Ian Kozak


Green River is fairly unique in the tech industry for having very low staff turn over. Engineers have been here 5, 10, even 15 years, providing continuity on evolving projects running just as long. And though we've never had plans to grow substantially (or exponentially, as expected in a blistering industry), every year we find ourselves a bit bigger than the year before.

Which brings us to the adventure of hiring. Over the years, engineers have found us as much as we've found them. Through personal connections, exposure to our projects, and the odd job posting, Todd, Mark, Megan, Rafe, and so many others connected with Green River's mission and, often, Vermont. But waiting on serendipity doesn't quite work when the project backlog starts to balloon.

So, we took out a long-running job ad on StackOverflow, part of a package that included targeted promotion (like periodic tweeting). And the proverbial floodgates opened.

Recruiting software engineers in 2017 is an odd challenge. The Facebooks of the world recruit fresh college graduates with $100,000/year base salaries and huge signing bonuses. Clearly, they are going to lose money on these recruits for the first few years, something we simply can’t do. And experienced developers demand significantly more. What are the available stock options, guaranteed bonuses, number of months of paid time off? Which all lends a culture of hubris that can feel ridiculous: job applicants that provide a one line cover letter ("hi. chckout my blog!"), boast only of 3 months of "Wordpress administration," expect to work remotely on a random schedule, and put a six-figure salary requirement in their résumé.

Collectively we at Green River want to do good work. We want to deliver real engineering ability for a price that doesn't feel exploitive, regardless of who we're working with. Make a reasonable salary? Yes. Have a comfortable work environment with full health care and 5 weeks of time off? Yes. Have support for professional development and time for "non-billable" work? Yes. Share in annual company profits? Yes. Get rich quick? Um, no. Our job is to provide a reasonable value to our clients who are our partners in trying to improve conditions in the world.

In the past we've found the following basic applicant selection criteria useful. Maybe we're old fogeys?

  • A cover letter. We asked for one. We want to read one. We might even be interested in reading one where you mention our name, or perhaps acknowledge the position you're applying for. It is true we're recruiting for engineering, not communications, but we'll want to take it for granted that a new developer can send an email. We know engineers sometimes hear that cover letters don’t matter. We don’t agree.
  • Stability. Two months is not a reasonable time to stay at a job. And no, you can’t have made a tremendous achievement if you’ve worked somewhere for that short of time. We don't expect applicants to commit to a job for 20 years, but if every job you’ve worked at lasted a few months, when do you learn if what you've built is successful? When do you get the pleasure of truly understanding a large project, and getting that intuitive sense of how the complicated pieces fit together? When do you gain the satisfaction of seeing those small parts yield a greater whole?
  • Remote experience. We are dedicated to supporting remote staff - we're in Asheville, Cedar Rapids, San Antonio, San Francisco, and Seattle already, and we work on projects with teams all over the globe - but if you're relatively new to production development, we know that best chance of success if for you to work in person with us in Vermont. Working remotely involves a separate layer of skills, and if you live on the other side of the country, you'll have to be very disciplined about staying continuously connected to other team members on a project. So if you are just starting out, plan to come to Vermont for a year or two, get comfortable with the work, then move to wherever else you want.

So far, this process has left us with a small, but phenomenal, set of candidates. People who are passionate and talented, excited to join us, even for a reduction in pay. As we get down to a few applicants, where phone calls and coding exercises and project reviews end in enthusiastic conversation, we feel energized - and validated - that our unique little organization has a strong place in the world.

Stay tuned....