Let me tell you a story. Something that happens daily, probably dozens of times a day, everyday, and all over in the world. With a little variation, it always goes something like this:
Client: “I need 10 senior engineers. Presto!”
Vendor: “Are you sure? You probably don’t need 10 senior engineers. Let me help you analyze what you nee..”
Client (interrupts): “I need them and I need them now!”
Vendor sighs… shrugs and says “OK… I’ll see what I can do”.
Fast forward to a few months later, when they are still struggling to find the last few engineers; the client has missed most of its deadlines and is probably already over-budget and wondering what went wrong. Sounds familiar?
The misconception is that seniors are just laying around waiting for an assignment, and that you will find all of them together to kick off a project.
Let me be a modern day Murphy here: In the staffing of technology projects there is no such thing as a happy path. Never. Ever.
You are dealing with a scarce resource: Senior engineers are hard to find and they are expensive. They are also harder to manage, because they have grown enough to have amassed knowledge and their own ways to do things.
This means staffing a team with just seniors will take longer, be way more expensive and way harder to direct towards the common goal. You will need strong management (which is also scarce and expensive) and patience, lots of patience.
Introducing: “the blended team”. A team that is not only easier to staff, but also, good for everyone: the client, the vendor, and the ecosystem.
Because available engineers will be evenly distributed. You will have a blend of different seniority levels within the idle team members. If you do not have them readily available, hiring a blended team is easier. There is a larger pool!
You will staff easier, faster and with a lower budget. Which means chances are you will finish your project earlier. And smoother, with less management of conflicting standpoints between people who, each with his own rulebook, want to do things with different approaches, which oftentimes, are both correct!
Secondly, it is easy to “build” junior engineers. There are a host of training programs available (e.g. Patagonian has its own Nest program) and short academic careers and courses. As a super added bonus, when you hire or nurture junior engineers, you decompress the market, contributing to lessen the unstoppable salary raise that comes with scarcity.
Also, this tiny thing: you create jobs!
At the end of the day there are jobs for seniors and there are jobs for juniors. But we need to start working towards the collective idea that blending a team is usually the best way to approach a project. Surely not always; there will be exceptions. But most times, people just ask for seniority based on habit. And habits can be fine tuned or redefined. It is called progress.
And after all… Aren’t we in the business of progress?