Programmers hiring agents to help with job hunt

April 22, 2013 6:11:38 PM PDT
We all know rock bands have managers and movie stars have agents, but what about computer programmers? The competition for good engineers is so fierce now that there's a talent agency for the superstars of the tech world.

Altay Guvench is a musician who also happens to be a programmer -- and that's how came up with a crazy idea. "I met these music managers in New York. They used to represent John Mayer. They've been in the business about 20 years. We hit it off and realized what they do for their musician clients would actually be useful for me as a freelance programmer," he said.

Guvench is a co-founder of 10x Management, a talent agency for programmers with a name that literally means awesome. "It comes from this concept of a '10x programmer,' who is literally someone who is ten times more productive than other programmers, and these people actually exist. This has been proven by academic studies," he explained.

They are the best of the best and Guvench says that's the only kind of programmer he represents, like Chris Vincent who's been writing code professionally since he was sixteen. "It's hard to even go to a bar in this city and tell somebody that I'm a software engineer without them telling me about this great idea that they have for an app," he told ABC7 news.

Vincent has more offers than he can handle. What he wants are the "right" offers, freelance work he can do on the side while he works on his startup. He says now when people go up to him, he tells them to talk to his agent. "Yeah, it's great," he said.

Now, admittedly, the tech business isn't quite like show business but for a growing company, the need to get talent in the door quickly means the agency model can work. "Sometimes, it takes many months to find really good engineers, to find them and to bring them on board," says academia.edu Chief Technology Officer Ben Lund. So for short projects, academia.edu started hiring freelancers through 10x. It's a bit of an adjustment.

Lund says negotiating with an agent instead of a prospective employee or freelancer was strange. "It was a little bit strange, but you get used to it quickly," he said. But he says it speeds up hiring. He already knows he's getting someone good.

10x doesn't charge employers, but the programmers pay 15 percent of their wages for the privilege of having someone else do the negotiating. Asked if he missed that 15 percent Guvench said. "No, no, not at all."


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