The Talent Shortage

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[UPDATE - 01/31/2013]

Since I wrote this post on 01/09/2013 I've ran across a rant or two, but this one on hacker news is by far the best example of my remote work gripe below. Albeit I was coming from the angle of the talent shortage I keep hearing about but it's the same ballgame really. There's a great amount of back and forth on the pros and cons, so it's worth a read.


There's this trend, and it goes something like this,

"There's a talent shortage in the valley, so there's a talent shortage in the field!"

Bullshit.

You're just looking in the wrong place

What surprises me is that the very field in which technologies are created that enable collaboration across vast distances is the same field that keeps clinging to the nostalgic idea that face-to-face time is of such high value.

This guy knows what I'm talking about.

There isn't a shortage of talent, there's a shortage of people willing to uproot their entire lives and move across country for your dream. There's a shortage of people willing to uproot their families' lives for your dream. Does that make them bad people? No, it just makes them people. There's a bigger picture than just a job. For some people they can't afford to plan everything around the job anymore.

There's been a shift. Some of it is technology, some of it is economy, and a large part of it is social, but the bottom line is that there is not always a good cause for anyone in this field to move for a job. Many times there's no real advantage. If I want to live where your HQ is, great. If I don't, then that shouldn't be a problem (provided it's feasible).

One does have to keep in mind the fact that some jobs just can't be remote, but the majority of design and development oriented jobs (the ones I'm referring to) can be done just fine remote.

Easy does not equal better

It might be easier sometimes to have everyone in the same place. And it might feel more real for everyone to be there together. That doesn't mean it's the only way.

Want an example? Look at the open source world, it's rife with telecommute teams pumping out great work.

There's Big Cartel, 37 Signals, HiiDef.

It's not just about the moving

There's a huge drive for technical founders too. I would wager the perceived shortage is also due to the fact that many of the people you would be hiring are actually the ones starting companies.

Too many chefs and not enough assistants.

I don't really have a straight-forward solution to this, other than that not all ideas are good ideas and not all good ideas are ideas worth running with.

Getting perspective

Sometimes a problem is just a symptom. Sometimes a problem is a perspective issue. In this case I think it's both. There isn't a talent shortage when you broaden your definition of what it means to be employeed in 2013. Additionally this false perception is a symptom of the actual problem, a refusal to embrace a change in how we work. Remote work isn't for everyone, not for every employee, not for every company, but you aren't going to know unless you give it a shot.

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