Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Increase perceived values of a company

Last time, we talked about several factors that can affect the way Tèo - a well-trained software engineer - perceives a company's image and offer. In this post, we are looking into ways to increase perceived values.

Increase the wage objective value.

Perceived and objective values aren't identical, but they're still correlated. The offer-letter numbers are similar to the tip of an iceberg in many ways. Typically only one-ninth of the volume of an iceberg is above water yet it is the only visible factor to estimate the shape of the under water portion. The number is one of few objective things in the offer Tèo can rely on to imagine a bright future ahead, the rest is basically a leap of faith. So unless a company has a good reputation in the job market, matching the going rate is for the position is the first step to get the company to any shortlist.

Give the company a personality. 

There are a fair amount of profound articles, books and university programs on company culture and visual identity, I would make a fool of myself trying to cite these numerous theories that people have formed and practiced for centuries. However, I believe people in each profession have their own niches that are not so common to find, so do software engineers. When talking about a company, a normal engineer talks about offer, product and what kind of toys he is given. That's ok, that is a basic need of a human, just that it is superficial and can't tell anything about career growth in the coming years. A trait of a great engineer and contributor is showed via his genuine interest in deeper technical and organizational aspects such as process, field of expertise, type of projects, etc. Pitching on one of these field and promoting it in technical event the company takes place give it a bit of control on how people perceive the company.

37signals is not the best project management software shop in the world, but it has personality. The 37signals team stands for something: uncompromising simplicity. Other domestic examples are numerous: Greengar is specialized in mobile applications, East Agile etches its beloved management methodology into the name, Skunkworks is applying Silicon-Valley-approved product development in the heart of Saigon, etc... Ultimately, it comes down to differentiating the company, it almost doesn't matter on what, more or less anything will do.

Link the company with its top-notch team. 

Every successful tech companies spends its resources massively to build up a team of experts in its field of expertise. Not only this matters to company's products, it also has a psychological effect on potential employees. The investment provides a reassurance that the company knows what they are doing, with high quality. A chance to work with people on top of the technology stack is a compelling learning opportunities. It directly affects Tèo growth and reflects in his CV, both eventually lead him to a better career.

And really, if it is a job a tech rock star nods his head to, why bothers?
When companies are growing quickly and they are having a lot of impact, careers take care of themselves. And when companies aren’t growing quickly or their missions don’t matter as much, that’s when stagnation and politics come in. If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.

Read more:
Lot of expats in the team structure helps too! For international corps, this shows a strong connection between the company and head-quarters. For others, it is a demonstration of the budget (yes, that the company is not running out of business and Tèo and his friends are first targets for layoff) and an international vision the company is approaching. This is a growing pattern of globalization and Vietnam, certainly, is not outside of the circle. (1000% bias, but Tèo grew up in the middle of nowhere. To him foreigners is a sign post of civilization and advancement)

As mentioned in the last post, Vietnamese education is sadly years behind developed countries and the country is crying for capable people in STEM. Even a big corp can't just hire a team that it wants. And when that happens, talents need to be raised, for the most vivid sample, Intel cooperated with RMIT to grow its team.

There are many ways a company can raise its tech team, but none of them is cheap.
"Quality is free, when you pay dearly for it" - Peopleware
Local companies are catching up with the trend in Silicon Valley by striving for an environment where every effort to master the technologies stack and get more productive is appreciated explicitly. In Cogini, we have been organizing weekly TechTalks where everyone is given chances to share about basically whatever they find interesting. Put it another way, it is like our weekly BarCamp. Leveraging that spirit, in the coming time we are having compulsory research hours and hack days, times when engineers can be completely creative, free from the constraints of their normal jobs. These research and sharing are endless source of blog posts, tweets and status updates - the first step to promote the team to the outer world. We are also sending engineers to conferences so that they can keep their skills up to date (we went to BarcampPP a few months ago). Allow engineers to buy books that contribute to their knowledge on the company’s dime. Permit engineers to express their ideas about the projects they’re working on.

Create a tribe. 

A tribe that links itself to the personality the company is building. This is an advanced form of #2 and #3. Like company's culture, the tribe needs time to grow and everyone participates to controlling - not just individuals. But once it is formed, the tribe is the driving force behind every success of the company. I was taught a classic example of this, the IBM's Black Team when I was in the Software Testing class of Mr. Quang Tran. If you haven't known about the "nefarious" team, take some time to read it. Please, I'll wait.

IBM was delighted about the team, as every defects they found was one that customers didn't. And their colleagues outside the team were jealous at the apparent fun they were having. And others too.

So far we have looked at some humble opinions of the silly me about talents acquisition in Vietnam. Hopefully, you have got some ideas of how job market works here. But there are some pitfalls to watch out for. Stay tuned. Check it out

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