Categories: Career DevelopmentExpert Interviews

Expert Interview: Elena Ruchko of Daxx on How Software Developers Can Increase their Value

Elena Ruchko is a digital marketer at Daxx, a company that connects great companies with talented developers from Ukraine. She writes about software engineering, remote team management, startups and digital marketing.

We recently checked in with Elena to get her insight on the IT skillsets businesses are seeking right now and get her advice for IT pros on making themselves more valuable to the companies they work for. Here’s what she shared:

Tell us about the mission behind Daxx Staffing. How are you hoping to impact the way companies connect with developers?

We see ourselves as matchmakers in the software development world. We want our clients to work with the right talent for their business needs, and we also want our developers to genuinely like the products they’re working on. The developers we help our clients hire essentially become their full-time employees, so there’s a host of factors we need to consider, soft skills included, to make sure they’ll make a great team.

These days good pay, stability and career prospects are simply not enough to attract and retain quality developers. They want to be part of a great team, have thriving relationships with managers and mentors, be actively involved in product development, and have a certain amount of flexibility in their work.

What makes Daxx different from other companies is that we don’t stop once we’ve found the perfect client-developer match. We also take care of office space, HR, payroll and taxes. Our client/HR managers always stay in touch with our clients and their developers to quickly identify and eliminate communication or work process problems, and prevent them in the future. We support both parties to ensure an effective and long-lasting partnership.

What types of software development skills are your clients looking for right now? What’s most in demand?

We mainly work with companies from the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany, a few other European countries and Israel. This year, we’ve received a lot of requests for .NET, Java, Magento, PHP, JavaScript, React, Node.js, and full-stack engineers (Magento, PHP & JavaScript, Angular & Node.js, React & Node.js).

Aside from technologies, clients often look for experience in specific business domains — banking, medtech, edtech and fintech come up pretty often.

We’ve had a client who was looking for a developer with experience in marketing analytics, and another one who was interested in an engineer with a trading background.

Occasionally, clients also have requirements to the demographics. Some want multicultural teams as they believe diversity will contribute to the team’s efficiency. Others request that women and men are equally represented in the team.

At one point, we even had a request for a developer with a PhD in software engineering because, apparently, the entire team had it.

How can software developers increase their value? What should they do to make sure their skills are up-to-date and relevant to their clients?

The most basic industry requirement is to constantly upgrade your professional level and to stay updated on and the latest tech developments.

Developers should regularly invest their time into “extracurricular activities”, such as contributing to GitHub, for example. This is important because clients often want to take a look at the code of a candidate they’re considering, and to do that, they may ask for a link to the candidate’s GitHub profile. And you never know when a pet project you do for fun can land you an excellent job opportunity, so do make sure you’re active on GitHub.

Running your own tech blog is another great way to showcase your skills, and so is speaking at tech events — if you can teach others, you are clearly a pro.

We all love working with people who feel enthusiastic about what they do, and clients are no different. So organize meetups, take part in hackathons, volunteer for an educational cause like Rails Girls — show that for you, coding is more than just a job.

And don’t overlook soft skills. Your technical prowess won’t have much worth if you can’t communicate your ideas. Some clients will want you to talk directly to their clients, so they need to know you’re capable of expressing your thoughts clearly to non-technical people.

And be proactive. You need to show the client that you care, that you want to contribute to making the product better. That’s how you become a valuable employee, which over time translates into better pay.

Many clients have a standard re-evaluation schedule. Of course, the developers are free to ask for raises themselves, but they have to be very sure that their skills and level of engagement have grown proportionally to the raise they’re asking for.

And this is a good place to bring up English — if you aren’t a native English speaker, make sure your English proficiency is high enough for work-related communication. You won’t even go past the initial interview stage if you keep fumbling for words.

What advice can you offer to developers on approaching interviews with potential clients? How can they prepare to make sure they’re showcasing their skills and abilities? What should they focus on in the interview?

First and foremost, we recommend that candidates read job descriptions very carefully and do a little research on the company they want to join. When this is done, prepare a brief list of questions that will demonstrate your preparation.

Another helpful tip is to read your resume before the interview. You should be ready to explain why you left jobs and how you contributed to the projects you’ve worked on. Some clients will also want to know what difficulties you’ve experienced in the past. And it goes without saying, but you should never lie in your resume.

You may also want to prepare code samples beforehand.

Stay away from criticizing the potential client’s project. If you believe that the technology they use is outdated, don’t say so directly. Instead, ask them what prompted their choice, and whether they’ve considered switching to a different technology.

Non-native English speakers should take extra care to prepare their answers. Learn them by heart if you have to. You need to be able to talk at length about your experience, otherwise a far less qualified candidate can end up getting the job simply because they can discuss their background much more fluently.

If you feel that the level of your English proficiency isn’t good enough, be persistent. Ask for a test assignment. Tell them you’d rather show them what a great specialist you are than talk about it.

And last but not least, be polite and smile. Being nice goes a long way, even in the software development world.

What are some of the challenges you find managing teams remotely? What tools do you rely on for managing remote teams?

One of the biggest challenges that every remote engineer faces daily is that they don’t get to see the big picture when it comes to product development. Because of this, they can end up feeling like a cog in the wheel, and there’s nothing more discouraging than that.

But there are a few ways to alleviate this problem — more communication, regular virtual meetings with the whole team, and business trips to the client’s office to give the remote developer the chance to work alongside the in-house employees.

Here at Daxx, we consult clients who don’t have experience working with remote developers on team management best practices and help them establish a successful working relationship with their engineers from day one.

All of our clients manage their remote developers directly, so we don’t use any management tools ourselves. We do know, however, which tools are popular among our clients, and what pros and cons they have, so we readily offer advice when we have a client who needs it.

We often recommend Trello as one of the best solutions for managing small Agile teams of two to three people. If the client manages six to about 30 people, then it’s definitely better to invest in a more complex tool, such as Atlassian JIRA, Redmine, Target Process, Team Foundation Server (TFS) or Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS). The vast majority of our clients use JIRA in combination with other Atlassian tools like Confluence and Bitbucket. But there are also plenty of people who opt for the Microsoft products, TFS and VSTS.

For group communication, our clients use Slack, Skype, Hipchat, and Google Hangouts. WorkFlowy is a popular choice for note taking and brainstorming.

What can software developers working remotely or on a contract basis do to improve the way they communicate and collaborate with their clients?

Be proactive, take initiative. If there’s a lack of communication with the client, let them know.

Daily meetings and calls are standard practice for geographically distributed teams, but clients may get too caught up in whatever’s going on locally. If you feel like you’re falling off their radar, make a step forward and suggest a call yourself.

In fact, one of our developers did just that. As the frequency and quality of communication with the client started to decrease, they simply told the client they needed to communicate more often, and even suggested the time and day for a call. The client greatly appreciated such initiative.

What makes our model special in this regard is that the developer has one other person to rely on, a dedicated HR/client manager whose core mission is to help the client and the developer communicate better.

What trends are you following in the world of IT recruiting today? Why do they interest you?

We stay in the loop on all the major trends in HR and recruitment, and we also do our best to stay updated on technology news. As tech recruiters, we need to know when a new version of a language has been released, what makes it different from the previous versions, what technologies are going to be in demand, what innovative tools and software have just launched, and so on. Aside from that, our HR/client managers read a lot about project management to be able to offer quality support to our clients and their teams.

Make the most of your IT career. To learn more about getting paid what you’re worth, visit paysa.com.

Author: Paysa