D.C. Web Startups Need Open Source, Product Skills

Washington DCWashington, D.C., area tech startups can’t find the people they need to create new products and services. Many of the reasons will sound familiar to employers in other areas of the country: too few U.S. students receiving STEM degrees, a lack of necessary non-technical skills, and difficulty securing visas for foreign workers to do the work in the meantime.

Haroon Mohktarzada, the chief executive of Webs.com in suburban Silver Spring, Md., told the Washington Post:  “We have taken some people in and they learn as they’re doing it … The universities are teaching theory and stuff, but they’re not teaching practical stuff like coding skills.”

Interestingly, his company’s website showcases its offices “west coast feel.”

Compounding the problem is a relatively small pool of talent. Washington’s more a government tech center than a pure tech center, if you know what I mean. That means that deep-pocketed federal contractors are also going after what talent there is.

In particular need are people with skills in open source and the ability to quickly turnaround new products.

10 Responses to “D.C. Web Startups Need Open Source, Product Skills”

  1. James Green

    Oh my god, more propganda from the corporate elite. Their millions of us who have advanced STEM degrees and can find jobs. While dice continue to publish this crapola. These companies want cheap h1b visa holders instead of hirining and training experienced STEM workers.

    • Well, I’m not sure I’d call a bunch of startups a “corporate elite.” Besides, I think you’re overlooking a point. These guys aren’t looking for experienced IT workers. They’re looking for new graduates. The reasons for that can involve everything to from pay to skill set. They’ll train the right candidates if they find people they think will fit, and that doesn’t exclude older workers. And though I won’t argue that they want to pay as little as possible, “cheap” doesn’t have to mean “H1-B.”

  2. Proud Paulbot

    These employers have themselves to blame. There is no pipeline for training new graduates (or retraining experienced tech workers in new technologies) and while I agree that universities should focus on hard skills more than theory, a student cannot learn EVERYTHING in a classroom setting. There are many skills, hard and soft, that are learned over time, on a job. This is true not just in tech, but in every field. Even a janitor must learn *some* things in a job setting.

    These employers are engaging in Taylorism; they want employees to be like machines. They want the employee to jump out of a box and perform perfectly from Day 1.

    What really makes me angry is that so many of them are DEMANDING that the GOVERNMENT do something about it. I invite anyone to show me where the Constitution specifies that it is the government’s responsibility to train employees for private enterprises, or that private enterprises have the right to this function.

    • You know, the hard truth is it’s not an employer’s responsibility to train you. If a company’s looking for someone who knows a certain language or has a certain skill, there’s no reason they shouldn’t stick to their guns and hold out for the right person. And if they’re finding that schools aren’t graduating people with the kind of expertise they need — as opposed to more theoretical or general knowledge — they’ve got every reason to express that.

      It’s certainly not true or helpful to argue that businesses want employees to be perfect on their first day. What they want is for people to understand the kind of tools they use and to have demonstrated an interest in those tools before they try to get in the door. I mean, if a company is looking for someone who loves Ruby on Rails, and you’ve never explored it, why would you be surprised that they’re not interested in you?

      Go ahead and blame the greedy companies and vast H-1B conspiracy if you must and if it makes you feel better. Personally, I think you’d be better off focusing on the kind of tech you want to work with and taking your time to learn the basics, so you can show the next manager you talk to that you’ve gone out and put in the extra time to do it. That’ll say everything about your interest, and get you a whole lot further than blaming the very people you want to hire you.

    • Proud Paulbot

      You know, the hard truth is, it IS the responsibility of an employer to train THEIR employees. I cannot think of any job–not even a low-level job like janitorial work or burger-flipping–that does not require ANY training AT ALL.

      —–If a company’s looking for someone who knows a certain language or has a certain skill, there’s no reason they shouldn’t stick to their guns and hold out for the right person.——–

      Actually, there is a reason: if an employer cannot find the Perfect Employee, the position is going to stay perpetually open…which means the employer is going to lose business and money when they cannot meet deadlines with existing staff.

      Being as these employers are whining and crying that theyyyyyyyyyy can’t find “qualified” people–and having the nerve, the utter gall, to DEMAND that the GOVERNMENT “do something”–obviously there AREN’T “qualified” applicants lining up around the block.

      Both you and they need to do some reading about free markets and how they work. They don’t always work in favor of employers, just as they don’t always work in favor of employees. If these companies are finding they cannot fill their open positions, them whining and crying about it doesn’t solve the problem…and people like me will do everything in our power to protest any movement by them to get the government to use taxpayer money to solve the problems of private companies. We’ve had it with the bailouts and the gov’t printing money out of thin air.

      ——Personally, I think you’d be better off focusing on the kind of tech you want to work with and taking your time to learn the basics——-

      No, I’m better off taking non-tech gigs so that I can pay my basic bills and survive. I am better off living in the real world instead of chasing rainbows….and doing a free-fall straight off a cliff. Money doesn’t grow on trees–and I don’t believe in living off government welfare.

      Companies don’t want employees who know “the basics.” They want total, 100% fluency in multiple languages, plus an extensive portfolio…something that can only be obtained in a job setting.

      ——Go ahead and blame the greedy companies and vast H-1B conspiracy if you must and if it makes you feel better——-

      Actually, I blame the government for destroying what used to be a great country via crony capitalism that benefits only the wealthiest Americans while making it impossible for the rest of us to succeed, no matter how hard we work.

      H-1B visas are indentured servitude and have no place at all in a free market. People should just be able to immigrate here or not, period.

      None of this makes me feel better. I fear for the future of this country, the entire country, not just tech workers.

      • Proud Paulbot

        In other words, you cannot refute my arguments, so you simply dismiss them.

        I can really see the value of a business education, and not just because I entered an MBA program. You have no grasp of basic economics, in particular aggregate supply/aggregate demand. You don’t see what is fundamentally wrong about employers “holding out” for perfect candidates *who do not exist*; you appear to think that employers are always right and job-seekers are always wrong.

        If you’re an employer who cannot find qualified candidates, during an economic Depression, no less, either

        (1) You are not paying enough for the skill level you want. “I can’t afford to pay more” isn’t a job-seeker’s problem anymore than their personal bills are your problem.

        (2) You have unreasonable expectations; nobody can possibly fulfill all of them.

        (3) Both.

        Jobs are worth what the market is willing to bear. For example, Sales Engineers are worth $80,000.00+ because their expertise than can command that kind of money. Janitors make $8.00/hour because they’re a dime a dozen. An employer can claim that Sales Engineers “should” work for $12.00/hour; he can even cry that he cannot afford to pay more than that. At the same time, a janitor can claim he “should” make as much as a Sales Engineer, and point to his personal debt as a reason why he “should” be paid more. Both claims illustrate an inability to comprehend aggregate supply/aggregate demand.

        If these “start-ups” cannot attract the type of talent they want, they either need to pay more–probably a lot more–to get people who have those skills, OR they need to take in new grads and train them. (If they’re that broke, they could also consider relocating their business to a lower cost area, thus freeing up funds for salaries and being able to pay less due to lower prevailing wages; D.C. is incredibly high.)

        I stand by what I said about the “shortage” of tech workers largely being due to there being no pipeline to train new grads or retrain experienced workers on new technologies. You can claim all you want that employees should train themselves; that is simply not how it works in the business world. It has never worked that way; entry-level candidates have always taken entry-level jobs where there is some manner of training. *Everyone* has to start somewhere, yet in tech (and other fields), entry-level jobs have vanished. Cutting off the pipeline has resulted in attrition as older workers retire or move into other fields, and nobody is there to replace them.

        This is probably why so many tech startups fail. They have absolutely no grasp of business or economics; they think that the market “should” always work in their favor, because, well, they’re them.

      • James Green

        Pauling thank you for posting your in-sites. Unfortunately Dice does not serve the IT community like it use to. Dice blogs is now nothing more than the propaganda arm of it’s corporate sponsors and there is nothing wrong with that, I just wish the put ‘advertsement’ on the top of there post so read would know that this not real tech news.