One Way We Retain the Best Software Engineers with Gorilla Labs

I met a university student at a technical meet up in Costa Rica who was enrolled in a software engineering program.  The student was networking in hopes of finding his first job out of college. “You work for Gorilla Logic? They are the best!” he exclaimed. The word is out.  Gorilla Logic hires the best software engineers in Costa Rica. And once we find them, we want to keep them. The top engineers have busy, curious brains that need to stay engaged.  With that in mind, we built Gorilla Labs to challenge our Gorillas in between major projects when most developers typically hit the “bench”.

The Dreaded Bench

Good software engineers in the US are in high demand and accustomed to jumping to a new company or project quite easily after a gig ends. That confidence means landing on the “bench,” without a project to work on, isn’t so bad.  In Costa Rica, however, “the bench” has a different connotation. Why? Most IT development companies in Costa Rica lay off developers as soon as projects are completed. We noticed some anxiety when our colleagues in Costa Rica finished projects because full-time jobs are important in their culture.  They also love being in the Gorilla community and are proud to be part of Costa Rica’s premier software development company. We didn’t want to lose these skilled software engineers, and needed a way to demonstrate our commitment to their talent and continued growth.

Keeping the Best Software Engineers Engaged and Challenged Isn’t Easy

Initially, we had developers “on the bench” jump onto another project. While happy to help temporarily with some heavy lifting, they really wanted to dive in wholeheartedly to a project they could own longer term. These fill in projects, therefore, didn’t do much to calm their nerves about keeping their jobs.  Next idea?

We then provided online training through a Pluralsight subscription, offering an opportunity to enrich their current skills and learn new ones. It was a nice idea, but we discovered it is tough to build skills in a new development language if you aren’t working in it day to day. Training for new skills was good in theory, but something was missing.  We needed to tie these skills to the value we provide our clients – solving specific software challenges,

Gorilla Labs is Born! – Research and Development Projects for Software Developers

We designed Gorilla Labs to function as our own research and development department.  If our Gorillas aren’t actively working on a client engagement, they start a lab project.  These projects have all the attributes of an active project. They are challenging and meant to push the Gorilla to learn new skills.  They also include real-world problems, milestones and deadlines. The response has been amazing. Our Gorillas are excited about the prospect of exploring new technologies.  They don’t dread the end of a client engagement but look forward to jumping into a Gorilla Labs project and having the opportunity to build their knowledge in cutting-edge technologies, like IoT, Virtual Reality, Image Recognition, Virtual Assistants, Machine Learning or Blockchain. We extend the learning by having the Labs teams present their projects to the community at regular Lunch & Learns and create blog posts.

iBeacons Hue Lights

Check out the iBeacons and Hue Lights project!

There are three different types of Gorilla Labs projects:                                                                      

  1.     Customer Suggested Technology Projects.  Our clients are always looking for new technology – and we hear them. They don’t generally have the time to vet the technological advancements that have real potential from those that don’t. We create a Gorilla Labs R&D project and explore the opportunity.
  2.     Leading Edge Technology Projects.  Our Gorillas are always looking to provide a higher level of value for our clients – with better ways to solve their challenges. For example, a Gorilla Labs project on serverless computing (stay tuned for the blog post) provided us with the confidence to recommend it to a client and save them hundreds of thousands of dollars. 
  3.    Proof of Concept Projects. It isn’t always clear what technology is best suited for a project.  Gorilla Labs’ proof of concept projects help us recommend the best route with confidence. We recently used a Gorilla Labs Hyperledger Fabric Blockchain project to demonstrate its potential for a client project.  Having highly skilled software developers available and ready allowed us to turn this project around fast.

Gorilla Labs – What’s in it for our Clients?

Gorilla Labs is one way we distinguish our vibrant community of highly engaged engineers from a bunch of distributed coders-for-hire. Our discoveries:

  • Prepare Gorillas to share more efficient ways to meet client goals.
  • Enable us to recommend less expensive solutions – sometimes saving clients hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • Ensure the super-charged level of talent, consistency and engagement that companies expect from Gorilla Logic.

One group of engineers crafted the Gorilla Labs motto Eat, Code, Sleep – succinctly expressing their passion and commitment to overcoming new technology challenges. We believe that keeping these smart engineers engaged on the cutting edge (and supplied with lots of snacks) results in providing clients with the most effective, creative solutions for their high-stakes projects.

 

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Jay Wallingford
Jay Wallingford
A hands-on technology executive with more than 25 years of software development, architecture and technical leadership experience, Jay has run development in a number of startups in Boulder, CO including Chief Technology Officer at Leopard (acquired by Ogilvy Mather), VP of Engineering at Symplified (acquired by RSA/EMC), VP of Engineering at TapInfluence and Director of Development at Crosswalk. Before that Jay ran and worked in technology services companies including Aarondak and Bolder Heuristics both in Boulder. Jay started his career in a computer aided design firm Intergraph where he worked on 3-D and assembly modeling software. Jay holds a BS in Mathematics/Computer Science and has done post graduate work in Radiation Medicine and Computer Science from the University of Kentucky.

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