Recruiting IT staff members who fit in the culture of an organization is tricky business. Keeping the best IT engineers happy and making sure they feel valued is even more complicated. Exceptional employees not only fit the job description, they have relevant experience and “look the part.” They need to resonate with company values and be able to follow the workflows. But most of all, they need to respond well to stress or constructive criticism. We’ve spoken with Jawaad Tariq, VP of Engineering at StorageCraft, to see what it takes to recruit exceptional IT engineers and what keeps them motivated in building awesome backup and recovery software.
It Takes a Village
Wondering what it takes to be part of a 100-million-dollar engineering team? You’re right, it’s a tough screening process. Candidates often go through interviews with many specialists in different fields. The hiring decision is never left up to only one person.
“We have at least six different people interview all of our candidates. Those six people in engineering, a lot of them focus on the technical jobs. Other people focus on people skills and thinking out of the box and how they interact with others. Then the engineers, myself and Human Resources get together in a room, and we make a decision. It has to be a unilateral decision. If one person objects, then we don’t hire that person. This makes the hiring process tough,” said Jawaad Tariq.
There are benefits to taking your staff off work to interview another IT engineer. The decision is not left to the whims and disposition of just one person. Having the entire “village” vouch for the newcomer will give him more support to grow and learn.
“Once we do hire a person, everyone is committed to that person’s success. Use the power of many, rather than the power of one or two people,” said Jawaad, adding that the same people who give the thumbs up are the same who can make sure that person succeeds.
What Makes a Good IT Engineer?
What makes a good IT engineer is not only his or her technical know-how, but also the ability to handle pressure and constructive criticism, and the confidence they manifest when writing code, the StorageCraft VP told us.
“The technical capability is at the heart of it. People who have interviewed from a technical perspective, they have their pet questions. It works out pretty well. If they make small mistakes here and there, we coach them, and then see how they react to that coaching as well,” he added.
A rigorous interview process, with a diversity of engineers, can be “taxing”; however, the alternative of hiring someone who is not the right fit is worse and causes many months’ worth of lost productivity.
Skill Diversity as Key to Success
A diverse skill set makes for a successful engineering team. So make sure you get people with a wide array of skills, to complement others on the team.
“It’s important to know what kind of skills that you need to supplement your existing staff. If you keep hiring more of the same, then you aren’t really adding a lot to the organization other than just worker base. We want thought leaders as well,” concluded Jawaad Tariq, adding that managers should specifically go for people with skills that they can’t currently find in their organization.
Create an Environment Where IT Staff Can Excel
Once you have exceptional IT staff working for you, the job is only half done. Organizations need to provide ongoing work to keep staff members engaged and motivated. A lot of this is done by making sure they have opportunity to learn new things.
“Personal development is a critical part of day in, day out at StorageCraft. That is the perspective that we want to take. And we actually are happy to give people up to 10% of their time to go invest and learn. As you know, the engineering science field is very fluid right now. If people do not stay up to date with changes, their skills can get obsolete pretty quickly,” added Jawaad Tariq.
Training can take shape in a number of ways: individual courses or participating at conferences or other learning events. If IT staff is not in the loop with new developments, this reflects in the products they build, he said.
“We’re not doing anyone any favors when we are telling them to learn; we are doing it because we know we are going to reap the rewards of that,” explained the VP.
The Peter Principle: Stop Promoting Out of Skill Range
You may have heard about the Peter Principle. It states that “in a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence. It speaks about the inefficient practice of promoting people just to keep the hierarchy in an organization. This type of practice is undesirable and leads to unhappiness around the table, in the workplace.
“It’s when people get promoted out of what they do . A lot of companies, especially small companies, do that: ‘this guy is good, let’s put him in charge of everyone else.’ The skills required to manage individuals versus implementing technology are completely different. People who are really good from a technology perspective, we want them to become technology leaders,” explained Jawaad.
IT engineers, and any other type of staff, for that matter, need to feel valued and motivated, and should progress within the scope of the field they’ve mastered, instead of looking around to see how they can move up in the chain of command.
Automation: The Science of Making Engineers Happy
Automation might just be one of the key components of being able to motivate and keep IT engineers happy. It helps staff to free up their time and learn new skills, keeping their creativity going and reducing attrition.
“Automation helps in many different ways. When you automate tasks, when you automate especially on the test side and the integration time, it frees those people up to be able to do other things. One thing we know about engineers is that they don’t like doing the same things over and over. You start seeing attrition, people leaving because they are just stuck in a rut. It helps develop skills (especially for the QA guys) to do some development and do some career advancement personally,” added Jawaad.
Automation helps developers sustain continuous delivery and increase productivity. It eliminates the toil of having to run test cases manually, he added. “The continuous delivery model means that you have to constantly deliver user-ready code all the time. If you have to produce all the builds that are of high quality, you can’t spend four weeks for every build. That’s just not sustainable,” said Jawaad.
He mentioned the best practices in the industry are to run all test cases in parallel, and finish the job in 24-48 hours, so that the software is ready to use and there are no quality issues.
Jawaad Tariq has over 20 years of experience in engineering science and managing software development teams. He is currently VP of Engineering at StorageCraft Technology Corporation and has previously worked for SanDisk Corporation and Novell, Inc.
StorageCraft is an award-winning leader in backup and disaster recovery software. Its flagship product, ShadowProtect SPX, has just been named among the finalists at the VMWorld cloud computing event in Las Vegas.
StorageCraft is looking forward to new developments, more products, and more team members joining, as it continues to grow and expand in the backup and recovery software market. The company expects to double its development team by mid 2017.