Our Blog...

Home > Blog > I Made the Front Page

I Made the Front Page

February 15, 2008 by Michael Trafton

The Austin Business Journal has a nice article about Blue Fish in their most recent issue. The photo of me is a little silly (it was the photographer’s idea, I promise), but overall I think the article captured the spirit of Blue Fish pretty well.

The reporter, a woman named Laura Hipp, interviewed me about how I feel about the plans Google and PayPal have for hiring a bunch of software developers here in Austin. I’m a little worried, of course, but I’m not freaking out about it. I’ve always felt that hiring was about getting a great fit between the employee and the company, and I’ll bet that the people who are the best fit for us might be a fish out of water at those other companies (no pun intended).

When you look closely, there are several differences between Blue Fish and typical software companies. First of all, our teams are fairly small. A typical project at Blue Fish is made up of 3 to 6 developers. Contrast that to PayPal where there are over 300 developers working on their core payment processing engine. And there is a lot of variety at Blue Fish – our projects typically last less than six months, so developers are more likely to work with several technologies over the course of a year. Of course, we also have some beefy, multi-year projects for the type of developer that likes to dig in and focus on one problem for a long period of time.

Another big difference is that because we build custom software solutions, our developers are more in touch with the users of the software. Most software developers get their marching orders from a product manager, but at Blue Fish, our developers get to meet their users in person and truly understand their needs. I think this is one of the things that really attracts people to Blue Fish, and it has more to do with a developer’s personality than it does his or her skills. Some developers want to focus purely on the technical aspects of a problem, but those that do best at Blue Fish want to understand the underlying business problem and use that knowledge to design a creative solution. Someone told me recently that Blue Fish was the first place he had worked where the software he wrote was actually used – his time at his previous jobs had been spent working on products that never made it to market.

Another way that Blue Fish is different from Google and PayPal is our size – with less than 50 employees, we are tiny in comparison. Developers work across the hall from our executives, and I think they are more “plugged-in” to how the company operates than employees at other firms. For example, we share our company financials with all employees once a month. Once a quarter, our managers and executives have a half-day, off-site meeting the technical project leads to answer concerns and work on improving issues that are important to them (we do the same thing with our project managers). We are able to incorporate the ideas of our employees into our strategies and corporate initiatives in a way that larger companies just can’t do.

So Google and PayPal can bring it on, as far as I’m concerned. Competition is good – it will push us even harder to keep Blue Fish a great place to work.