Kansas City heavy-weights like Garmin and Cerner court developers at the student level, said Brody Dorland, discussing a talent showdown seen by startups across the metro.
“We’re competing in that bunch and you know, the big boys get a lot of the good talent,” he added, noting the ways in which some big-name companies work to recruit college-level talent — on occasion going as far as to bankroll student debt.
Such aggressive recruitment methods make it difficult for startups to acquire promising programmers or developers, and can ultimately stall company growth.
Amid this environment, DivvyHQ — co-founded in 2011 by Dorland and Brock Stechman — is working more diligently to hire smarter, Dorland said. Suggesting a slower hiring process best helps assess a candidate’s skills, the tactic also can weed out those who would not fit into the overall company culture.
Assessment tests also could be part of the equation, said Gabby Wallace, founder of Go Natural English and one of Dorland’s Digital Sandbox co-panelists and fellow alumni — alongside Claude Harris, CEO of College Coaching Network. Finding employees who understand the mission of a company and can contribute unique strengths to a team is worth the wait, Wallace said.
But when the wait still results in the best local candidates lost to corporate industry leaders, many startups are forced to outsource, Dorland said.
“The majority of our dev team has been done in Argentina and I’m sure that, if you talked to a lot of the smaller tech startups around here, there’s going to be some element of outsource to some other country and that’s just the nature of the city — really it’s just the nature of the tech world,” he said.
Not all hiring situations prove as difficult for DivvyHQ, Dorland said. Creative, sales and marketing positions are among the easiest to fill in Kansas City, he said.
With talent challenges in mind, Dorland has accepted that there are certain tasks he can and will fill within his company as it grows, he said.
Pulling double duty as a company leader and as an employee has its downside, Wallace said, describing the battle between working in the company versus working on the company. Balancing the two can be tough, but the outcome could make or break the overall acceleration of company growth, she said.