Hiring and retaining programmers is the biggest challenge facing software companies.
Remote work is nothing new in the industry, but with the shift in workplace culture, even more software professionals are moving from expensive parts of the country to northeast Florida.
The release put small-area software developers in a bind. There are talented people living in northeast Florida, but they work for outside companies that pay higher wages.
Hashrocket is a Jacksonville Beach-based software developer, co-founded by CEO Marian Phelan in 2008. The company has 20 employees working in Jacksonville Beach and its Chicago offices.
As a private company, Phelan has refused to disclose Hashrocket’s earnings.
She said sales fell 15% in 2020, then recovered in 2021. She forecast a 12% increase for 2022.
“Retaining and retaining developers is key. There are many opportunities in software. I told people I couldn’t pay you,” Phelan said.
“On average, the West Coast (industry) is paying 70% more than small software companies can pay.”
Due to the salary differential, Hashrocket is focused on creating an optimal work-life balance. Hashrocket’s glass-enclosed offices are on the seventh floor at 320 N. First St. in Jacksonville Beach and all employees have ocean views.
His team works 35 hours a week. Overtime is rare. She tells customers upfront that her people don’t write code late at night.
“Long hours just aren’t sustainable. We want our employees to stay, to be challenged and not to burn out,” Phelan said.
On Friday, five hours are devoted to Open Source Time. Employees are free to pursue their own projects and collaborate on programming issues and solutions. Phelan said the exchange keeps staff motivated and engaged.
Hashrocket developed the Today I Learned (TIL) website. His team publishes and invites other programmers to publish programming solutions and fixes. The screenshots show the actual code. The website is searchable.
TIL also serves as a marketing tool. By allowing access to programmers outside the company, Hashrocket’s name and reputation are known to the programming community.
“We asked people to go to TIL to find something and remember that they had solved this problem before,” she said.
Phelan promises his employees that they will be challenged.
Hashrocket customers require specific software to perform functions unique to their business. Clients are in the financial, automotive and medical fields.
A recent project was to create software to track the refurbishment of used cars being prepared for the tight automotive market.
Due to the shortage of semiconductors which is blocking the production of new cars, the demand for used cars is at an all-time high.
Hashrocket also uses a linear business structure. Its programmers are considered consultants. They report only to her.
This structure requires that Hashrocket only hire senior programmers. There are no junior programmers to mentor.
Hashrocket specializes in writing code in the Ruby on Rails framework. It has proven to be more adaptable as customers need changes, she said.
The company has created over 200 Ruby on Rails applications over the past 10 years. His team averages seven years of experience using the programming method.
Hashrocket is so attached to Ruby on Rails that it opened a small office in Chicago, where Rails is headquartered.
Phelan, 60, comes from a financial background rather than an IT background.
An immigrant from Limerick, Ireland, she and her husband, Gerald McCarthy, moved to South Florida in 1989 where he worked in the aerospace industry.
They came to the Jacksonville Beach area in 2003 for what she thought was a two-year stint. She formed Hashrocket with two former partners who have since left. She has been running the company since 2010.
When starting the business, she gained a reputation for keeping a close eye on finances. His partners gave him a special piece – his company shirt featured a “Cashrocket” logo.
Hashrocket holds a rare distinction in the software industry.
“On average, we have people who work for us for 10 years. The industry average is a year and a half,” she said.
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