Hire AND Train


A popular lament heard from business is "It's difficult to find Perl 5 programmers!"

I can imagine that it's difficult to find good Perl 5 programmers. most of the really good ones I know have full-time equivalent employment (and plenty don't want to move to the greater London metro area for 20,000 GBP per year or San Francisco for $40,000 a year). It's also difficult to evaluate the skill of any self-proclaimed Perl 5 programmer; it's easy to write baby Perl, but it's not always easy to know how to become a better Perl programmer.

Three possibilities present themselves:

  • Improve the ways in which they compete to find good Perl 5 programmers, such as offering larger salaries or telecommuting or better perquisites. (Few companies do this.)
  • Give up. (Anecdotal evidence suggests some companies have done this; it's easy to throw a few thousand dollars a year to find cheap PHP development.)
  • Train good programmers.

Five years ago, the latter might have been daunting. Now I can imagine that a motivated consultant could put together a customized hiring and training course for a specific company in a specific industry to identify the skills necessary (Perl and otherwise) for new hires as well as the skills necessary for existing developers.

I can imagine that new employees should read Perl Best Practices and should walk through Perl::Critic policies on their first day. I would love to see them handed a copy of Effective Perl Programming, 2e.

Perhaps I demonstrate no small hubris, but I hope that Modern Perl: The Book can fill in any of the gaps of an experienced (but still novice) Perl 5 programmer as well as explain how Perl 5 works to a new Perl 5 programmer. In short, my intent with the book is to help novices and neophytes become adepts. I believe we can achieve similar things with many of the tools developed during the Perl renaissance.

The important question is how to convince businesses to take advantage of this renaissance. In effect, we have to demonstrate that (like many other job skills) Perl 5 is something easy and effective to teach a motivated worker.


Great advice! One thing I've seen is that employers give coders time to get up to speed on technology they need for their job. This costs them money. I think by paying for training they could save on time needed to get them up to speed.

I am in favor of more training opportunities but one has to also remember that companies will prefer the path with least resistance. So if they need to choose a technology they will pick the one where there is anecdotal or real evidence of having lots of ready made programmers.

At the BBC it's been pointed out that we have difficulty finding any Perl programmers at all. London's a tough market to hire in. It's also been pointed out that we find plenty of PHP programmers, but it's difficult to find good ones. I've suggested training, but I've been told "we don't do that". The lie, of course, is that we offer plenty of introductory Java and PHP classes. This is something I find really annoying. There's been talk of eliminating Perl since many programmers mistakenly think there are no jobs in the area, but when push comes to shove, the BBC is discovering that when the world's largest broadcaster is driving so much of its data through Perl, that Perl code is huge. Rewriting is simply not an option.

I would push again to see if we could start offering training courses, but I doubt there will be much traction there.

but one has to also remember that companies will prefer the path with least resistance. So if they need to choose a technology they will pick the one where there is anecdotal or real evidence of having lots of ready made programmers.
But this goes both ways: most people in software will easily leave for a better paying job, this currently is the least resistant, and for many the only, way to climb up the salary ladder.

Ovid: It doesn't help much that your Perl job posting does not include any information on pay range or relocation assistance.

Actually, on closer inspection, this seems to be why you're not getting anyone:

"Unfortunately, for this particular role, the BBC is only accepting applications from candidates who have already obtained the right to work in the UK."

It really surprises me to see such a restriction for "the world's largest broadcaster".

mithaldu: I don't have any say over that matter. It's my understanding that if you require a work permit, the BBC will transfer one if you already have one (hence, me getting my job), but not apply for one (unless you're a journalist).

And I also have no say about pay posting. I agree that it's annoying they don't post anything. If a company won't post the pay, I'm automatically suspicious of their motives.

Ovid: I see you've got the same complaints in mind already then. Shame to hear that you're not in a position to do anything about them. Thanks for the extra detail though, that might actually become useful for me in the future. :)

I think we might be some way off the thrust of the article, but I will say that I'm pretty happy with what the Beeb's paying me to be a Senior Software Engineer. Jobs are advertised through HR, whose ways are weird and strange.

I hope I'm considered good. I'm looking for work right now. (I don't have any employment at all at the moment, much less FTE.) Unfortunately, it'd have to be either in the United States or a "relocation paid" job, although I'm willing to relocate (almost) anywhere at this point, given being paid enough money.

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This page contains a single entry by chromatic published on July 5, 2010 12:45 PM.

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