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How to build a technical team on a shoestring budget

Philly New Tech Meetup organizer Darla Wolfe offers some tips on making those critical early hires.

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This is a guest post by Darla Wolfe, founder of Sweat EquitE, LLC and the executive director of Philly New Tech Meetup.
So you woke up in the middle of the night with an epiphany for an innovative service or product. You honed your idea with your closest friends, reached out for advisors in the industry, launched your MVP (minimum viable product) and you were right! There’s a need — and a paying public. Now all you have to do is build your technical team to scale and deliver. Yikes!

It is tempting to immediately run out and “hire” technical resources and have them start building, but resist the urge. The first and most important step is to create a clearly defined plan. Technology changes very rapidly and even preferred coding languages and databases evolve. If you start with a forward thinking technical road map, you can save yourself a lot of grief from expensive redesigns and rebuilds.

Think ahead

Planning starts with truly understanding what your company is now and what you want to grow it to be. Ask yourself the tough questions:

  • Who is your customer and how do you reach them?
  • Do you need a mobile app, traditional website or both?
  • Can you afford them all at the same time?

Once you’ve decided what you need, the next step is to figure out how to get the work done. It is important to think “roles” and not just “jobs.” Too often we think “I need to hire a programmer” instead of “I need to ensure my users have a secure platform on which to transact.” Understanding how the work gets done will help determine which skillsets are needed and for how long.

Identify specific needs

Just like you wouldn’t want your family doctor to perform brain surgery, you don’t necessarily want your programmer to do design work. A good road map should help you understand what skills are needed and when. Can the work be done part-time? Can it be done by remote resources who work virtually or second-time employees who balance multiple jobs?

Once you’ve decided the roles you need and the amount of time required for each function, it’s time to pick the people. Who do you want?

Build a culture

Picking people who are good at what they do goes without saying, but in addition to excellent technical skills, it’s important to determine the type of work culture you’re promoting. Discard the notion of “culture fit” — which, too often, breeds sameness — and embrace discomfort. The best people are ones who are creative and curious, especially in a technical environment where change happens so fast. Is your company culture one of inclusion and thought stimulation? Are you listening and encouraging diverse perspectives and ideas? Can people say “no”?

No innovation or disruption started with “glad we’re doing it the same.” It’s a great win to find people who are smart, believe in your vision, but who don’t think like the herd.


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