Building a Top-notch Tech Team, Honestly

Take a Deep Dive into the IT Team.


Valerio Rossi

2 years ago | 4 min read

Everybody is looking for fresh IT talent to develop their next “disruptive, ground breaking, game changing product”. This search for tech talent is overwhelmingly aggressive and competing with tech giants covering in gold and diamonds developers is not that easy when you are a middle-sized startup.

This is what I find out while building tech teams for ALEA, what worked for us and why honesty should be your #1 guideline when recruiting

Take a Deep Dive into the IT Team

HR professionals are often very far from the IT team, due to different backgrounds and interests. To truly understand how to attract the so-much-wanted software developers, we need to dive deeper in the day to day life of the department and develop the conditions needed to both satisfy business needs and developers’ expectations.

On one side you will find the business, typically impersonated by the product team, needing new features, bug-fixing, increasing the overall performance of the product etc. They need it to be done as soon as possible and, of course, with the best quality possible.

On the other hand, you have the developers. What matters for them? This is what we found out questioning engineers both inside and outside of ALEA:

  • They want to solve relevant problems (not being told how to solve them)
  • They want to learn by using new technologies and have the freedom to make technical choices
  • They want to improve as professionals by working with high standards of development (see Testing, Clean Code, TDD, DDD etc)

That said, in the daily routine of software development, you will have cool projects, intellectually attractive tasks, and much less interesting things that need to be done either way.

Finding the balance between the HOW developers want to do things and WHAT needs to be delivered to the business is key.

It is key to have a team that delivers what the business needs (the only reason why we all are here) and a team where developers are fulfilled, happy and effective.

Relax Area at ALEA Barcelona

A Leadership model that works

Picking up the right leader to achieve that balance is the most critical aspect in setting up a tech team. About six months ago we hired Jordi Torra as new CTO in ALEA. He had a very crucial role in finding this balance between having a healthy and attractive development culture in the IT department and delivering high quality results to the business.

“Accountability breeds response-ability.” Stephen R. Covey

An important part of his management style has been creating a culture of autonomy and accountability where each team is responsible for its own choices. If you want to know more about this philosophy read here or here.

What’s In for Developers?

Developing a proper culture led by the right person is the most important step for attracting the right talent. That is indeed a never-ending improvement process, similar to the one I describe here on a company level.

Beside an attractive benefit plan and technically challenging products to develop, agreeing on well-defined engineering values is very helpful to make others understand what you stand for. Here are ours:

· We hire smart people, not stack experts.

· We use the right tool for the job, afraid of nothing.

· We either win or learn, never lose.

· We are an international team, we only need English.

· We are always learning, always willing to share and help.

· We like courage and initiative, new ideas are welcome.

· We like to work in fun and healthy environment, grumpy mood is a bad smell.

Part of the team at ALEA Barcelona

Sell the truth

As recruiters we are often caught in the crossfire: we need to hire the best possible candidate, competing with thousands of other companies, and be truthful with the candidate and with ourselves, not overselling the company and being honest about what is not that great.

The sales, or even better, the “marketing” component of modern recruiting is something that cannot be hidden, as internationally recognized (even in Wikipedia!). Nowadays we need to sell the project, to differentiate ourselves as a company, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to attract talent and the Employer Branding industry wouldn’t exist.

So, how can we be sure to do not oversell and sell only the truth?

“Self awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong, good or bad.” Debbie Ford

We need a high rate of self awareness regarding who we are now as a company and where we are going. And even more importantly, we first need to work on what’s truly important: an honest development culture that make sense (as mentioned above).

Use a Multi-Channel Approach

To build our candidates pipeline we mostly use active sourcing strategies in different channels. Of course, LinkedIn recruiter is one of the main one, having a huge data base, but when it comes to software engineers, using other channels is more than recommended.

For this purpose, we try to reach out to developers where they hang out the most: Stackoverflow and Github.

We have recently published our new career site from which candidates can have an extensive overview about who we are and how it feels to be part of the team.

Working in front of our food track at ALEA Barcelona

Employees will do the rest

Once implemented a healthy, honest and attractive engineering culture, it will be much easier to hire and retain the best developers in your team. Here at Alea, we managed to increase our developers’ referrals x4 times. That means that our developers are now the best testimonials and company advocates we can hope for.

If employees love it first, be sure that candidates will follow.


Created by

Valerio Rossi







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