Thursday, January 13, 2011

Software Talent Agency?

I had some thoughts cross my mind today, and wanted to write them down before they fade.

I'm of some reputation in the agile community, a sometimes-recognized author, a consultant (ex-of Object Mentor, ex-of CSC Consulting) and an agile coach. I've taught thousands of developers to program in C or C++ or Python, how to do TDD in many more languages, and the intricacies of object-oriented design. I've refactored horrible code and tested and built tools and transformed teams.

I am also a 48-year-old man who needs to establish his personal brand. Many of us are introverts by nature, and those of us with rural, midwestern upbringing tend to self-deprecation. I've always found self-promotion abhorrent. Writing a promotional bio actually makes me a little sick at my stomach. The shame of it is that I could have learned to be comfortable with it a long time ago.

If I had begun the push earlier and had some coaching I would have made some different technology and career choices, but who knew? I jumped the track a few times, missed a few predictions, and didn't do some things that might have made me wealthier and more secure in my life and community.

Now imagine that you are well-known in your community, and you heard of some upcoming new Corey Haines or Ben Rady or other talented kid. You would have the contacts to introduce them around. You could help them to establish their web presence and write up promos. You could promote them among their peers. You could connect them with editors who could shepherd them into writing gigs with magazines. You could hook them up with local communities, find them speaking opportunities and help them polish their presentations. You could help them to write the kinds of things that get picked up on reddit, hackernews, and the like. You could find them side gigs, maybe help them negotiate rights to quote code and publish details on the work they do. You would have to learn about buzz and how it works, the way a publicist does.

It would be a talent agency for programmers.

With just one or two good success stories, you would raise the value of your organization and all of the people being coached there. Companies would be interested in using your people, and people would find value in joining.

It would be rough at first. You'd collect money much as a headhunter would. You would get a clip from placement, maybe a finders fee or the like. Maybe a clip from writing gigs you developed, deals you sign. There would be much to learn, but relationships would have a long tail. In time you could collect money on both sides.

I know that people already get involved in the community and connect and conferences, but not all people know how to do that or how to build momentum that way. It's a knack that some charismatic people have and others do not. Not all talented people can keep a room spellbound like Bob Martin or connect with people so easily as Corey Haines.

I wonder if the software world is big enough that we could have a talent development agency for software developers. It's a really intriguing thought, since self-promotion is not always what good techies do best.

I'm still the midwestern introvert, but I wonder if some of my extroverted peers see some value in the proposition.