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Archive: February - 2015 (3)

  • Choosing a Technology Stack for Startups

    Article by Miles Thomas, Practice Manager in Workbridge Philadelphia 

    Tech startups from all over the country come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and types. From established entrepreneurs who have already sold multiple companies to college seniors working out of a basement, software engineers and businessmen alike have dreams of solving the ailments of the world, one solution at a time. To start an LLC isn’t all that difficult these days either; all you need is an idea, a working space, a computer, and (for some) a bottomless pot of coffee. Sounds easy, right?

    Well, as integral as elbow grease and caffeine are for any start-up, a direction may be the most important thing for any would-be entrepreneurs out there. One direction that is integral to technology companies is the different layers of technologies used to accomplish whatever problem they are trying to solve; this is known as the technology stack. There are many different kinds of technology out there, but most companies land either between one comprised of open source technologies (also called Open Stack) or a proprietary technology owned by another company (.NET owned by Microsoft, or Java owned by Oracle). So, what is the best choice for all you startups out there? Read on…

    An illustration of some of the different layers of a technology stack, and the options that an entrepreneur would have for each.

    Above, is an illustration of some of the different layers of a technology stack, and the options that an entrepreneur would have for each.

    It's well known amongst most tech savvy individuals that open source tech stacks seem to be all the rage amongst startups. After all, not only are open source technologies free to use for you bootstrappers out there, but there are a variety of different programming languages to use depending on what you’re trying to do. Need to use a functional programming language for reactive application design? Use Python or Scala. Need to do simple website development for clients big and small? Use PHP or Ruby on Rails. With so many tools at your disposal, the possibilities truly are endless.

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    Java and .NET may not be as flashy or wide-ranging, but they do offer an array of different tools. With different frameworks and API’s designated to each company’s respective programming languages, Microsoft and Oracle do not leave their users without ammunition. Furthermore, there are defined boundaries for what tool to use and when- this can be extremely valuable for someone who doesn’t necessarily know their way around the latest and greatest.

    The lack of boundaries is the biggest hurdle for people looking to implement an open stack. For example, if a company decides to use Python as their language of choice, what frameworks should they use? Django? Flask? Tornado? CherryPy? What about JavaScript libraries and frameworks? Angular? Backbone? Ember? There are so many possibilities with no guidelines for first timers that it is easy to get caught up in all of the different technologies. Another easy pitfall is ambition to use technologies that are not necessary- I can recall a small web design shop that was trying to implement Amazon WebServices as an example (they are no longer around).

    The boundaries presented by a Java/.NET stack come at a cost, quite literally. The obvious downside of proprietary programming languages is that they can be quite costly; this can be a huge deal-breaker for a small startup with little to no funding. For a smaller company looking to stay afloat, spending what little money they have on-hand for something they can get for free seems foolish (on paper, at least).

    At the end of the day, picking programming languages is all about circumstance. If a company has the money to spend, Java/.NET may be the way to go. If a company is strapped for cash, or if one of their founders has a background in some kind of open source language/framework, then open source may be the way to go. Given the convergence of the current technology landscape, however, it may not be long before it won’t really matter!

  • 4 Desirable Traits of Open Source Job Seekers

    Article written by Jaime Vizzuett, Practice Manager of Workbridge Orange County

    As many know, the tech market is a candidate’s market.  There are very few exceptional engineers with a solid background, and a lot of job opportunities - with the Open Source market being no different. People hire people because of a particular skillset, whether it’s an architect or a junior candidate, regardless of the industry. As Practice Manager at Workbridge Associates Orange County, specializing in placing candidates with Open Source Technology backgrounds, I’ve found that in addition to a particular skillset, hiring managers desire a candidate who displays selective traits, especially in the Open Source market.

    Before getting into these traits, it is important to understand that companies which use Open Source technologies are most likely startups. This doesn’t mean that every company that uses Open Source technologies falls in the same category, but there is definitely a trend. That being said, I spoke with a few of my managers from Corporate to Startup companies and asked them what they look for in a potential employee or contract employee.

    The following are the top four traits hiring managers are looking for in tech job seekers with an Open Source background.

    1. Jack Of All Trades, Master of One

    You can do a little of everything, but if you aren’t great at something, then find out what you’re most interested in and hone those skills. One of my hiring managers mentioned, “It’s always nice to see a wide variety of skills on a candidate's resume, but I also expect them to know the fundamental basics of whatever they have on their resume.”  There is no problem with having a variety of skill sets, or being a “full-stack” engineer, just make sure to focus on one skill, and be great at it. Bottom-line is no one wants to hire an engineer that is a, “Jack of all trades, and a master of none.”

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    2. Be Trendy

    You will hear it over and over again, but keeping up with the newest technology is crucial in any market, and especially in Open Source. The Open Source market is always going to have a floodgate of new technologies, whether it’s Angular.js or a new version of Symfony. Every company wants someone with the trendy new technology that very few engineers have, so being ahead of the curve will set you apart. Having newer technologies in your arsenal could really make the difference between simply getting an interview and getting the job.

    3. Get Social

    Github should be every engineer’s best friend. This is not necessarily a trait, but more like a “nice-to-have”, as one of my hiring managers put it. This is especially crucial for junior Open-Source developers trying to land the job, simply because sometimes Github may be the only example of work that a hiring manager has to look at. Whether it’s through Github, a forum, or social media – having some type of social presence that shows you are passionate and invested in technology is a plus. As the Director of Software Development at a company I work with put it, “I’d rather bring in a junior engineer who shows initiative, passion and hunger to learn more, and Github helps me depict that.”

    4. Know Who You Are And What You Want

    Hopefully you are looking to find a company that is going to challenge you and allow you to continue to expand your skillset, but also one that fits what you look for culturally. As a hiring manager, building a culture is all contingent on the people they onboard, which is why the face to face interview is the most important interview of the process. The onsite interview really allows both the candidate and company to figure out if they are a fit for each other. Neither every candidate nor every company is necessarily going to mesh perfectly, but they should mesh enough to be able to spend most of their time together.

    While technology is always advancing, hiring managers will continue to look for these traits in open source job seekers. Companies will always be looking for the next best talent that can take them to the next level and if you’re a job seeker, I hope the points I mentioned will be taken into consideration as you progress through your career.

  • Develop Secure Code!

    Article by Ryan Brittain, Division Manager in Workbridge Chicago.

    For the last six or seven years, I’ve had a very keen interest in security and the hacker culture, both white and black hat. I’ve gone as far as to help start security meetups in Boston, Washington D.C. and Chicago that are still running and meeting monthly to this day, comprising nearly 3000 members between the 3 of them.

    An interesting evolution that I’ve seen is the shift from network security to application or software security. Network security certainly is still important and having someone who is going to maintain firewalls and do intrusion detection and prevention is still going to be needed. But now, the #1 attack vector for most hackers is a SQL injection targeted at sloppy code. So increasingly, developers need to be cognizant of the fact that when they’re developing, the code that they put out needs to stand the test of time. And it needs to be secure. There are different movements across the country (see the rugged DevOps movement: www.ruggeddevops.org) that are trying to call attention to this, and I would imagine that as the number of incidents or breaches continue to rise, that attention will only grow.

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    On the surface, this may appear like a losing battle. Because somebody with enough talent, technical know-how, and mal-intent can probably get his or her hands on anything they want. And there’s nothing that we, the concerned public, can do to stop it. But there are other groups like OWASP (The Open Web Application Security Project) that have chapters across the country as well as online resources for developers.

    We’re seeing the government taking a more heavy-handed approach to those that are caught with their hands in the cookie jar. (Hackers in chains: 13 of the biggest US prison sentences for electronic crime) Could that be a deterrent? Sure. But it certainly needs to be augmented with the community being more aware, and more informed, with best practices on how to develop secure code.

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