Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

The Startup WorkForce : A Proposal to the Community.

Posted on: October 12, 2008

This is a wonderful time to be starting up. You will come across very few people who will give comparisons to all the benefits they get working for big corporates. Its one such time. Hiring will be slightly easier, and retaining them will be even more easier.

Even in the midst of all that, it does seem that a lot of the Startup Companies are hardpressed for resources here in India. Here’s a solution.

A few of us have been talking about putting together a centre that trains people (as blank slated as freshers) on the common technologies that people use while building products – the usual PHP, Python, AJAX, MySQL, etc etc and getting them upto speed on mashups, APIs, documentation, and moving forward. That is the level of skill that most of the startup community folks are looking for it seems. Or am I wrong here?

If I am right, then there is a simple way around it. Every chapter of OCC in the country is doing quite well. I heard from Santhosh that Pune is a 300 people group now (though I do suspect that the turn out ratio would be still less), but who knew Pune had 300 people who would be open to being part of a community right? And the same case has gone on with Bangalore, Kolkatta, Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi, and even now and then with Mumbai.

Here’s the thought. What if in one of the OCCs a dozen of the startup companies, especially the folks who can code and code really well, commit that they will run a two month training program for people in these languages? It is going to take a bit of time and commitment, but there are a lot of resources already on the web, and with a couple of screencasts, and proper documentation, you could essentially also use it as training material for the next batch of people that you hire in your company later on.

What I am proposing is that a batch of technology entrepreneurs, each taking a week to cover different aspects of the course, could put their hands together to collaboratively solve an issue which is haunting a great many of them.

So if you could fix one of the startups offices as the centre for this activity, Put up a wiki where people can sign up for this course, and these 12 startup entrepreneurs/programmers get a chance to do a round of questioning and if they think that the candidate would be able to perform with some guidance, then the community as a whole comes together to train these few candidates and at the end of it, can assimilate them into the company.

There are a couple of reasons why I think this can be made to work:

1. Most freshers are scared of working for startups. The first question I face all the time is “Will they train us?”

2. People who do undergo any sort of training, usually go for some MS Certification and those courses are expensive. Its not like you can afford to get the developmental licenses anyways, and since they have themselves invested in getting trained, the salary expectations are going to be higher from you.

3. At the moment there are very few people who can talk about these technologies for the mass community to learn from. Perhaps contributing to the general knowledge of the masses to improve their skill level, if reached critical mass, will start churning on its own.

4. More people trained on OpenSource Technologies (that’s really what enables Startups), might also slightly increase the chances of people contributing back to Opensource. *fingers crossed*

5. I also think that most startup founders struggle to explain what they have in their head to others. And teaching concepts to others gets you to that level where tomorrow when you need to grow a community around your product, you can converse in a manner that the people can comprehend.

And ofcourse, none of this has to be done for free. I’d strongly suggest that the teams charge the candidate 3000 – 4000Rs a month for this. That is also additional revenue, so its not technically charity either.

So, there is only one question that lingers. Worth giving it a try? What do you think?

Advertisements

37 Responses to "The Startup WorkForce : A Proposal to the Community."

Really fantastic idea.. My suggestion is to do it pre-hiring or post-hiring stage when the freshers are in their college campuses. That would make people in colleges get a feel of start up environment.

Deepak, I’d say that this has to be in the Pre-hiring Stages. That way the startups will have the benefit of screening the candidates after the training and still make the final decisions.

Vijay, a good thought indeed. Though collaborative training facility is a little difficult to manage at everyone has different view points. At startupforstartups, the only purpose why we first designed a training program “Implementing Concepts” is for the same reason. Now we are taking this training program to educational institutions and collaborating with them for the same. Advantage of having a training program (no fees) is gives us advantage is attracting better talent as we have formed a relationship with talent which other companies do not have. I think every startup should go to such colleges and take up workshops, programs on technology there are using instead of a OCC run training program.

Sushrut,

Thats fabulous. But I dont quite agree with you.

1. I think the minute you step into a college, you are playing the placement game, and you have to compete to say why you are better than those MNCs who are fighting for the same space.

2. When you walk to an academia, you also have to convince all the authorities there that this is the best thing for their students. Trust me, most of them dont know what this is all about. We’ve been there, done that and moved on. The NEN guys can share more info on that.

3. There is a slight gulf you need to create between students and youself. Working in a startup is a lot of commitment. Let people cross the gulf to get to you. I would go and do a talk in a college, but would NEVER go sit there and try hiring people. I’d be tired before i can seperate all the people who are curious from those who can be assets. And time is a precious thing for a Startup.

4. I think the bottomline is “right of passage”. Our system is so screwed up that since we are born in India, we get thrown from one pot to another that one never makes a decision about where they want to be. One should most certainly not be in a startup, if they dont want to be. And that Gulf to get to an OCC meet or so, can be that first step to gaining that right to be accepted.

It simply has to be there. That’s my two cents.

Vijay, I agree with your views and NENs experience with that. But thing is you need not have to “go” to colleges and academia. Just that your target audience is at colleges. So just figure out a medium to reach the students and since you are not putting any fees as such on these then they can start trusting you.
On side note since you are the startup guy :-), have you ever met a startup which is scaling up, say from 5-10 people now they are going to 50 people, and had a very sound recruitment plan in place. I have few comments on recruitment design and you can find them on http://sushrutbidwai.com/2008/09/recruitment-design/

Sushrut, The trust should be between the startups and their workforce. What would we be doing anyways building trust and all in between?

Secondly, free undervalues what you are providing. Never give away a good thing for free.

I’ve approved the comment with the link, so I guess folks can take a look at the recruitment plan 🙂

Vijay, I agree with the problem you have outlined and the potential solution. I have published some of my thoughts here:

http://blog.morpheusventure.com/2008/10/finding-affordable-passionate-and-trained-team-members/

Sameer, Good to know that you agree. We should probably discuss this in a larger forum to figure out what I have missed out. I am sure that there is some perspective that I am possibly missing out on. Always helps to lay a solid ground work.

Want to pick this up for a topic in the next city you are in with the startups and see where it goes?

Can start-ups really afford to take in people who are not already familiar with basics of MySQL, PHP etc.. or can pick them on their own?

I would be glad to help in any way i can at Bangalore. I’m just being inquisitive on the “width of the gulf” that is necessary.

-Mahesh
Celebrating Life…

Mahesh, most of these people know the basics – in theory. They just need handholding to get them to wet their feet and get started.

What other options do we have anyways? 🙂

Just re-read ur post and you had everything I had to say about it in your post itself..:) Apologies for skimming through it earlier.

I want this to happen within college campuses.. In that way startups can get exposed to a wider mass of probable recruits

Deepak,

I guess there are both options. One going to campuses and one staying out and getting the students to cross the gulf. And perhaps one should try out both and see what works best.

Since, you have specifically talked about Pune OCC with which I have been associated for sometime, I couldn’t resist putting my 2 cents.

OCC membership count should not be taken as an indicator of community size. At least as far as POCC is concerned, it is only an indicator of interest level to connect. People are yet to come together and be a community. (by the way, last POCC meeting had more than 75 people in a room; isn’t a small barcamp attract that many people? 🙂

Any community based initiative requires the community to be there. Once a community is present, its energy can be harnessed and directed towards achieving different goals. We are currently at a stage where the community is being formed. And there is a long way to go to get past that stage. Something between 1-2 years sounds like an appropriate timeframe for that to happen.

What you mentioned is a good plan but the time is yet to come for that (at least in Pune).

Manas,

I’d agree with you that the total “signups’ does not equal to commitment.

But, I guess the point I was trying to make was that, in some of the oddest of places, communities are coming together with a common connection. And I am very impressed with what the guys in Delhi are doing with barcamps. its nice to see things happening all over the country rather than just down south.

And I think the time is here. All you need is five or six startups who need people and are willing to commit the time to do this together. Trust me, different people coming together to put together a course would enable a whole lot of means to share best practices and make life so much more easier for startups.

Every guy I know who hires freshers, spends an average of three months training them. If i could merge all of that effort together and split the timings with a group, i’d be for it. And the benefits seem to far outweigh the limitations..

Or.. am I missing something here?

Currently setting up in Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai and my two cents.

Getting good resource is a problem, instead we interviewing the candidates – they interview us regarding survival and the facilities we provide them. Finally no commitment from the experience candidates and will not stick to us for long time.

I finally decided to take few bright freshers from good institutes and train them on the technologies we will be using. This is a viable option and will not burn our fingers to start with. Since I can, code teaching for me is not a problem, being in Healthcare – special technologies like DICOM, HL7 and IHE etc. any way we have to teach our employees – spend that extra time and teach the fundamentals & the language as well.

Freshers will take 3-4 months to be productive, but it is worth the time as they will stick to us for at least 2 years and will not cost us. Continue this exercise every year and follow the GE bell curve appraisal system “http://www.citehr.com/76182-bell-curve-appraisal-system.html” so that there is always fire on our employees to perform.

I would recommend this option proposed by Vijay Anand and include .net related technologies for the training. Please let me know how I can help to make this a success.

With regards
Ravindran Padmanabhan.

Vijay,

I’m Game for it. +1

Geeth,
Bangalore

Vijay,

Though I am not with a startup yet, I hope to remedy that scene, by mid next year. But I DO agree with your thought, except ofcourse the freebie bit. I personally think, not too many kids at college would be keen to dish out money for a “Non Certified”, “Non job guaranteed” learning program. Or, I went to a really weird college! 🙂

But in case you guys are seriously pursuing this, I would like to contribute, whatever little I can. Based out of Bangalore. Would be glad to stay connected if anything on these lines, comes up.

R

Vijay,

I agree with you. 5-6 startups can get together and do it. And I also agree that it’s a very important thing to do. For startups to thrive and grow in numbers, the cost of hiring people must be lowered.

@Ravindran: Seems like you are facing the same problem. I know that you did a campus hiring a few weeks back. Was it productive in anyway? or do you have to pick them and still train them?

@Geeth: Wherever you are, voice this in the next OCC and get this started. let me know what help you require.

@Rohitesh: Free, and Guarantee. Two words we need to kill from the startup business. Let people earn their right of passage to enter the startup world. We need to make a stand somewhere for once.

@Manas: I totally concur with you.

To fillin for Ravindran, we interviewed upwards of 100 candidates on campus and finally recruited 3, and to tell you quite frankly, even now they really do not understand what working for a startup entails, and i am talking about both the faculty as well the students, to them its just another firm recruiting from campus.
Not that it is their fault though. We could attribute that to the lack of a “Poster Boy Startup” here.

And perhaps instead of waiting for that to happen, if we can channel a existing community’s assets to bridging that gap, i think it will be a step in the right direction.

I am sure that there are people around who are passionate about the quality of work they do rather than the “brand” they work for.

– Rajesh

Vijay and others.

I do have the privilege of being just out and close to the campus when compared with most of others here. So let me put my thoughts from campus perspective.

If you feel wrecked to be compared with other recruiters dont ever step in with recruiting tag.

I like Vijays attitude of “Let them cross the gulf” and I derive this point of it..

“Why dont startups join and create some tech compettition /seminars in colleges.” Here again not for free . Conduct a free seminar followed by workshop at a nominal charge.

Ooops..Am i misleading startups to a tech-training concern :(??

No ,In the above process you may be able to spot best talents and the best talents may recognise what it is working for a startup.

Yet I feel Vijay is right. 90/100 times people in campus judge a company only by the package and its our discussions aim to reach the rest 10/100.

Its difficult until we create the poster boys; By poster boy I not only mean Rajesh’s context but also some poster seniors who have joined start up and who can share what it is to work in a start up with their campus juniors.

Vijay – Would be interesting to hear your failure experience inside campuses. May be can i expect a post on it?

-Deepak

I think Ashwin and others at http://poornaindia.com are working on similar lines.

Came to know about it as part of the discussion at http://www.swaroopch.com/blog/ideas-are-cheap-real-coding-training/#comments

@Vijay: Here is how the “width of the gulf” looks to me from a very low resolution lens:

Lets divide the skills at a startups into two buckets: Art and Science.

Art (the business side of things): We learn over time from
experiences of failure, mentoring, observing what others do, intution/following ur heart etc..

Science(the tech side of things): This is much simpler. Its easier to pick things up if there is a genuine curiosity. The basic constructs are very well defined, well documented, its easy to get hands on, fail fast(and no damages). Essentially, science is much easier to grasp than art.

So, if what we are addressing is the scarcity of skilled engineers: Focusing on raising the interest/curiosity and welcoming people who cross the gulf is a more sustainable.

People who were curious and have figured out basics of mysql, php, sysadmin already in college are the right fit for start-ups. They will pickup the necessary tools of trade even without a formal training. Having someone whom they can ask a doubt makes the learning curve steep.

All theories and long term solutions aside, If there is some jugaad innovation necessary… i’ll be glad to help.

-Mahesh
Celebrating Life…

I sometime ago read that Zoho guys actually went to junior colleges and recruited in numbers students who arent even graduates!!! and looking the quality of the Zoho apps (not brilliant but not bad also) I think its about time we try focusing on training and development activities. Most startups I talk to (as a part of StartupForStartups.com), they want to rely too much on individual brilliance of the hires. If you get that star hacker great!, but chances are very less and hence focus on making average players stars through grooming.

[…] The idea about this blog post initiated on reading Vijay Anand’s blog – “The Startup Workforce: A Proposal to the Community”. He has come up with a nice idea which is going to do rounds of discussions in OCC […]

We have a special training focussed towards hiring by Startups at Geekeerie.
Our first batch of Ruby on Rails developers ready for the Indian startup market is going to be available for hire soon.

Send us an email if you or startups you know are interested.

[…] Startup WorkForce : A Proposal to the Community” by Vijay Anand which he has published here & here and the comments on the post by various people on both the […]

I used this strategy in 2007 to create my team of X-Men

I created 4 gems and to see their capability just check kreeo.com, they were 2006/7 pass out and the so called not employable but today they are better than the best (especially work attitude wise). They code in Ajax+PHP+XML and code on multiple modules and all layers of MVC. They can beat the best in productivity.

I keep a few workstations spare for students, who work with us for 1-3 months for on job training, no fees and obviously we also dont pay. We groom them over this period and retain the best ones.

There is no dearth of talent in India, but as a startup you need to have good mentoring skills…if you have that, creating great resources is no big deal

You cant create resources in true sense through conventional training…bcos animals need training not humans
it has to be experiential…so do it on the job in real scenarios…just pick the ones with right work attitude and the hunger to learn…rest all will be simple

@sumeet: You are a lot of hope for a lot of lost souls, even further confused by some skeptics 🙂

Great idea, Vijay. Once this idea matures, the concept could also be applied to the business side. I think we focus too much on the technology aspect (does it come from us being in India?)
and not so much on the business aspect. Agreed, technology (aka coding for most cases) is an essential part, but we could also have existing entrepreneurs coming together to educate aspiring ones on topics like business development, marketing and sales, business communication, building the right team, etc. What do you think?

I often come across startupreneurs blogging on startup hiring strategies. But what i wonder is whether startups do really hire freshers? If yes, how to know about it?
I am fresher (2008 passout) and I always wanted to work for a startup. The ‘startup’ word itself excites me and wanted to experience the thrill of working @startup. I believe the kind of learning and experience that I’d get by working @startup is just not comparable to what I’d be getting by working for a MNC.
I am a self-taught person and web app development, barcamps, technology interests me. I also enjoy (and learn from) the discussions in BCB mail-list.
I’d searched for openings at startup for quite a long time but couldn’t find any. As time went on, I had to compromise on my-area-of-interest and join MNC.
I am still looking for an opportunity to work at a startup so that I can utilize all my capabilities to the max.
It‘d be better if you could come up with something which would connect people like me (who’s looking for opportunity) and startups (who can give opportunity).

Regards,

Ravi,
Bangalore.

@Kalpesh: I’d agree with you, we have a dearth of people who can head business development and product management as well, but having lived abroad, I think that’s pretty much the state of affairs everywehere 🙂 And for business, you need to get a mentor.

@Ravi. I dont know where you are based out of, but personally I witness the startups I am involved in recruit close to 30 freshers every year. I guess that’d answer your question. Have you attended any of the barcamps, Proto.in, or the local OCC chapter? Thats the best way to get acquainted with the neighbourhood startups.

I feel paulsta matiou lays it out really well

First off, know your environment. Make things easy on yourself and just get a Mac/use Linux, or become a slave to Cygwin in Windows.

Get to know the Unix filesystem.
Learn vim basics.
Find a text editor you feel comfortable with.
Tinker with FTP.
Learn how to use SSH.
Install LAMP and setup your own blog, preferably on a web host. Doing so will introduce you to the basics of DNS, PHP, MySQL databases (try phpMyAdmin), firewalls, the Apache web server and more.
http://paulstamatiou.com/2008/10/06/how-i-learned-to-code

Brilliant idea!!! I would like to know move about OCC. Does OCC have a Chandigarh chapter? Business Mashups is a startup company and we are looking for skilled people in open source technologies, particularly Java, PHP and MySQL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: