Most men, when their wives get mad at them, send flowers or hire a mariachi band. Steve Schmidt quit his corporate job and started a home business.
Schmidt is president of eJobShop, a Java placement service based in Los Altos, California. He is a match maker, finding experienced Java programmers who will work as independent contractors for customers who need code. The world is his marketplace, since the contractors work remotely.
To date, the company has completed 85 Java projects, earning it the moniker, “Java WWWorkforce.” He currently has over 1,200 Java developers in his stable.
Schmidt, an engineer, spent 15 years in electrical design automation. While living in Japan, he had to organize a remote development team in Singapore. The offshore experience was “a nightmare.” Both groups had to use the same computers, compilers and debuggers. When one coder upgraded a component, he was no longer compatible with the team. He hated the fact there was no flexibility. Because of that, the project took forever.
There was a people problem, too. He was “amazed” at how difficult it was to get software written. He could never find the right person to write the specialized code he needed.
Avoiding the Traps
He realized that coders who had already completed a software project similar to the one he envisioned could easily segue into a new assignment if it were similar. But tyros had a steep learning curve. “If you were used to writing Web server code and someone hired you to write a traffic program, you will fall into many traps,” Schmidt explains.
He decided he would only hire developers with experience because they knew where the traps are. He began building a pool of Java experts worldwide. He selected Java as his language of choice because of its wide variety of uses and applications.
About the time he had this epiphany, he “got tired of the hustle and bustle of big business.” He quit his job to spend time at home with his wife and children. “Before I quit, my wife was always mad at me,” he says with a laugh. Now he runs eJobShop from home.
His first job was for a friend of a friend in May, 1998. It came from Netscape, who wanted to find programmers to translate an existing piece of code from one interface to another. Netscape needed developers skilled in two different areas. It had been able to find people only experienced in one but not both.
EJobShop found Netscape five programmers who fit the requirements in 48 hours. “Netscape had been looking for weeks,” says Schmidt. In a week the appropriate programmers were at work.
Today Schmidt says he can respond to a customer’s request in 24 hours and can have an outsourcing contract signed in a week. Given today’s global interconnectivity, Schmidt says most Java programmer hang on the Net, making it easy to send messages to them all.
In addition to speed, the price is right. Schmidt says the going rate for an experienced Java developer is $200 an hour. But he can find a programmer with the same qualifications† overseas for as low as $40 an hour. Then Schmidt tacks on a surcharge, typically 10 to 15 percent, for helping the process along.
The Joys of Working Remotely
His customers range in size from the IS departments of major corporations who want to outsource utilities or support to start ups who need help with product development and are in a hurry to get to market.
EJobShop focuses on programs that can easily be completed without any of the parties having any physical contract. Schmidt says the concept is “wonderfully efficient” because everyone is forced to communicate by email. Email automatically produces a log so record keeping is simple.
Email also filters out personal interpretations. Three people can attend a meeting and leave with three radically different ideas of what was said. With email communication, everything is in black and white.
Email also allows participants the time to ponder a problem before responding to a request. “People can take the time to address things intelligently,” observes Schmidt. He has seen companies get “trapped into poor architectural decisions” because a programmer had to think of something quickly at a face-to-face meeting. In his experience, email responses “are more on target and better thought out.”
Schmidt says one of the best ways to write code is to develop the specifications first. When projects are done long distance, email forces all parties to pen clear specifications at the outset. “You are not forced to do this when you’re in the same room with the customer,” Schmidt says. The CEO reports some eJobShop projects required as many as 200 messages of what the customer expects before a single line of code was written.
Working remotely means no one will stop by your office to chat. Schmidt says software development is design intensive, requiring coders “to think things through.” Constant interruptions can blow flow. With email as the only mode of communication, the coder can close the door and turn off the phone, responding only when ready.