Hiring People

Recently, I've been helping a seed-level company find somebody to be their head of technology.  This is a company that's been around for over a year, has revenue, and has 3 full time employees and 2-3 part time people.

Because the CEO isn't a tech person, there's a slight difference with his decision making versus mine.  Luckily, I can understand a programmer's work output and judge it objectively.  Unfortunately, for non-tech people, that is not possible.  So, he found a part time CTO, let that person make an app with some contract workers, and is now in the situation of trying to move beyond that situation by having somebody full time in the same office.  It's a great growth step and everybody is in favor (including the CTO who understands that his location and time commitment aren't ideal for the next year).

Here are my requirements for somebody in this position.  All people considering such a hire, even in the beginning, should consider these needs:

  • Somebody who can stand his/her own with you and any existing tech person (i.e. has enough experience that you two won't doubt his/her decisions).
  • Somebody who can program a web 2.0 language (PHP, Django, Ruby on Rails, Javascript)
  • Somebody who lives in the current web 2.0 world so he/she can tell you about trends and make intelligent decisions.
  • Somebody who can communicate effectively.
  • Somebody who has managed at least 2 other people before - but preferably not more than 8.
  • Somebody who is trustworthy and responsible.

Do not, I repeat, do not, hire somebody who doesn't meet 5 of these 6 criteria.  Did I say that clearly?  Do not, I repeat, do not, hire somebody who doesn't meet 5 of these 6 criteria.  Ideally, meet all the requirements.  Obviously, the second to last requirement is geared towards a small startup with less than $1MM and looking to create an Internet software company.

Another important issue is education and credentials.  The person should have a B.S. degree in something with some sort of computer science course work.  If you went to a top school and think you are stuck with, or can get away with, somebody who didn't go to a similar calibre school, you're just putting yourself in a poor position.  The head of technology is probably the most important person in the company in addition to the CEO and the sales/marketing lead.  If that person is not your peer, or the peer of your younger self, you won't respect them - and that will take you nowhere.