Companies are using a wide range of diverse strategies these days to hire, develop and retain talent and db4objects
is one of them.
This privately-held, three-year-old San Mateo, California-based company sponsors the development, commercial licensing and support of db4o, the open source object database that allows enterprises to store objects of any complexity natively, with only one line of code. It's the only native object database for both Java and .NET, and designed for embedded use in mobile and embedded devices, packaged software and in distributed data architectures.
The company's open source business model and product development is fed by 20,000 users—a collaborative global community that also serves as the company's primary recruiting and hiring pipeline.
CEO and President Christof Wittig, who founded the company along with Chief Architect Carl Rosenberger, explains that db4objects is designed as a flat-world organization which allows the company to hire the right talent for the right job, no matter where the talent is located.
The organizational philosophy, he says, is directly tied to db4objects' mission to give developers a choice when it comes to object persistence and leverage the benefits of a world connected through the Internet.
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db4objects draws on the talent of 30 contracted individuals, based across four continents, working as a virtual work environment. It's quite bit different than the traditional approach used by software companies, where engineers and developers are typically housed in one location separated by work cube.
Not only does the business model keep operations cost low, Wittig believes it fosters greater productivity thanks to the flat and asynchronous Internet-based communication approach.
"We have 15 fulltime developers working on the ecosystem, the core product, and about the same number contracted for projects. It's a hybrid team effort, not a binary one, and we leverage our extensive user community to grow our staff," says Wittig.
The ability to tap into a supporting community provides access to developers and engineers who are clearly already committed to the open source community, as well as the product, says the CEO. "There is already an affiliation, a bonding, and our candidates are already showing an engaged commitment to what we're focused on."
Yet db4objects uses some other recruiting mechanisms as well. While a third of its workforce has been hired directly from the community sector, it's recruited another third from what Wittig calls "neighbors" in the open source community and a third through traditional job postings.
"What we need on staff, expertise on a database core, is not a widely known skill and it's not an easy skill. So to be able to pull from a user base actively involved in development provides an ability to hire on those with a passion and an interest which are key qualities in a candidate," says Wittig.
What db4objects doesn't want are tech professionals who not only don't have the skills, but lack serious interest.
"We won't even consider candidates whose resumes or cover letters don't show interest or indicate initiative around the open source project. What they should tell us in their cover letter is why they would make a good addition, and what they've done in relation to what we're doing," says Wittig.
That's exactly how Travis Reeder caught db4objects' attention. His resume indicted how he had started both a user group and Web site around open source database development.
"He came in and even had a specific proposal and idea and wanted to lead it if hired. It showed ownership and engagement," recalls Wittig.
JB Evain, a free software programmer based in France, is an example of how db4object's hiring strategy draws on "neighboring" open source communities.
Evain is involved in several FOSS projects such as db4o, Mono or AspectDNG. He is also the developer of Mono.Cecil, a library used in a variety of projects. His library development project was sponsored by two successive Google's Summer of Code, a program that offers student developers stipends to create new open source programs or to help currently established projects.
"We view our relationships within the open source community as a huge competitive advantage, as it helps us with both our business model and our hiring strategy," says Wittig.
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