Ask any entrepreneur what is the most important element for their survival and success and the answer will almost always be ‘talent’.
Hiring the right team is crucial, not only to build the products and services, but also to build the business. With technology-led startups, it is the technology itself that is the product, which is why hiring the right software engineers to build the technology is essential.
But software engineers are scarce in many parts of the region. A recent report published by The Institution of Engineering and Technology highlighted the lack of engineers in the UAE, while the quality of new recruits is also lacking, with 58 percent of large companies saying they struggle to find candidates with the right technical skills. .
Most startups in the GCC are turning to Egypt, Jordan, Eastern Europe or Asia to recruit software engineers, but remote hiring comes with its own challenges and risks.
This lack of talent encouraged Ameer Jawad and Lijeesh Majeed to co-found Talpods in January 2021, as investment in the region’s startups increased.
“We noticed that the shortage of high-quality technical talent became a bigger problem during the height of the pandemic. The right way to solve a supply shortage problem is to introduce new supply so that we invest in young engineers and make them effective immediately,” says Jawad.
Talpods initially started as a three-month online bootcamp aimed at young graduates with a foundation in data testing and algorithms.
“What we do is find those rough diamonds, carefully polish them and then hand-hold them in technical roles with VC-backed startups in the region. With intensive guidance and support, we are able to turn these young people into highly productive engineers. to make .”
While the demand for such talent has always been high, Jawad claims the need is now “exploding” given the rapid growth of the region’s startup sector in recent years. It can take months to recruit a software engineer, with good talent often snatched by startups with bigger wallets.
“People are the fuel of startups, but our technology scene is growing faster than the availability of talent,” he explains. “We’re putting our money on the young and creative minds and nurturing them to continue fueling that exciting growth.”
Talpods evolved its model from a boot camp to a mentored model, where a full-time junior engineer who completed the three-month training course is paired with a “Talpod lead”, an experienced engineer with at least eight years of experience. This stage of the Talpod journey lasts 12-18 months, at the end of which the young talent is “ready to run solo”.
“These mentors are senior and lead engineers who are experts in their tech stack, and they also have a passion for nurturing the next generation of world-class engineers,” says Jawad. “They roll up their sleeves and show them the tricks of the trade, engage in pair programming and code assessment, help them navigate complex problems and execute them quickly and qualitatively, and guide them through office challenges such as coping. with pressure and stakeholder management.”
To date, Talpods has partnered with several startups in the region, who pay a monthly fee to accommodate these junior engineers. One of its clients is Kuwait-based online flower and gift platform Floward, whose chief technology officer, Diyaa Hamza, claims the service saves both time and effort when it comes to training new engineers.
“One of our biggest challenges has been hiring and investing in junior engineers, as that will require a lot of time and dedication from our senior engineers to mentor them, which will lead to a major delay in the execution of our roadmap. can’t afford to do,” says Hamza.
Startups, especially those in the growth phase, need technical talent that is able to keep up with the pace of change.
“Startups, due to their fast-growing nature, usually come up with complex legacy code, probably with little to no documentation, while still developing at an incredible pace. That level of speed and engineering is a tough environment for inexperienced talent to work in. work without substantial support, and they will struggle to handle the pressure or make an impact without straining the team,” says Jawad.
Another challenge that most startups, especially those in the GCC, face is the cost of technical talent. The salary of a good engineer with three to five years of experience will average Dh 25,000 in UAE while an engineer with the same level of experience and talent in North Africa will cost Dh 10–15 000 per month. Talpods typically trains engineers in Egypt and Lebanon and provides the startups that hire them with well-trained and vetted talent.
“It is a sustainable social impact model where everyone wins. Right now we are creating prosperous engineering careers for talent in Egypt and Lebanon, and we want to spread this opportunity to other developing communities. They pay nothing to join the program because We want to make it fully accessible to them, and once they’re posted, they earn at the top of what they expect in their home country.”
Talpods-trained technicians typically receive a monthly salary of $750, which can go up to $1,000 during their mentorship phase. After completing their education, their salary could double, according to Jawad.
“Our vision is for our region to be a self-sufficient tech hub, one with its own pool of high-quality, home-grown and culturally more suited than traditional outsourcing routes in foreign tech hubs. Our young population here provides us with an abundant source of ambitious talent that has the potential to fill that gap, and we play the role of turning that potential into a reality,” he adds.
What makes a successful engineer?
Good engineers have a strong technical foundation in addition to soft skills, but according to Jawad, exceptional engineers embrace the following principles:
1 – Growth mindset – it is a certain kind of talent that is hungry for challenges and perseveres in the face of hardship. Their success is the result of learning from many failures, and they embrace feedback and criticism as an opportunity to learn and grow.
2 – Ownership – great engineers own the role they take on – not only do they take responsibility for their individual role, but they are also mission-oriented and take responsibility for the collective goal that their organization wants to achieve.
3 – Agile Thinking – a strong belief in industry values and best practices such as Design Thinking and Extreme Programming that result in more efficient delivery, maximum productivity and minimization of errors.”