Finding your Purple Squirrel on a Unicorn

So here’s a question for you. Why is it so hard for startups to find a Front End Developer when they are in high demand and the work they do is considered “easier” than other fields of engineering? Speaking from experience, it was literally like trying to find a purple squirrel riding a unicorn. When you put a posting for a FED on a job website you will find all manner of people applying for it, but many of them either lack the skills or over exaggerate them. In particular I noticed two major things; a misalignment of perspective, and the low barrier of entry for front end dev. These are two main items that I want to address because as startups we only have a finite amount of time we can spend looking for the right person due to project due dates and timelines. However, we need to make sure the person that we hire can meet our needs and expectations.

So the first major problem entails the misalignment prospective applicants have when they apply for this position. Now what do I mean by that? I mean they think this position is about coding that isn’t as intensive as back end is. This is gross underestimation of what a front end dev is. The main difference with a back end dev and a front end dev is their goals and what they do to achieve those goals. Back end devs are only interested in making the system or site work. Their task are centered toward making the system run faster, make it stable and efficient. They do this with various algorithms and tricks that shave milliseconds of response time to achieve their goals. These are the metrics on which they base their success and honestly they don’t particularly care about what front end devs think is important. What a back end dev and a front end dev consider “hard” are completely different things. Now front end devs are looking at their world differently. They look at aesthetics and making the query running faster or having their process work smoothly so the user doesn’t just give up and quit. Front end devs are technical artist in the sense of they have a canvas that a client wants painted exactly the way they want it. The metric a front end dev uses to define their success is perfection because of these aforementioned reasons. Now this isn’t about bashing back end devs or systems engineers, not at all, because both sides of this equation contribute work that the other side can’t do and we need both sides in order to have a working system. However back end devs and systems engineers need to realize that the work that front end devs do isn’t by any means easier, it is simply a different kind of problem that requires different skills and a different mind. So this goes into the low barrier of entry for front end devs.

So the barrier for front end devs is both high and low in a weird sense. High because they need to have the technical skills and artistic skills and low in the way that many back end devs have these technical skills and then some. The problem we run into so very often is that many back end devs and systems engineers think they can apply for this job because the technical skills aren’t terribly demanding for this sort of work, comparatively anyway, and that if they know enough technical tricks they can just eyeball aesthetics. However that is simply not the case. Technical skills are something that we as Lampros can develop, and other companies can agree with that statement as well since it isn’t a huge issue to improve an employee’s skillset provided they have a good foundation and understanding already. The issue that we come to is that we can’t teach these back-end devs and system engineers the aesthetic skills. In the same way that they are going to school for their technology degree, artist go to school for theirs. To be blunt, most startups would agree that we don’t have the time or money to teach these prospective employees the artistic skills that are required for this job. This is something that we have had a hard time telling students about the field when everyone has this preconceived notion that tech skills are all that are required.

That being said however, if you have the design skills as well as the technical skills required for a front end dev position we would love to hear from you sometime and see some of the things you’ve worked on. Front End Devs are in short supply and good ones are even harder.

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