tablets for business purposes by sales teams, portfolio managers and traders

That’s all from me for 2012. See you in the new year!

A rough guide to Polish Universities

I have been doing some digging around recently into which Polish Universities have a reputation for turning out good Java developers, and as a rule the top 5 seem to be:

  • University of Warsaw
  • Jagiellonian University in Krakow
  • Politechnika in Wrocław
  • Gdansk
  • Poznan

In general all Polish Universities seem to have a high bar and I think that is reflected by the generally good standard of Polish developers in the UK.

Most cities seem to have a University and a Politechnika, which are divided on the same lines as the UK – the former providing more theoretical focused courses and the later more technical ones. Saying that the Politechnikas have a much, much better reputation than the British Polytechnics, and often the two institutions vie for the top place in that city. So for instance the Politechnika in Wrocław has a better reputation than the University of Wrocław. Politechnika tend to run courses that are more “electrical engineering” based and will have resources like micro processor labs onsite.

The top university in Poland is the University of Warsaw. Its got a reputation for teaching its students core computer science concepts and quite a lot of its students go on to do a PhD in algorithms or the JVM or similar. During high school students take Olympiad exams and the highest scoring students get to choose which University they attend, and many will choose the University Warsaw, with those who don’t opting for another top uni because it is closer to home. Students at the University of Warsaw also tend to score consistently well in global competitions like TopCoder and IBM’s ACM-ICPC, often beating the USA’s prestigious MIT. This institution is not to be confused with the neighbouring “Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University”, which seems to be the “Oxford Brookes” of Warsaw – a good university in its own right, but not at the prestigious level of the city’s main institution.

For Gdansk and Poznan there is apparently not much difference between the Universities and the Politechnika – each have good reputations. I also don’t know much about the Jagiellonian in Krakow, other than it very prestigious and many Olympiad winners also choose to attend.

On an aside, it is interesting to note that there is no major Polish tech company. Most countries today where computer programming is a strong industry tends to have at least one global IT corporation but Poland doesn’t. I suppose that’s because for the last 20 years Polish programmers have tended to leave Poland to build their career in countries like the UK or USA in exchange for higher salaries, a higher standard of living and a more international working environment. Today Poland is catching up on all 3 of those factors, which I imagine will steadily work to stop the “brain drain” and we should see a major Polish tech company appear as that happens. Putting my money on the table, I am going to predict one appearing in the next 5 years.