On a daily basis, Ben Kittrell translates the jargon-filled world of technology for clients of his tech consultancy. The Words that Frustrate (WTF) series aims to offer readers some clarity in an industry dominated by techies’ confusing argot.
Every time I’m in a meeting with a client, someone uses a word or acronym that cues bewilderment.
The client is not shy about the fact that the tech world is new to her and I don’t mind explaining the weird jargon we nerds come up with. This post is the first in a series to introduce others to the world of information technology. Today, we’ll look at the ambiguous term you may have seen on a technologist’s resume: the “Rockstar Developer.”
So, what’s a rockstar developer? Of course it has nothing to do with rocking a mic or tight pants. Rather it’s a title reserved for programmers that can handle just about any situation they come across. A true rockstar developer has passion for their work that goes beyond technical skill or knowledge.
What makes them a rockstar?
You may think that a rockstar developer has to know a lot of programming languages, or the intimate inner-workings of development frameworks. In reality technical ability is a small part of the equation. When I interview developers I don’t ask them questions about details of a programming language or anything they could find out in 10 seconds with a Google search. I look at personality, passion, communication and breadth of experience. If I put her on a project, is she going to take it and run?
How do I find a rockstar developer?
Unfortunately it’s a developer’s market, and it will be for a while. It’s hard to find good talent. To find a great developer you have to know how they think, and there’s nothing rockstars love more than a challenge. If you can put a project in front of them that will require them to grow technically and personally — along with the right compensation — you can poach them.
What is a rockstar worth?
The real answer is, as much as you can afford. A rockstar developer can do the work of 3-5 junior developers and still come out with a better result, so be prepared for at least a six-figure salary. Most rockstars are willing to put some skin in the game and trade for equity but have probably been burned a few times and aren’t going to bank on it.
Do I need a rockstar?
It really depends. Most early stage startups can build their MVP with a development shop and get some traction. Usually at that stage it doesn’t make sense to dedicate that much capital to a developer’s salary. However, if software is a core piece of your business and you are making some revenue, a rockstar can be a key investment. A good rockstar will help shape the product by opening your mind to technical possibilities, build a fantastic team and inspire that team to do great things.
Ben Kittrell is technology consultant, working with startups and small businesses. Kittrell also is host of Spare Room Radio, a podcast that features Kansas City entrepreneurs.