Thursday, 18 July 2019

How to make Perl training part of the onboarding process


...and meet the demand for new developers

Demand for Perl developers far outstrips supply in the current job market, so hiring one can be expensive as well as a headache. Perl is not even the most common language used, so some employers might want to wean themselves off it altogether. But this would mean re-writing their code in a more popular language such as Java or Python – a huge and cumbersome task. The best option, then, is to hire developers in other languages and train them in Perl while onboarding. This has proven successful for large multinational corporations such as Booking.com, who hire new developers at scale and offer them on-the-job Perl training. So, how do you go about things if this is the route you want to take? Geekuni has specialised in training new hires in Perl for a number of years and we’ve gained some valuable insights.

Onboarding challenges

Finding the willing candidates




Why would a developer experienced in other languages want to join your company and start learning Perl from day one? If they’ve managed to get by without it so far, it’s unlikely to be their top priority as they make their next career move. The first hurdle you face, then, is finding good developers who are open to learning Perl.

The eager newbie

Most talented developers joining a company want to get their teeth stuck into the job by showing what they already know. Learning a completely new language from the start not only delays this but also involves asking questions which expose gaps in their knowledge. Onboarders are already busy getting acquainted with the company, its processes and its people. They need space to grow into the role, so the added burden of Perl training can quickly turn into an obstacle that stands in their way.

The overstretched employer

There’s plenty of potential for frustration on the employer’s side, too. The longer it takes for new recruits to become productive, the higher the cost of their onboarding experience. New hires also place demands on teams, slowing down their productivity as they take time from regular duties to show new developers the ropes. And that’s all before you even consider offering them Perl training. Providing Perl training from day one places an additional strain on teams, and this can seriously slow down business. Although outsourcing the training is an option, face-to-face providers are expensive and can make it difficult for team leads to maintain an overview of the trainees’ progress.

Onboarding solutions for plain sailing

Reaching out to the right people

Let’s face it – Perl is not the most popular language. As a result, the best developers might be more open to joining your company to learn Perl if you focus on selling your company, not the language. That said, you can also challenge the perception of Perl as a stagnant language by talking about how it solves problems in the company. Learning Perl should not be presented as a hurdle to joining the company, but a benefit – getting paid to learn something new is a very appealing proposition.



It’s also worth looking closer to home as you probably have a pool of potential Perl talent right under your nose. Second-line support staff generally make good developers and may be eager for the career opportunity. A big advantage, of course, is that onboarding is a lot more straightforward. This type of internal recruitment – where a member of staff leaves one role to take up a completely new role in the same company – is different to cross-training. (Cross-training doesn’t involve a change of job - it's the acquisition of skills and the corresponding expansion of their job description.)

Giving newbies a sense of ownership

It’s important not to overwhelm new recruits during the onboarding process for it to be effective. One way to achieve this is by giving them greater ownership of their learning. Geekuni’s interactive online Perl training does just that. Trainees have more control over the pace of their learning, which allows them to manage their own time while onboarding. It also gives new hires instant feedback, so they don’t have to bother senior developers with all their questions. The training focuses on task-based learning, which lets trainees apply new coding skills to real-life situations. This means they can start making their own contributions to the company’s codebase a lot quicker.

Giving new recruits the opportunity to participate in Perl conferences such as PerlCon and TPC is also a huge help. Full immersion in the world of Perl allows them to make useful contacts and brings them up to date with the latest trends. Such opportunities are not just enriching for trainees, it gives them fresh new perspectives to take back to the company.

An onboarding process that doesn’t sink the ship




Geekuni’s Perl training has also been designed with employers in mind. It takes the weight off busy teams and team leads, freeing up precious resources. At the same time, an effective system of reporting means that team leads and HR can track the progress of trainees with very little effort. This not only makes the onboarding process plain sailing, but also means you can continue with regular business activities full steam ahead. Keeping the relevant stakeholders in the loop helps identify ongoing training needs for new recruits as they complete the onboarding process. What’s more, a standardised approach provides clear-cut criteria for measuring progress and facilitates more consistent training delivery across different teams or departments.

Conclusion


To expand your Perl talent pool, you need to acknowledge the reality of the job market and work around the obstacles this presents. A tried and tested approach is to hire developers in other languages and train them in Perl during the onboarding period. But this, too, requires some adaptation in order to ensure a well-designed and professionally implemented onboarding process. This can only be achieved if relevant stakeholders work together right from the start to set out a clear path to success.
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