“Accelerating the Growth of the SoCal Technology Eco-System” by John Shiple

John Shiple provides CTO level expertise to many LA based startups. We asked him to discuss some of the issues surrounding employee development, team building and talent in general. As discussed below, John is a strong proponent of training as a way to build high-functioning teams while also significantly strengthening the technology community here in Southern California.

Fun Fact: There are over 2.7 billion internet users in the world, comprising 39% of the world population

Accelerating the Growth of the SoCal Technology Eco-System 

Hiring tech people is painful…really painful. And the higher up the food chain you go – that is, the greater the skills and experience required – the harder it is to find the right people to build, extend, and maintain your business.
Hiring pain is not unique to Los Angeles. However, LA does have its own, unique brand of technical hiring issues. The biggest issue that I see is a lack of experienced technical talent to bring up the next generation. In short, the decades long brain drain to the north (aka “The Bay”) has taken its toll. Fortunately, I now see the direction changing course – with talent flowing back to Southern California (or at least not leaving it in the first place), but we need to continue to accelerate the growth of our technical talent base if we want to significantly improve our collective hiring chances.

To put it succinctly: In LA, there is more than enough junior talent but not nearly enough mid- to senior-level experienced expertise. So how do we collectively move forward to address this experience gap and improve our overall ability to groom and recruit top, experienced talent (whether junior-, mid-, or senior-level)?

My Advice? Focus on Training and Cross-Training yourself and your talent. I spent my ‘first decade’ in Tech in the Bay Area. After spending my ‘second decade’ in Tech in LA, I noticed one key distinction. Everywhere I went in San Francisco and beyond, from the smallest startup to the largest enterprise,
offered liberal training and cross-training opportunities. I do not see that happen with much frequency in the LA area.

Training involves increasing the number and level of technical skills at your disposal. LA is very good at entry-level and hobbyist style meetups, but meetups alone will not groom experienced, senior talent. You and your team need to find mentors,  go back to classes,  take seminars, travel to conferences, and more! Training only for technical skills, however, is a short-sighted plan. You also have to build up your team’s business, creative, and social skills. Above and beyond simple engineering and development, I put user experience, QA testing, design, layout, usability, copywriting, and copy editing in the functional/training category (essentially including all the things that go into your technology department, however you define it).

Cross-training involves increasing you and your team’s capabilities in areas outside your core technology expertise, like customer development, business development, marketing, and sales. It is critical to get in front of your customers (whether they are consumers and vendors) and simply listen.

All technical leaders must have both training and cross-training opportunities available to them. And don’t be so shortsighted as to only offer your technical team training opportunities (and forego Cross-Training them) – you will only be doing you and your company a disservice by decreasing the efficiency of communication, increasing re-work, and creating an out-of-sync team that is unable to develop effectively (aka in a reasonable and timely manner).

What are you going to do to Train and Cross-Train you and your team?

John can be reached at [email protected].

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