Where to find enterprise Flex developers?

I’m finishing the third(!) week of teaching Flex. The first half of June I’ll spend doing some regular consulting work, and then another two weeks of corporate training.  The use of Flex technologies is picking up in the corporate world, but hiring managers are clearly facing challenges caused by the lack of qualified software developers on the market.  Solution? Re-train your own people.

Well, it’s not exactly a complete solution, because after a week of training, a senior Java developer becomes a Flex rookie, but at least these people are familiar with business.

Finding a qualified Flex/Java consultant is literally impossible. Enterprise HR managers pretend not knowing that an hourly rate is the only perk consultants  have. Corporations don’t offer competitive rates. Our consultancy has a couple of job requests for Flex/Java consultants from a long term customer from Wall Street, and we’re interviewing people with a little hope to find the right consultants for the money offered for these positions.

Train your own people regardless of what background they have. Recently, I had a student with no practical programming background. I figured it out after he asked me to “explain the benefits of casting”. But this guy was really motivated, and I’m sure he’ll make it.

Our company already has a request to teach Flex to a group of Cobol programmers in September. This should be fun.  The first day should be spent on teaching the concepts of object-oriented programming. So what? Anyone who wants to learn will.

Will the demand for Flex developers sustain? This week I’ve presented at Atlanta Flex User Group.  Here’s one of the questions I got after the talk, “Does your company experience lower demand of Flex consultants in the enterprise world because Flash is not supported on iPhone?”  Absolutely not.  Rich Internet Applications are being developed at full swing regardless of the fences built by Steve Jobs. iPhone is not a threat for the Enterprise RIA.  The only thing that bothers me is the slowness of Adobe in offering new releases of Flex and related tools and technologies.

While everyone is busy talking about the latest news from the iPhone battlefield or how Android is doing, I’m closely watching Microsoft.  As expected, they are becoming the real competition to Adobe in the field of the enterprise RIA. While Adobe is talking about new Designer-Developer workflow, Microsoft implements it. The penetration of Silverlight runtime is over 50%. Give them another year to build up the muscles…

Anyway, are you looking for senior enterprise Flex developers? Me too.

Yakov Fain

5 thoughts on “Where to find enterprise Flex developers?

  1. What is interesting is how many flex consulting gigs still require a inordinate amount of travel. As an enterprise Flex architect, I myself have passed on many opportunities simply because they wanted me to commit to 80% or greater travel. As a man with a family, that’s just not something I am willing to do, and I doubt many other family men out there would be real excited by it either. Then they wonder why they go 9 months or longer without being able to find anyone willing or able to do the job.

    Jesse Warden makes an interesting point about senior flex talent on his blog, as it relates to travel, and how if you want to land the better talent, as a company one needs to be more flexible to accomodate the “rock star” developer in areas like working remotely and such.

  2. Everyone wants an excellent Senior Flex developer, but no-one wants to pay for one.
    I recently waded into the job market in the UK for the first time as a Senior Flex dev rather than a common or garden Java dev, and the experience was fairly eye opening.
    Recruiters were ecstatic when they saw I had Flex experience, there was a whole slew of companies that weren’t currently hiring, but would take a Flex dev when one was on the market because of our rarity in the UK.
    The majority of the jobs offers I received were concentrated in a single city (London), and were paid the same as a middling Java developer. The overriding comments when I queried this, was “We want a senior Flex developer, but a good Flash developer will do, and that’s how much they are worth!”.
    Leaving aside the obvious wrongness of that statement, it shows probably the biggest weakness of the marketability of Flex developers. The perceived interchangeability with Flash developers devalues the skill set Flex developers have (and muddies the waters for designers who market themselves as Flash devs).
    The sole company who showed some understanding, and incidentally was the only one willing to actually pay for the skills they were asking for resulted in me having to leave the UK.
    So while the demand for Flex developers exists (at least in the UK), the perception of what we can provide needs to be reframed!

    Again, the most damage coming out of the Adobe / Apple spat is that of perception. Not that Flash is slow or bad (it isn’t), but that Flash == Video. All the videos of Stock Market trackers won’t reverse that opinion. We need a big public application out there to point at as an excellent example of Enterprise RIA with Flash. Public healthcare / government 2.0 is the ares we need to be shouting about, mobile is still developing too quickly to be worried about in the enterprise.

  3. I wrote a post about three years with the same title, http://www.dgrigg.com/post.cfm/07/17/2007/Where-to-find-Flex-developers

    And the issues are still the same. Employers need to be flexible and creative in order to find and retain good Flex talent (or any good development talent for that mater). Telecommuting, flexible hours, open communication. For many of the top-notch Flex developers they have tasted telecommuting, remote working or working for themselves and in all reality would likely never go back to a full time office cube job. Employers need to get that and figure out a way to work around it. Maybe it needs to work more like Hollywood where most people are contracted out to fill a need for a set time and then it’s done. With the IT landscape continuing to evolve so quickly, HR depts and employers need to change with the times.

    I 100% agree with Yakov that training new devs is a good strategy. That presents two issues though. One you have inexperienced people learning on the job and second, once they get experience they will quickly realize how much in demand their skills are and the company will have a challenge retaining them.

  4. @Nick I travel a lot and don’t mind traveling. In this economy you have to bend a little to be able to do the job you like and the rates you deserve.
    In the USA, I don’t think there is a notion of rock stars in IT. Most of the hiring managers don’t know how to find the money to attract the top 20% of the Flex talent. They don’t bother and hire whoever they can find. Eventually, it’ll shoot back at them, but it’s later…. Meanwhile they start development with whoever they have.

    I haven’t read Jesse’s blog – he’s definitely one of the top developers in the country, but he prefers to work mostly from home. It’s certainly his choice, but it limits the number of available gigs.

    Our company offers so called blended deals – one Flex developer consists of two parts, say 20% of myself and 80% of a senior remote developer from Eastern Europe. This gives our customer peace of mind knowing that there is techy here to talk plus it allows us to offer lower rates comparing to using 100% of my time.

  5. Yakov,
    I look at the changing landscape differently. Let me run analogy:
    Old times we were like house doctors – pretty much limiting our practice to single “family”, primary responsible for well being rather then rare problems. Apparently this model is not sustainable by this economy, so I like the way “blended rate” is structured like a hospital. It allows you and others see more different cases at once and be more flexible in matching firms talent (hospital resources) to the clients needs. I really like “hospital” environment that is set up for “outpatient care” – most efficient and matching best for both “quick fixes” and “wellbeing”

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