App development is currently a multi-billion dollar global industry. Apple, for example, is estimated to have made around $3.2 billion in app revenue alone from the contents of its app store. Finding new applications and writing the software is one of the few industries currently working at full stretch. Microsoft is racing to fill its app store with products.
Given this virtual gold rush, you might expect app developers to be keen to find and hire bright young software engineers. All the more surprising then to find on a LinkedIn Group devoted to Windows Phone development a chorus of complaints from talented developers about their inability to find work.
Thomas Mullen is an experienced Windows Phone and Windows 8 App developer who has started his own software business in Los Angeles. Despite his own success, Mullen asked publicly, ‘How many Windows Phone developers have published apps on the marketplace, but continue to be turned down for positions?’
‘When I wrote the question’ says Thomas,’ I wanted to hear if other people were getting the same responses from employers that I was. I wanted to know if any companies out there were listening and could give feedback on whether I should concentrate my efforts on developing my portfolio or should I just get to know as many people as I can and maybe someone can recommend me for the job? In this era of “WorkNumber”, most companies frown upon personal/professional references and will only verify that you worked at a company. So, that’s why I have built my portfolio around each program that I do highlighting a specific aspect of Windows Phone or a technology.’
Thomas’s question provoked a whole string of responses from the developer community – many agreeing with him.
Ron Gramann is a UK software engineer. Ron comments, ‘Here in the UK, when applying for WP contract work, it is expected that you have at least one app in the Store. Most of my WP work has been done as an independent. My last contract involved some WP prototyping, but nothing that went into production.’
‘The WP market today reminds me of ASP development in the 90s. Many of people involved are creatives, and are looking for someone to pick up the technical work. My interviews have been odd, like low-level obscure technical questions that really have nothing to do with phone development. Which makes me think the approach is “We’ll ask the hardest questions we can find… that’ll do it.” Which does not guarantee you’ll be a good phone developer.’
Interestingly, many of those responding have developed more than one Windows Phone app, but in their own time and for the love of it rather than on contract. Jeremiah Medina is a mobile developer in Denver. He says, ‘The problem in my neck of the woods is the lack of roles needing WP skills. WP is something I do in my spare time that I really enjoy. My day-to-day is a mobile web developer so in terms of just finding work there is no issue but I would love to do WP work full-time. I have three apps in the marketplace and plan a fourth so the lack of roles needing WP skills does not deter me from doing what I enjoy and love.’
Jason Barkley is a senior software developer in Fort Worth. He echoes Thomas Mullen’s complaint, ‘I had a situation with a WP7 opportunity where I didn’t even get an interview because I didn’t have a college degree. Of course, my philosophy on that is that any company so pretentious as to require a college degree before even speaking to me is a company for whom I wouldn’t enjoy working anyway.’
What does Thomas Mullen make of the responses to his question?
‘When it comes down to it,’ he says, ‘what do you need to break into this market? Everyone asks what version control system you used, or basic C++ questions that haven’t been used in Windows Phone. It’s almost as if they don’t have a clue about the people who haven’t worked on large projects or know the platform for which they are interviewing a candidate.’
‘I understand that many companies have existing products in iOS and Android and want people who can read code and translate code quickly to another language. But when you are hiring for a position which has a primary function of being in C# and WPF, knowledge of that should be expert and recent while knowledge of Android and iOS (C) should be secondary skills.’
‘Employers, from what I have experienced, are not looking for a degree, grades, or even what you have accomplished on your own. From what I have been asked in interviews, I can tell you that people are looking for “what has he learned from other companies that he can bring to us”. This is a good thing to look for as an added bonus in an employee, but it shouldn’t be the primary thing you are looking for in the interview.’