How We Make Sure We Have the Human Resources Our Clients Need (In A Hurry!)
Clients come to us with software development projects when they don’t have sufficient resources in-house. Either that’s because they lack people with the necessary skills, or they have suitably qualified staff but they are tied up on other jobs. If it’s the latter, the job could be quite urgent – they leave it to the last moment before contacting us in the hope that their guys will somehow find the time!
This in turn can cause us problems – we don’t keep a team of developers sitting on stand-by just in case a new job is needed in a hurry. So how do we tackle the resourcing issue when this situation arises?
The short answer is that we have to plan ahead and have a strategy in place for scaling up resources at short notice. This happened quite recently when we got a call from a client. They needed a team of eight people to start in a fortnight’s time! We managed to get seven by the start date, but then the workload wasn’t quite as heavy as anticipated, so it all worked out nicely.
Using freelancers to fill the gaps
The quickest solution is to bring in freelance talent – which is exactly what we have done. We currently have two contractors in our office here and another one working for us at our client’s premises.
However, when we need someone in a hurry we don’t just brief a recruitment agency and hope they come up with somebody good – we’ve built up a pool of trusted associates we can call on. Most of the people at Zircon, and certainly the management team, have been in the industry for years. This means we have worked with hundreds of good people over the years, many of whom are now working in a freelance capacity or available for full time employment.
One of our recent recruits worked with Brian, our Managing Director, way back in 1984. On a recent project for a long standing client, we also hired two guys who used to work with us there when the company was known by another name. So we have plenty of experienced associates we have worked with in the past that we can pull in, as required.
Having said that, we are always looking to expand our talent pool – we’d love to hear from people who feel they have skills and experience that would be valuable to us.
Developing younger talent
The team at Zircon is predominantly made up of very senior people with a lot of knowledge, experience and skills to share. This means that if we bring in keen young people we have ample resources to manage and develop them – we have plenty of senior guys with the technical and project management capabilities who can supervise and direct teams of juniors.
It works well because the younger guys are full of enthusiasm and energy – with the right supervision they can be very productive. They also tend to be more innovative and creative – someone fresh from university may approach things in ways that more senior people wouldn’t think of, and they may be more familiar with different languages and tools. But you need those wise old heads around to guide and oversee them. The experience filters down and the fresh ideas filter up, so that makes for a well-balanced and effective team.
We have a close relationship with the University of the West of England and we usually take on one or two promising undergraduates in the third year of their studies as part of their sandwich course. If they are good we offer them a job on graduation.
Problem solvers wanted
Good people are in short supply – so when we find them we stay in touch. We’re looking for a range of skills, but most of the graduates we take on are from a computer science or maths background, with the occasional physicist. They have to be numerate and capable of using those skills to think through a problem and then solve it.
As we say on our website, we’re not looking for “impenetrable nerds”. We need people who can express themselves well. It’s no good being a genius in your own little world, or sat at a screen, if you can’t communicate with other human beings – you might be Einstein but we’re not interested unless you can explain what you are doing to the rest of the team.
A great example is our latest recruit, Ciarán. A recent maths graduate who lives near the office, he approached us looking for work experience and he has turned out to be really good. As he is articulate, personable and has a personality, we thought we’d let him tell you about what he’s working on at the moment – read his blog post here.
If you have the work we have the people
We realise that that we’re in no position to help our clients unless we have access to the right people – so we’ve put in a lot of work over the years to cultivate good relationships with capable professionals and talented graduates.
So, despite the fact that we’re growing nicely and keeping the team busy, we have the resources to take on fresh projects at short notice and give them the kind of attention they deserve.