Growing Pains: Recruiting as a Start-up

New York is pushing hard in tech start-up world right now. Bloomberg’s WeAreMadeInNY campaign received a lot of press attention last week and hopefully this continuing support by the city, alongside the success stories that are published with chiming regularity, will encourage the best grads and experienced pros in our industry to flock here. But it doesn’t appear to be happening just yet. Not for us anyway.

So, who are we — a small-scale start up — competing against for talent?

One idea is that we are pitted against big corporate.  We see a lot of resumes filled with banking development experience. Multiple jobs lasting 18 months to 2 years. Boredom seems to set in and candidates go searching for the next chapter in their career, invariably another bank. The trend goes on…

I get the impression that these candidates are asking themselves the wrong questions. It has been mentioned to me several times that going to a large company aids career progression in a way that can’t be achieved by going to a start-up. Well what kind of career progression? Better salary? Maybe. Better title? Possibly. More responsibility? I don’t think so! I understand different types thrive in different environments, but from a computer science perspective and someone working in software I’d encourage anyone to read James Currier’s open letter to his computer science alma mater at Princeton. And just in case you don’t, below is a short quote that captures the essence of Currier’s message.

“Big companies teach you how to work through layers of bureaucracy and how to solve problems in very risk-averse ways — in short, how to make something happen in their organization. A big company is not the safe career choice. It’s the risky choice. It risks your mind and your life.”

Here at AetherWorks, we have a very talented group who are all involved in the work and decisions that push the company forward. As a result, we all have a collective responsibility to learn, to achieve, and to progress. We are a team. There are opportunities that present themselves here that I believe would represent valuable experience to anyone at any stage of life, let alone new grads. Sit in on design meetings, take part in product planning, generate new sales strategies for our latest products, pick a topic for our weekly research meetings. We have an environment in which anyone can come forward. We all have our areas of specialty, but we also have the opportunity to learn and assist across the breadth of our business. The best bit? If we do something fantastic, then we’re all going to reap the benefits.

Great, right?

We do need people to take the initial leap of faith though. Our latest recruitment drive has been very challenging and it’s made me aware of a few areas we need to work on to change perceptions.

Pile of resumes.
The resumes pile up.

One notable disadvantage we have, versus large corps and more established start-ups, is that we are less embedded in the systems of recruitment that can help attract talent. AetherWorks has had little time to integrate into the NYC community, we do not have a live product just yet (but we will very soon), we have had limited (but very positive) press, we have had little opportunity to create useful internships that may lead to permanent roles, and maybe more than anything, our alumni network connects us to the UK rather than the US.

We continue, however, to strive to address all of these issues. We are using multiple sources to advertise and post our openings and we continue to raise our profile in the city by attending meet ups & conferences, writing our blog and distributing press releases. On top of that, Fay (Director of Business Development) has been sharing her experiences in schools around the northeast, and Gus (Director of Research) is planning on opening up our research sessions to the public once a month (for more info email us).

It’s a long and competitive game, but hopefully we will see some good results soon. Of course if you happen to be searching for a software engineering role, you know what to do!