At Tyro, one of our problems is that we have more innovative ideas than we have engineers to execute them. It’s a problem but a good problem, since it means that our engineers are always working on something that is adding value to the business. For a couple of years now, our engineering leads have been spending a large proportion of their time in efforts aimed at growing the team. And do you know what we have learned? Growing a team is really hard work!
Since we’re a relatively young organisation, one of our biggest problems has always been brand recognition – our recruiters would call up a prospective candidate and would be stopped dead in their tracks by the simple question, “Who’s Tyro?”. So, earlier this year we challenged our marketing partners, Step Change, to come up with a video concept that would get our name out to the masses. It had to be light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek, appealing to engineers, and had to really capture the spirit of fun that we have in our team here. Step Change put forward a number of excellent proposals but the one that really stood out was the Honest Job Translator – a good-natured jab at today’s software development job advertisements.
During one of the planning sessions, someone suggested that it might be good if we actually mocked up the Honest Job Translator app so that we could show it in the video itself. One thing led to another, and instead of a mock-up, we decided to actually build it: a simple web app that matched overused recruitment buzzwords and provided translations – some helpful, some amusing, some somewhat cynical. Creating the database of job ad clichés formed a large part of the application build and, involved reading through lots and lots of job ads on SEEK. That one was fun to explain to the boss…”Um, what are you doing on SEEK?” “I’m…er… doing some research for a marketing video.” “Riiight…”
Reading through all those job ads has given me some insight into the plight of anyone looking for a job. The main learning was that most software job ads tell you very, very little about the job itself. Most of them follow the same tired formula: a handful of headline bullet points that are largely irrelevant to the work (such as “modern offices” or “great culture”), a paragraph or two about the organisation as a whole (sprinkled liberally with terms like “industry leader” or “rapidly expanding”), then a long shopping list of skills and traits that they are looking for in you, many of which are much the same from ad to ad (try finding an ad that doesn’t list good/great/fantastic/superb communication skills as a requirement).
In fact, from reading all of these job ads, the thing that seems to distinguish many jobs from others are the “fringe benefits”; discounted Apple products, on-site gym, pool table, free food on Fridays, nice view out the window, etc. These perks are nice, but are they the things that would make you happy in a job? If the work was mind-numbingly boring, would you stay in a job just to get a couple of hundred bucks off an iPhone?
We can’t really say that we understand this approach to job ads. In our experience, most engineers are happiest when they are surrounded by talented, like-minded people, doing interesting and challenging work. When they can see that what they are working on matters; that everything that they produce takes the organisation one step closer to the fulfilment of its vision.
At Tyro, we don’t have free food or weekly onsite massages. We don’t have panoramic views of the harbour or team trips to the mountains. Those things are nice, but they don’t make a job great. What we do have is interesting products that are used by small businesses all over Australia. We have a talented engineering team that gets its sense of achievement from continuously delivering value to our customers. And that’s what we want job seekers to know, so that’s precisely what we tell them.