Thursday, January 7, 2010

Captain Recruiter Learns The Value Of Experienced Help

I have recently discovered (and by recent I mean yesterday) the joys of experienced oversight for software development projects..

For the last 12+ months I've been trying to develop a software application, a web site for recruiters. I've partnered with 5 different software developers to try and get a software application built, and I failed 4 times. The reason for each of the 4 failures was the same... the technical person I worked with wasn't accustomed to working with an inexperienced businessperson.

But wait... 5 tries minus 4 failures = 1 success!

I don't want to rehash the software development failures right now. It was painful. It cost time and money and sleep and sanity. Let's take about success.

A couple weeks ago I hired my friend Saran Allen of the soon-to-be-famous Blazing Cloud to help me kick start attempt #5. Sarah is a veteran consultant, manager, software programmer, and teacher (I'm sure she's a whole bunch of other things that rock, too). Her ability to sit down with me, ask me what I'm trying to accomplish, and then develop a plan for reaching that goal is incredible.

In our very first meeting, Sarah, her Awesome Intern, and I sat down and talked. The goal of the meeting was to establish what I was trying to accomplish, and what features were the most important to see first. After 2 hours we had a list of 10 features that would take roughly one week to build. Sarah would provide oversight, Awesome Intern would do the programming, and I would approve or reject the work.

In our second meeting, 45 work hours later, I had a working software product. We put the website up on a big ol' screen and they demoed the software, feature by feature. It worked. All of it. I love it! Awesome Intern did an awesome job, Sarah pointed each of us in the right direction, and my fantasy became reality.

What I learned is that there's no substitute for good oversight. I'd like to point out that the first four techies I tried to work with are all very good software developers, but I lacked the experience to give them what they need to succeed. After getting over how cool my idea was and realizing that I need help, I asked someone prepared to work with a non-techie like myself. I'm quite certain that under Sarah's guidance these software developers could have written what I need in less time than Awesome Intern, but that's not important now. What is important is that I've something about working the right people to achieve success.

For anyone who is curious, my web site is not ready for public viewing (unless you are an angel investor and like me!), but it is ready to become a better web site :)

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