Case: Demystifying Tech Hiring

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E- Commerce players in the Indian market have seen an obscene amount of funding and a tremendous amount of growth in the past few years. But grooming someone for a senior tech role internally still remains a challenge. Moving up the ladder in the technology domain feels like the run-up leading to the long jump pit. In retrospect, this reminds me of my 3 years in high school. When I graduated middle school, it was just another academic year that went by. As much as my teachers told me that high school will be a lot different, I didn’t pay much heed to it. When I stepped into class 8, the students along with their parents were asked to attend an orientation program. In short, what I understood from the orientation was “Life, as you know it, will be a lot different from here on”. As time went by in high school, I realized that it was true. Life was moving like a fast-forwarded video. We finished the syllabus of class 8 about three months before the academic year ended and began with the one for class 9. We finished class 9 syllabus six months before class 9 ended. We began class 10 syllabus in class 9 and we were done before we knew it. It was a jump start to the much fretted “board examination”!

Getting back to focus on the current sticky situation in the e-commerce space, they were facing immense pressure to scale up rapidly. Under this pressure, companies promoted mid-level techies who were not really ready to take on senior technology responsibilities. The result of this move, as seen now, has led to entry-level and mid-level engineers lashing out at the senior techies (who were internally promoted due to the need of the hour and not because they deserved it) claiming incompetence to guide and mentor them. This forced multiple e-commerce startups to freeze entry-level hiring and focus on hiring quality senior technology engineers.

The bar was set high. They wanted superstars. Only Superstars. They wanted candidates who can do it all. Being a recruiter, when someone tells me “we want a candidate who can do it all”, my mind shuts down. It gives ample opportunity for a hiring manager to hide behind ambiguity to reject a candidate without reason and that hurts, as a recruiter.

But someone had to get to the bottom of this. Instead of waiting around for someone to find a way around it, I was keen on finding why this role is so ambitious. Here is what I found. A mid-level technology engineer primarily works on design, but a senior technology engineer is expected to work on the platform. So when you are looking for a potential senior techie among a pool of mid-level techies, you are looking for a skill set that has not been nurtured in the past few years or at an area where they have worked in a starchy fashion. Only one in five mid-level tech engineers makes to it senior level every couple of years. No wonder internal promotions didn’t work at these e-commerce firms.

Going by the data as to who have successfully cracked senior technology engineering roles in e-commerce firms over the years, you have got to be (at least) one of the below to stand a chance to crack the much senior roles.

  1. Worked on highly scalable system and built it from scratch
  2. Built an internet product platform from scratch
  3. Extensive exposure to e-commerce platform
  4. Worked in a startup in the bay area (More often than not, people from the bay area are highly exposed to the above 3 points)
  5. Or, you got to be a googler! (The odds may be higher because of the “google” tag, but the struggle to crack it remain the same!)

E-commerce might be an example in this case, but senior technology hiring remains a challenge across startups scaling rapidly. After all, who doesn’t want talent? The higher you go up the corporate ladder, the harder it is to fill those shoes. But all is not lost. With so many e-commerce based ventures sprouting up, there are more and more trained coders in this area. Give it a few years, and this challenge may be a slightly easier one!