Refer to this interview when hiring a developer
Hiring a Developer
In our last post, we shared with you an action guide for hiring developers. We’ve gotten some wicked feedback on it already over the weekend, through the blog and email. Thank YOU!
Tony left us a rather thoughtful comment a few days ago :-)... Thanks Tony. You’re the bomb. As a follow-up to the guide, I wanna introduce you to the founders of GliderPath, a project management software for companies in the translation industry.Lubos and Romina are a badass couple from the Czech Republic who went through The Foundation over the past 10 months. They didn’t code the software themselves. They didn’t hire any developers through friends or referral. And they didn’t know anything about how to hire high quality developers when they first started. Despite all that, they’ve been able to lockdown “A player” developers to work with them. We thought they’d be the perfect follow up to the last action guide. You can read the interview we did with them below.
Download the Entire Interview
You’ll see their honest and truthful answers to questions that people have been leaving on our blog about hiring developers.
- What’s the best way to filter out “bad” developers?
- How do you evaluate a developer if you have no coding experience?
- Can you provide a frame of reference for cost when hiring a developer? How do you know what's reasonable?
- How do you protect yourself from getting screwed over by a developer?
- How do you set and hold to a production timetable? What's the best way to estimate how long things will take to build?
What I love about this interview is their answers are so fresh. They literally just went through the process of searching for a developer within the past six months or so. Maybe even more recent. They started from a clean slate, of having no experience before in hiring developers. I find their insights so valuable, since they know exactly what it’s like to start from scratch. Sometimes advice can be tainted when it’s coming from experienced experts, because they might forget what it’s like to to be at ground zero. Check it out below, you’ll love it. It’s in text, and we kept it pretty raw and conversational so you could get a feel for Lubos and Romina. They’re amazing. I love ‘em. They had so much energy, positivity, and care while doing this interview. I wish you could hear their voices. We would’ve shared the audio interview, but the quality was a bit spotty. I’ve heard that most of us read faster than we listen anyway, because a lot of us can skim and pick up more than we think in the process.
Anyway… here it is! :-)...
In a nutshell, what is your software business? What does it do?Romina: GliderPath is a project management software. It’s specifically tailored for the translation and localization industry. Our edge is that it’s very simple, easy to use and easy to learn. It’s very user-friendly.
Lubos: To give more background about the industry… there’s a ton of software out there. And the users are very savvy with the technology. It was difficult to come up with something interesting they hadn’t seen before. We thought the best approach that we could take was to keep things simple. This is what they love about the software. They’re able to get what they want in just a few clicks.
Since the industry is so saturated with software, I guess nobody really did what they teach in The Foundation... which is to listen to your customer. A lot of the existing software out there is a bit complicated, because it was all developed from the developer’s point of view.
What was your background before starting GliderPath? What skills did you have for business?Romina: I come from the industry actually. I was a project manager for a very long time, in companies of different sizes, and in translation companies of different sizes. Before that I was a translator. Later I began to focus on business development for the translation industry. And then I got tired… and tried to find something else :-).
So my background is mainly project management, with a little bit of business development there. But everything within the translation industry. Outside of my experience here, I had no other skills for business. Not in entrepreneurship either. I enjoyed the corporate world, but got tired of not being my own boss.
Lubos: I studied civil engineering, but right after university, it was tough to find job here related to that, so I found a job in the corporate world. In the meantime, I started to create websites mainly for me and for my friends, and started doing it full time because I liked it. It was fun. So yeah… I was Civil Engineer who never actually practiced engineering :-).
Why did you want to start a software business?Romina: We wanted to create something meaningful. Also, we wanted to be our own bosses. We wanted to be mobile. We both have families in different parts of the world that we both love to travel. We didn’t want to restrict seeing them to two weeks every year when our boss’ give us vacation time. We wanted to make sure that we would be able to travel all over the world. At the same we wanted to give something back or contribute with what we were doing.
We wanted to create something that would help people – business owners in this case. But people in general – to also live the life of their dreams. Every time we present GliderPath, we let business owners know we want to help them streamline their processes and save time, so they can do what they love most. It can be anything. It can be to have more time to in your business, or more time to spend with your family. We want to help in some way.
Lubos: I guess when everything started, one or maybe two years ago... we knew that we wanted something else other than our jobs.
Romina: We also ran heard about Dane and Andy at AwesomenessFest. It’s like a mixture of Burning man and TED talks...
Lubos: Amazing people, mostly entrepreneurs. We were there as corporate workers at the time. It was so funny because we were like looking at everyone like they were superheroes.
Romina: We saw that there was a possibility of something else that we were not seeing before. We saw that it was possible to be an entrepreneur, and enjoy your work, and do what you love. It was possible to make tons of money doing what you love. It was also possible to be rich and to be helpful and contribute to the world. This was November last year.
Lubos: Yeah, it was one month before the launch of the 2013 class of The Foundation. So we had heard about The Foundation because of Awesomenessfest, and from there we wanted to start a software company. We followed the blog and stayed up to date through emails to find out about enrollment.
Can you share the high-level story on your journey and experience with finding a developer?Romina: Okay. I can give the high level, and then Lubos can give you the details. Everything related to developers involved a lot of trial and error. We were following the steps in The Foundation. We decided to try oDesk, and started getting lots of back and forth conversations with developers. It was a matter of talking to them individually, and trying to see if they’d be a good match for the software AND to us as people.
We interviewed a lot of people. We were between two or three at the end. We decided to go for the guys who were freelancers. But they were sort of like a group of freelancers... so we knew that they’d have each other’s backs in case of issues came up or someone got sick. They were also in the same time zone as us. That was important for us, because we wanted less friction for communication. So that’s the high level. It’s a story with a happy ending. But there were a lot of phases in between. I guess Lubos will give you more details on that :-)
Lubos: Yeah that pretty much sums it up. In the beginning we were pretty specific with our instructions for the developers. But then we started using user stories to give an idea of how the customer would use the software.
That worked a lot better because developers are smart. By giving them specific things to do, and limiting their creativity, we actually capped off the potential of the software. So user stories have been very helpful.
Romina: I guess there are a couple of big lessons learned for us in relation to managing developers. The most important, at least for us, is that developers do what you tell them to do, which is very logical. Usually when there’s a problem with development, it’s not developer’s fault. It’s incorrect instructions or incorrect assumptions, or some misunderstanding or miscommunication on our side.
The second lesson learned is that developers are super smart and they like to figure out things. That’s why they are developers. So if we give them instructions we sometimes limit creativity. By giving them user stories, we let them brainstorm the best way to solve the issue for the customer. And the third lesson learned is that agile development is great. Managing by “sprints” is good.
Sprints should be short enough that we’re in control. This is so that we know that they are working, and that they are meeting the priorities exactly how we need them. If you just give them a very long timeline, they might just use a lot of it as free time, and do the work at the end, close to the deadline. It’s best to know what your priorities are and work with them on short sprints. For us, week-long sprints work well.
What’s the best way to filter out “bad” developers?Romina: It depends what you mean by bad developers. If by bad developers you mean those who can’t make what you visualize happen, you can try having them do a small test job that takes a week or so to do. It’s important that the instructions you give them are very clear, and you aren’t jumping any steps. Communication has to be very clear from your side in order to get a developer to respond.
We find that the best developers that we interviewed are the ones who communicated the most, and have their own ideas and suggestions on how to do things. If someone just accepts your instructions without having a suggestion, comment, or way to do it better, you might want to be be a little skeptical of how experienced they are.
Lubos: Also, you should feel comfortable hanging out with your developer, because you’re going to have to talk to them for a very long time, and very often. So if you don’t feel comfortable with the way they are, or the way that they interact with you, just discard them, because it’s not going to be fun working with them.
How do you evaluate a developer if you have no coding experience?Romina: A great question, and it’s related to what we were saying before. There are a couple of things that you can do, but it’s mainly related to whether this person delivers, and delivers something that makes sense for you. You may have no coding experience, but you know what your software is supposed to do, and how it’s supposed to look and function.
You may not be able to evaluate how clean is their code is while they are writing it, but definitely you’re able to evaluate performance, communication, and whether they deliver what you asked them or not. If you really, really want to make sure the code is good and high quality, you can hire somebody to check for you.
Lubos: Yeah. Also check their portfolio. That was also a way we evaluated. If they’ve done something with some features we were going to have, or similar, I was interested. I didn’t want to hire somebody who had a lot of experience in developing, but never did any kind of SaaS.
Can you provide a frame of reference for cost when hiring a developer? How do you know what's reasonable?Romina: It depends which part of the world you’re working from. Within certain limits, everything is reasonable, lol. It also has to do a lot with your budget. Particularly with our project, we had a set budget with the pre-sales we had. We approached the three runner-up developers, and asked them for a quote.
It ended up being within the parameters we were expecting. But before, that we had been talking with a couple of other developers, like friends from The Foundation, and friends from life which gave us an idea of how much a minimum viable product would cost. I don’t know if we could could throw an actual number out, because there are so many variables that you would have to consider. Depends where they are in the world, what language they speak, what language they code in, what your software requires… everyone has different rates. There’s a lot of variables to consider.
The best way that you could estimate is to run it through a friend who knows some coding, or just get in touch with a developer, no strings attached, asking what a reasonable estimate would be. Do that several times so that you have several points of references. We ran it by two or three people before actually asking for a quote. So when the quote came, it was more or less what we expected.
How do you protect yourself from getting screwed over by a developer?Lubos: Yeah, this was discussed in The Foundation, and we were recommended to have our own server, and have the developer deploy the coding there. We also had NDA agreements signed. We just asked them, “Okay, are you able to sign NDA?” And they had no problem with it.
Romina: The reason why we signed the NDA actually had more to do with the fact that we wanted to protect sensitive information from our end customers.
Lubos: Yup yup. The developer should be able to deploy the code or everything they do at the end of the day. Using something like GitHub is good. That way you have everything on your site. Our developers -- they directly told us, “okay, just get this server and get GitHub. We will deploy here, we will be writing code here.”
That’s how it was. I knew from The Foundation that this is the best way, so it was kind of plus for the developers in gaining brownie points with us because they suggested it themselves. We didn’t have to ask them for this. So far it works. We see what they are doing exactly on GitHub, and everything gets deployed to our server.
Romina: The thing also is that developers love being developers. They love to develop. They’re not so much into business. So they are okay with developing for us and we take care of the business part. At least the developers we’re working with… it wouldn’t occur to them to do a bootleg or copy of our software and try to market it themselves. They love to develop and create things.
How do you set and hold to a production timetable? What's the best way to estimate how long things will take to build?Romina: The way that we’re doing it now, is we decided to do it by “sprints”. We have a weekly schedule that we have shared with them. It’s basically a document in Google Drive.
Lubos: Yeah, where we have different tabs within the spreadsheets for different weeks.
Romina: We discuss it every Monday, and we adjust the priorities for the week based on what’s realistic. So it’s something that we discuss together developers. We include an estimated time and delivery date in the schedule.
Lubos: So for example, if we want to put in a certain feature, we load it into the document in Google Drive. They can break it into smaller pieces or like smaller features depending on what they think is most feasible. Then they can give us an estimate on time.
Romina: Having everything documented helps because it allows us to see the estimates and what gets done. So if we need a similar feature done in the future, we already know how long it should take, approximately. It was hard to get to this point! :-) We didn’t know much about agile development, so we actually had a call with Carl Mattiola. He had some experience with this, and suggested a unique approach that we modeled for ourselves. Basically, we discuss features every Monday, making sure that we are on the priorities for that week. Every Friday we just make sure that everything has been done. And if it hasn’t been done, we discuss why and we just move to the next week.
How can you ensure the code is “clean” so that other developers can take over if you stop working together?Romina: We didn’t really do this ourselves, so we can just try to give the best answer we have! :-) The easiest way, but the most expensive way is to hire someone to check the code. For us, we just made sure that the developers wrote a guideline of what they were doing. Also, we have them run test cases to make sure features run smoothly, and have them document everything along the way.
So in case we break up with these guys, we can bring somebody else. Hopefully that won’t happen. We love our developers. We’re thinking of bringing on someone else in the future… so they can be brought up to speed with the documentation our current developers have already prepared. So, you can either hire a third party to do a quality assurance check, or ask your developers to document what they are doing.
Did being in The Foundation help you get to where you are today? Could you have done it without? (more of a “quality control” question for us)Romina: Yes, totally helped us. No, we couldn’t have done without, lol.
Lubos: Even if we had had all the knowledge already, we couldn’t have done it. I mean, not in the time we did it, at least.
Romina: I mean we’re talking less than a year. Just a year ago, we were completely unhappy and trying to find some meaning to our lives, and hoping that if went to Awesomeness Fest we would get some inspiration. We were really trying to look for some “out” of the corporate world, and trying to find something for us. We didn’t know what, and getting into The Foundation… it’s a cliche what I’m going to say, but it changed our lives.
I don’t know how to put it in any other way. But basically… it’s not only that we learned a lot. We got a lot of confidence on the things that we thought we would never do… and we did. We faced a lot of challenge and we conquered them. And we felt like rock stars many times. Sometimes we felt horrible. But that was part of the process as well :-). I can say that we grew up a lot as people in general. And as business people. And between the two of us also, because our relationship is on a completely different level as well, because we have a different kind of interaction. Definitely it changed our lives. I don’t know if you want to add something else Lubos.
Lubos: Not really. You say it like perfectly :-).
Romina: Yeah man!
Lubos: This interview is like perfect for us to reflect what we’ve done. Because as Romina said, sometimes we don’t have time, or we forget to reflect. One year ago we were completely unhappy. Like really. Just going through the motions.
Romina: Yeah. Now, it’s not that every day is happy rainbows, happy days...We have tough days that are tough for us. But for every tough day, we have a huge lesson learned. It’s not that everything is perfect and happy, but what we are doing is for US... and we’re enjoying it, and it’s ours and it’s our adventure. It’s an awesome feeling :-).
Lubos: Yes :-).
Did anything hold you back from joining? Has that been defused now?Lubos: I followed Dane and Andy’s stuff for a while after AwesomenessFest, and knew I had to join. I wasn’t questioning money or the price. I was questioning myself more, and knew I had a lot of limiting beliefs to crush. I remember asking myself if I’d be able to do it. And I also asked myself, “one year from now, would you regret if you didn’t join?”. Joining Foundation was kind of no brainer. When we got accepted it was like… wahhoooo.
Romina: I wasn’t questioning anything actually. I like adventures, so for me it was like... it was a perfect opportunity to have one. And the fact that we could have it together with Lubos was like an added bonus to the adventure. It was a great learning experience for us as a couple. It was surprisingly cool. I didn’t have anything that was stopping me from joining.
How’s GliderPath doin’ today? What does the next year hold GliderPath?Romina: We haven’t launched to the public yet. We’re in beta, and we have a group of eleven founding members. We were going to close it at nine, but then we had so many people interested in trying out the software. We are going to launch a second version of our beta …
Lubos: In one week.
Romina: … in one week. That’s going to be pretty awesome because it actually has many fixes and feedback the early adopters gave us. We are planning to do a soft launch in early January. And then like a launch to the public with all the bells and whistles around mid-January. That’s the plan. So many really cool things are happening even before launching. We have people on a waiting list to get the software as soon as it’s launched. We have people who ask us to participate with them in conferences… like to do presentations in conferences.
Some of our founding members want us to present at one of the biggest industry conferences in March next year. We of course said yes! We have people that just come to us from referrals and from comments that people make in LinkedIn. People we don’t even know. They are just coming to check what’s going on with GliderPath. It looks great for now. We have really good feelings :-).
Lubos: Since the market is kind of saturated by software, we still have a long way to go. Even though our founding members really like GliderPath so far, we still have to develop more features.
Romina: We’re planning to have the core of the software developed by the end of Q1 next year. We have very big plans going into next year. Also because we’re in the translation industry the software will have to be translated and localized, so that’s also part of the plan for next year. We are looking at some interesting numbers for next year. We’re hoping to close next year with at least a hundred customers... a little bit more actually.
Also, if everything goes well, we’re also looking to explore some partnerships with our founding members. It’s looking very good. We have some complementary projects related to GliderPath. Also we have GliderPath Academy which basically...
Lubos: It’s like learning platform for project managers. It was kind of funny, because we just asked our founding members what would be cool, what we can do for them, and they saw that Romina has experience as a proejct manager. So they asked us to give them some training. Then we thought, “maybe we could give this training to everybody”. So we’re creating a learning platform. Hopefully, within the next week or two, I’ll put together a website with the first two courses.
Romina: Yeah. So we are planning to have some free courses, some paid courses. It’ll be another source of income. Many things are happening, and we’re getting to know a lot of people, and we’re making tons of very valuable connections within the industry. And also, we received some news that that our competitors that are worried, which is very funny for us, because we’re not even aware of them. So it’s looking good.
Lubos: Yeah, we just have to stay on track.
What's a piece of advice you’d give to yourself if you went back in time 12 months?Lubos: Only one? Lol.
Us: You can give more if you want :-).
Romina: Yeah. There’s a couple. For me, it would be just take the first step. And then the next one. And then the next one. But don’t worry about the rest of the steps. Just take the first one. Once you are done with that, then worry about the next. That would be one. The second piece of advice is, fear is a good thing, because once you overcome it, you feel very powerful. Don’t let fear stop you from having the adventure of your life.
Us: And for you, Lubos?
Lubos: I would say to myself don’t be afraid. Even if you’re the only one who thinks that something is going to work, don’t be afraid.
Romina: Yeah. And at the end of the day, we realize that it’s kind of a good feeling to be a little bit different from the rest of the world. I would also tell myself, just go for it. What’s the worst that can happen? You can go back to whatever you were doing.
Lubos: I’d also tell myself to enjoy it more.
Romina: Yeah. That’s true.
Lubos: Since this was the first time doing anything like this, we got really stressed, and wondering what we were gonna do. The stress kind of takes away from the experience.
Romina: We have to remind ourselves like “Hey … it’s good.”
Lubos: Yeah. Even our founding members are saying “Guys, you should enjoy because what you’re doing is cool. So enjoying it is another piece of advice.
What does a day in the life look like now?Romina: It looks a little bit different from day-to-day. So a day in the life for me basically is morning meditation to make sure that I enjoy the day. And then I just get together with Lubos, as if I have never seen him before, and we see that one and write the priorities. If it’s a Monday, we do it for the whole week. If it’s another day of the week, we just make sure that we’re remembering that we’re on track for the goals of the week. And then we write the priorities for the day.
As I’m mostly in charge of interacting with clients and sales, I try to get pre-sales, send cold emails, answer emails, get in touch with the founding members and make sure they are all well taken care of. Then at the end of the day, we see if we have done what we set out to do in the morning. If not, we figure out what happened, and make it better for the next day. If it’s a Monday or a Friday we have calls with the developers.
Lubos: Yeah. For me I’m trying to get into this meditation stuff.
Lubos: Slowly. Because we found out that like it’s really important to start the day on a positive note.
Romina: When we don’t do it, or let’s say for some reason we get bad news early in the morning, it’s a horrible day after.
Lubos: Yeah. No matter what positive news comes afterwards, it becomes a horrible day.
Romina: So getting in the right mindset in the morning is super important.
Lubos: So yeah, for me I’m trying to create a knowledge base, so we don’t have to answer all the emails for support on the software. I’m also preparing stuff for developers at the moment. And also finishing the learning platform. That’s the main priority at the moment.
Romina: Something really good that we learned not so long ago that helps us with our objectives and the actions that we take day to day, is mapping our objectives. We learned this with our mastermind group, Sterling Assembly, right after The Foundation. Basically what we do is we set up outcome objectives for the quarter, and then we divide those outcome objectives into performance objectives.
Lubos: Yeah, we break the outcome into actionable steps we can take every day.
Romina: So that takes all the guessing work out of it. We don’t have to worry about “what are we gonna do today?” or “what’s the most important thing?”... because we already know what’s important in that quarter, and what we really really want to achieve. Makes it easy to figure out what we should be doing on a day-to-day.
Any last words you have for people who were in your situation 12 months ago, just getting started?Romina: Do it! But don’t do it because you think it’s going to be easy. Do it and know that sometimes it’s going to be hard. You have to want it bad enough so that you can continue when it gets hard. If you really want an experience that is going to be life changing, this is the right way to go.
Romina: It’s going to change your life completely. Your life isn’t going to be the same as it is now, and that’s so cool. You need to be committed to change, and you need to be committed to yourself and to what you want, and forget about what other people say. If this is really what you want just go for it and do it. You won’t regret it.
Lubos: No, you won’t regret it. Just do it. It may seem easy for us to say at this moment, like “just do it”... but yeah, just take it one step at a time. If you are thinking about joining, join. Then you will take a next step, and then the next step, and then again. Take small steps, you will be awesome in the end. You will achieve amazing results.
Romina: There’s a saying that goes “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” or something like that. That’s the way I feel about it :-) A word of warning is that it’s not easy. It’s not easy. If it was, we wouldn’t have had so many breakthroughs on the limiting beliefs that we had. And we had a lot. We still have some, but at least worked out the toughest ones… and that’s not easy, but it’s oh so cool.
And that’s a wrap!You can ask more questions below that you have about hiring a developer. Or, you can also just say thanks to Lubos and Romina, if you want :-).
Thank YOU for checking out this post.
- Dane Maxwell
P.S. Lubos and Romina joined The Foundation as a couple. We allow couples or business partners to enroll together. If you’re interested in enrolling, you can apply here. We’ll review your application and then get back to you about enrollment details.
You’ll meet lots of entrepreneurs like Lubos and Romina on the inside :-).